The Art of Remembrance: Family, Art and Memory in New England


A day-long symposium in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2017 will explore artistic productions of familial memory and commemoration in New England from the 1600s to the turn of the twentieth century. Often created by family members and encompassing every medium, the art of family was wide-ranging and included family registers, mourning art, gravestones, textiles, furniture, jewelry and other clothing accessories, scrapbooks and albums, as well as portraits, silhouettes, and, by the mid-nineteenth century, photographs. As tangible storehouses of memories and relationships such objects connected family members across time in intimate and visceral ways. At the same time, they reflect makers’ social, aesthetic and cultural contexts. For scholars, the art of family offers unique and compelling entry points to explore ways New Engalnders chose to remember, commemorate, memorialize, mourn and/or celebrate family members, rites of passage and other domestic events.

We invite papers that explore the idea of family remembrance through material culture in New England before 1900. How did these productions inform, sustain or help shape individual and family identity? What role did economic, technological or material conditions and assumptions play in their creation? In what ways might a genre or specific piece of family art reflect New Englanders’ didactic goals, historical, regional or group identities and perspectives? How and why did a family’s use and understanding of these objects change over time?

Papers should be theoretical or analytical in nature rather than descriptive and take approximately 20 minutes to present. Speakers invited to present papers are expected to participate fully in the symposium program. The symposium offers speakers overnight accommodation. 

Please submit 250-word proposals and a two-page c.v. via electronic mail to Barbara Mathews at and Martha McNamara at Proposals should include the title of the paper and the presenter’s name.

For further information, please contact Barbara Mathews ( or Martha McNamara ( The deadline for submissions is November 20, 2016.