History of Homes


History Professor Kevin Sweeney points out architectural details on the Dickinson Homestead.

History professor Kevin Sweeney is a historian of “material culture” which involves researching archeological sites, estate sale records, wills and census reports to uncover clues about consumption and use of goods ranging from food to furniture to firearms.

Sweeney’s firearms research alone has yielded surprising insights. For example, he’s found that gun ownership in the original colonies was surprisingly varied – relatively low in regions like Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and comparatively higher in the New England and Southern States.

He has used this approach to study the life of Lord Jeffery Amherst, and over the years also has become an expert on the history of the American home. This semester, he’s sharing that knowledge, in a course he’s teaching titled "The Material Culture of American Homes."

Professor Sweeney recently sat down with Director of Public Affairs Peter Rooney to discuss the class.

Listen to the full interview below or download it here:

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Q: What is “Material Culture?”