The two readings that I found most interesting for Material Culture this week were those by Kenneth Ames and Henry Glassie. Each of these provided additional scholarly context within which I can situate my own descriptions of both Lesley and the eel fyke net I will be studying this semester.
Ames’ piece, “Meaning in Artifacts: Hall Furnishings in Victorian America,” was interesting to me because it provided an engaging analysis of hall stands, hall chairs, and card stands, and the cultural implications these objects hold when we look back on their time in the Victorian era. I was particularly fascinated by the in-depth analysis Ames provided on the hall stand, which he described as being an object that served four purposes, each of which held their own cultural significance. The four components that most often repeated in hall stands were receptacles for umbrellas, pegs for hanging hats and coats, a mirror, and a small marble top table. Ames’ analysis seemed, to me, to harken back to last week’s reading from Latour where he discussed black boxes, which upon being opened are no longer one object, but an amalgam of multiple objects. What would appear to be one object, in this case a hall stand, is suddenly, through Ames’ analysis, four objects. Ames goes on to argue how the umbrella receptacles reflect the Victorian value of Bourgeois respectability, how the pegs for hats and coats reflect the presentation to guests of one’s attention to appearance and of their own wealth, how the mirror culturally reflects wealth, dedication to appearance, and a desire to increase illumination, and how the marble topped table also reflected what he calls “marble mania,” a kind of conspicuous consumption. Perhaps indirectly, Ames’ analysis reminds me of the work we as a class are conducting on the Lesley Project, wherein we each are analyzing specific items that would relate to sneakboxes like Lesley prior to their popularization as recreational vessels. Each of us is examining a different object, and whether that be a sail, fishing clothing, an eel net, or duck models, each of these tells a piece of a greater narrative within which boats like Lesley fall.
This brings me to the other piece that resonated with me this week. In his book Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States, Henry Glassie discusses the qualities an object must have to qualify as material folk culture. The briefest summary of his definition is that to be a “folk object,” the thing must be “traditional,” in the sense that the culture which created it may not be mainstream or academic, and as such, unpopular. He further asserted that, ideally, a folk object would be locally created and locally used, as folklorists are opposed to commercialism. At the same time, according to Glassie, a folk object does not lose its folk value when used in a nonfolk manner. This raised questions for me about the cultural “gentrification” that sneakboxes underwent in the early 20th Century, at which point they went from serving as utilitarian vessels, whether for hunting or fishing, to being recreational vehicles. I suppose the questions I will walk into class with this week are, do sneakboxes qualify as folk objects? And if so, did they lose anything culturally in becoming popular recreational vehicles rather than boats of utility? To this last question, and with Glassie’s text in mind, I am inclined to say no. Although they perhaps lost some value to those who once used them for fishing and hunting, historically speaking, sneakboxes retain their significance, and examining how that changed over time with an eye to their origins through our objects will be fascinating, I am sure.
 Kenneth Ames, “Meaning in Artifacts: Hall Furnishings in Victorian America,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 9 no. 1 (Summer, 1978): p. 31.
 Ibid, pp. 31-35.
 Henry Glassie, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968): p. 4.
 Ibid, pp. 11-12.