Virtual Material Matters: It’s in the Details

January 20, 2024

The Thirteenth Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” conference takes place online on January 20, 2024. We invite you to join us online for this conference on material culture spanning 1609-1815. 

This conference is only available online through Fort Ticonderoga’s Center for Digital History, streaming through Zoom Webinars. A laptop, tablet, or smartphone is required to participate in the conference. Advanced registration is required.

Participants will receive a Zoom link three days before the conference by email (a reminder link will be sent the morning of the conference as well). 

Participants are invited to ask questions of each presenter using the “Q&A” button in Zoom.  


9:50am Welcome 

10:00-10:30am Instrumental Impedimenta: The Material Culture of British Military Music during and after the Napoleonic Wars—This presentation explores the character and influence of British martial music through its material legacy of instruments, manuscript tune books, and uniforms. Besides examining the importance of musical materiel in regimental life, it shows how second-hand military instruments underpinned the expansion of popular music-making and were repurposed by political demonstrators after 1815. Dr. Eamonn O’Keeffe is the National Army Museum Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. 

10:45-11:15am A Spanish Musket, Gibraltar, and how the fight over a British territory in the Mediterranean contributed to British defeat in North America—The model 1757 musket was the standard issue long arm for Spanish soldiers during the American Revolutionary War. This example, made in 1774, was captured during the British sortie on Spanish lines from their besieged territory of Gibraltar on the night of November 26/27, 1781. Drawing from the holdings of the Society of the Cincinnati and independent research, this talk will address how a colonial rebellion in North America led to conflict in the western Mediterranean and how this would aid the cause of the rebels. Paul Newman is the museum and collections operations manager with the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati. Paul specializes in the history of the British Army having formerly been the assistant curator of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland.  

11:30am-12:00pm Graduate Showcase 

“That Wild Pipe of His:” Deconstructing Narratives around the Pipe Tomahawk—Close looking at an ornate pipe tomahawk dated to 1761 reveals that it was likely made during the Seven Years’ War by craftsmen in French Canada as a souvenir or show piece for a French officer. Aided by the use of a photo-accurate 3D model, session participants will be able to interact with this striking object up close as we discuss pipe tomahawks in popular culture and consider how focusing solely on their use by indigenous groups plays into racist narratives about indigenous violence which have been perpetuated by Europeans since contact. Kelly Pedigo is a Lois F. McNeil Fellow in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware.  

More than a Flash in the Pan: Firearms as Objects of Material Culture—Fort Ticonderoga’s recent acquisition of the Robert Nittolo firearms collection has positioned this incredible institution as one of the world’s premier collections of colonial and revolutionary arms. Not only does the Nittolo Collection offer remarkable connections to Fort Ticonderoga’s pre-existing firearms collection, and the archaeological recoveries from the property, but each firearm serves as its own remarkable object of material culture, with stories to tell of centuries past. This presentation will focus on aspects of the longarms collection of 141 firearms, offering an example of the near limitless potential for researchers to use these incredible pieces as fantastic examples of material culture wrought forth in iron and history. In addition, this presentation will briefly reflect on the staggering opportunity to research these firearms as a Pell Graduate Fellow. Brendan Quinn was the 2023 Edward W. Pell Curatorial Research Fellow at Fort Ticonderoga and is completing his masters at the University of Toledo. 

12:00-12:30pm Lunch Break 

12:30-1:00pm La “Corne à Poudre”: Powder Horns in French Colonial North America—Engraved powder horns are an icon of Early American material culture, yet we know precious little of how they were made and used in French Canada, Acadia, or Louisiana.  Probing period sources and surveying the rare surviving specimens allows us to appreciate both broad patterns and individual trajectories of life and creativity, inviting us to ponder the impacts of cross-cultural influence.  Jean-François Lozier is Curator of French North America at the Canadian Museum of History.  His research focuses on intercultural relations and circulations in Early Canada, and he is the author of the book Flesh Reborn: The Saint Lawrence Valley Mission Settlements through the Seventeenth Century.

1:15-1:45pm A War of Flags and Medals: The Material Culture of Diplomatic Competition on the Revolutionary Borderlands—This session will explore how the exchange of flags and medals between colonial powers and Native peoples shaped the geopolitical situation of the Great Lakes and Illinois Country borderland in the years immediately before, during, and after the American Revolution. Examining the giving, and receiving, of flags and medals helps us to trace the ways the material culture of these diplomatic symbols persisted despite changing imperial realities in the interior and offers a window into the ways Indigenous groups, and especially their leaders, took part in the changing diplomacy of the borderlands. John William Nelson is Assistant Professor of History at Texas Tech University and author of the book Muddy Ground: Native Peoples, Chicago’s Portage, and the Transformation of a Continent (UNC Press, 2023)

2:00-2:30pm Presence and Absence in Pennsylvania: Reframing a Revolutionary Museum Object—The sculptural bust of Captain John Carlton, ca. 1786, owned by the York County History Center, is a keystone object through which to dissect the intersectionality of historical place on the Susquehanna River and the ways in which indigenous memory has been wiped from south central Pennsylvania identity and common cultural knowledge. Carved from the trees that gave name to “Penn’s Woods,” there are no state or federally recognized tribes in Pennsylvania, even though the Commonwealth’s most famous identity inducing image—Penn’s Treaty by Benjamin West and a later version by Edward Hicks—balances the number of indigenous people and their actions against those of the whites. The sculptural bust of Captain John Carlton is an overlooked museum object of the Revolutionary Era, offering an opportunity to use visual and material culture to examine presence and absence during the 250th anniversary commemorations. Laura A. Macaluso, Ph.D. is a member of the working group “Revolutionary Narratives” which is producing a book and toolkit for historic site practitioners for the 250th anniversary in 2026. 

Event Details

Date & Time:

January 20, 2024 10:00 AM to 02:00 PM

Additional Information:

$65 Member

$75 Non-Member

$250 Patron

Venue Details




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