What is material culture?

Material culture is the expression of culture. It is the physical objects of a culture, such as tools, domestic objects, religious objects, works of art, including visual, literary, and performative art. 

Resources at Harvard

Harvard Art Museums

The Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum together form the Harvard Art Museums. The Fogg Museum is known for its collection of Western paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings from the Middle Ages to the present, particularly its collections of Italian Renaissance, British Pre-Raphaelite, 19th century French art, and 19th- and 20th-century American paintings and drawings. The Busch–Reisinger Museum is the only museum in North America dedicated to the study of art from the German-speaking countries of Central and Northern Europe in all media and in all periods. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum has collections of Asian, ancient Mediterranean, Byzantine, and Islamic art. 

Celtic Museum Collections

Arts institutions have both collections of material culture and accompanying libraries, usually open to the public, with research on the material culture held in the institution's collection. Museums also have institutional archives, which can be mines of information.


ARTstor is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation whose purpose is to develop a database of digital images and accompanying scholarly information for use in art history and other humanistic fields of learning, including the related social sciences. The ARTstor Digital Library includes approximately 300,000 images covering art, architecture and archeology. It is a database of curated collections of art images and associated data covering many time periods and cultures, and documenting the fields of architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, and design, as well as many other forms of visual culture.


Europeana is a database of the digital and digitized cultural heritage materials of thousands of European archives, libraries and museums.

BBC Archive

The BBC has a vast archive of records, recordings, music, photographs, and artifacts.

British Museum

The British Museum has a permanent collection of some 8 million works, and is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence.

National Gallery of Ireland

The National Gallery of Ireland houses the national collection of Irish and European art.

National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland is Ireland's leading museum institution, with a strong emphasis on national and some international archaeology, Irish history, Irish art, culture, and natural history.

National Library of Wales Art Collection

The Library collects pictures that illustrate or portray places in Wales, people of Welsh background who live in Wales and other places, as well as individuals who have played a part in Wales’ history or life.

National Museum Wales

The National Museum Wales is a Welsh Government sponsored body that comprises seven museums in Wales, which collect materials related to Wales, Welsh history, and Welsh identity.

National Galleries Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland cares for, develops, researches and displays the national collection of Scottish and international art.

National Museums Scotland

The National Museums Scotland hold museum collections of national and international importance.

3D Icons

This is a collection of 3D images (and the required plans for 3D printing) of medieval and prehistoric Irish sites, including high crosses and early ecclesiastical settlements.

Celtic Inscribed Stones Project

This database of inscribed stones emerged from a project, based at University College, London, and completed in 1999.

Irish Inscribed Stones Project

This collection of 3D scans is part of this project, based at the National University of Ireland, Galway, which scanned more than 300 stones bearing Irish inscriptions.

National Museum of Ireland, Archaeology

The National Museum of Ireland, Archaeology has a collection of images of and videos about artifacts from prehistoric and medieval Ireland.

Ogham in 3D

This collection contains 3D images of ogham stones from across Ireland, including information about their inscriptions.

Welsh Ballads Online

Welsh Ballads Online includes about 4,000 digitized ballads, mainly dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the collections of the National Library of Wales and Cardiff University Library.