E-Resources for the Study of American Material Culture

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This list of electronic resources for the study of American material culture in a global context is a living, evolving document that is regularly edited and updated by staff (reference@winterthur.org) of the Winterthur Library. We encourage you to share this page, and please send suggestions for resources that we have missed!

Please note that some of the resources listed here are only available by subscription, and as such can only be accessed while on the Winterthur campus, the campus of the University of Delaware, or through Winterthur’s Citrix network. Please contact us for help with access issues.

Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Black Craftspeople Digital Archive

From 1619 to beyond, black craftspeople, both free and enslaved, worked to produce the valued architecture, handcrafts, and decorative arts of the American South. The Black Craftspeople Digital Archive seeks to enhance what we know about black craftspeople by telling both a spatial story and a historically informed story that highlights the lives of black craftspeople and the objects they produced.

Boston Furniture Archive, 1630-1930

The Archive’s database provides catalog information and photographs of objects produced between 1630 and 1930 in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Charlestown, Dorchester, and Roxbury. In addition, the Archive offers basic information about furniture design and construction and links to related online resources.

The Colored Conventions Project

The Colored Conventions Project is an archive of the proceedings from conventions organized by Black men and women in the US and Canada from the 1830s–1890s. There is material, particularly in the exhibits sections that includes coverage of the role of milliners of dressmakers in these movements, domestic spaces and boarding houses, and the whole archive is related to graphic design.

Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery

A database for information about enslaved Africans and their descendants living in the Chesapeake, Carolinas, and Caribbean during the Colonial and Ante-Bellum Periods. Analyze and compare archaeological assemblages and architectural plans from different sites at unprecedented levels of detail. DAACS is a community resource, conceived and maintained in the Department of Archaeology at Monticello, in collaboration with research institutions and archaeologists working throughout the Atlantic World.

The Dominy Craftsmen Collection

Three generations of the Dominy family of Long Island, New York functioned as artisans from ca. 1760 to ca. 1850. Survival of their shop equipment and tools into the twentieth century, combined with extensive accounts, letters, and receipts chronicling their craft production, business activity, education, social life, and political views, provide unique insights about craftsmen working in rural and urban communities of colonial America and the New Republic.

The Dominy Craftsmen Collection brings together material from the revised and enlarged digital edition of With Hammer in Hand by Charles F. Hummel; the extensive collection of Dominy family manuscript material in the Winterthur Library; a video-taped lecture about the Dominy craftsmen; and a brief description of books owned by the craftsmen and their families.

Freedom on the Move Project (Cornell University)

“A database of fugitives from American Slavery,” according to the website, but more accurately, an archive maintained by Cornell of fugitive slave ads, which is particularly interesting in terms of the garments and objects that are often described in the ads. 

Gulf South Decorative and Fine Arts Database

The Decorative Arts of the Gulf South (DAGS) research project at The Historic New Orleans Collection, formerly known as the Classical Institute of the South (CIS), catalogs historic objects made or used in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama dating from the eighteenth century to 1865. Images and information collected by THNOC are made available in a publicly accessible repository hosted by the Louisiana Digital Library. Since 2011, groups of Summer Fellows from graduate programs focusing on history, material culture, and art history have cataloged over 1,000 objects at over 20 sites in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

MESDA Craftsman Database

A collection of primary source information on nearly 90,000 artisans practicing 127 trades in the early South, maintained by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. 

MESDA Objects Database

The MESDA Object Database contains descriptions, data, and approximately 100,000 photographs of nearly 20,000 objects—in both private and public collections—that were made in the early American South.

The Pewter Society Database of British Isles Pewterers

The Database of Pewterers brings together most of the information that is known about British and Irish pewterers. It includes their marks, hallmarks, dates, locations, wares, family trees, published sources and other information. You can extract information about a pewterer, and perform comprehensive searches for names, marks, locations, wares and dates.

Philadelphia Furniture: Design, Artisans, and Techniques

A digital extension of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2020 catalogue, American Furniture: 1650-1840, and curator Alexandra Kirtley’s taxonomy for describing Philadelphia design elements. The website contains information about the design inspirations of Philadelphia furniture, construction techniques, and artisans who made, carved, upholstered, and ornamented the furniture, and “seeks to provide a space for the appreciation, study, interpretation, and research on Philadelphia furniture.”

Rhode Island Furniture Archive

The Rhode Island Furniture Archive at the Yale University Art Gallery documents furniture and furniture making in Rhode Island from the time of the first European colonization in 1636 through the early nineteenth century. Bringing together records of surviving furniture, individuals who owned it, and known furniture makers, this archive aims to provide a complete account of the specific culture, local variations, and artistic practices surrounding the first two centuries of furniture making in Rhode Island.

Current Auction Data (ca. 1985-present)

Antiques and the Arts Weekly archive

Allows for searching of ads posted by antiques dealers and auction houses, and articles

Full issues from 2006 to present


IP-restricted; available on Winterthur campus

Includes Decorative Art and Fine Art and Design modules

Results dating back to 1985. Contains records from more than 1,800 international auction houses

Invaluable (formerly Artfact)

Ask library staff to log you in

Price Archive provides results from over 2,000 international auction houses, with records from 1986 to the present

p4a Antiques Reference

IP-restricted; available on Winterthur campus

Gathers data from over 140 US auction houses; only online database to focus its coverage exclusively on major regional auction venues throughout the US

All records have images

Retrospective Auction Data

Getty Provenance Index

1.5 million records taken from source material such as archival inventories, auction catalogs (1650-1945), and dealer stock books

Strongest in European fine art

Auction Catalogs from the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This collection, hosted by the Internet Archive, contains an ever-growing number digitized sales catalogs from the Met Libraries' collections. The catalogs date from the seventeenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, and are primarily from American and European auction houses.

Note: If you are unable to find the pre-1923 auction catalog you’re looking for on any of these sites, try searching the Internet Archive for digitized auction catalogs using the name of the auction house as the creator name.

Full Text Newspapers

Please see the University of Delaware’s libguide to newspapers for comprehensive descriptions of their digital newspaper collections: Research Guides - Newspaper Collections (Digital)

Accessible Archives, 1726-1902

Access through UDel or on the Winterthur campus

Offers searchable full text of 18th and 19th c. newspapers and magazines:

  • African American Newspapers: The 19th Century [1827-1909]
  • American Counties Histories to 1900
  • The Civil War: A Newspaper Perspective [November 1860 - April 1865]
  • Godey’s Lady’s Book [1830-1898]
  • The Lily [1849-1856]
  • The Pennsylvania Gazette [1728-1800]
  • The Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalogue: Chester County [1809-1870]
  • The Pennsylvania Newspaper Record: Delaware County [1819-1870]
  • South Carolina Newspapers [1732-1780]
  • Virginia Gazette [1736-1780]

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (1789-1963) - Library of Congress

Early American Newspapers / America’s Historical Newspapers (1690s-1922) - access through UDel

Digitized from cover to cover. May be searched by keyword, presidential era, place of publication, era in American history, title, etc. Great source for craftsman advertisements.

Google Newspaper Archive

A large collection of digitized historical newspapers from the U.S. and Canada. Coverage varies greatly, but some go as far back as the 18th century.

Art & Architecture

Art Abstracts/ Art Index Retrospective

Access through UDel or on the Winterthur campus

Indexes many of the periodicals subscribed to by the Winterthur Library, including Magazine Antiques.

Provides citations and abstracts to articles relating to archaeology, architecture, art history, city planning, crafts, films, graphic arts, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, museology, photography, and related fields.

Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, mid 18th century-present

Access through UDel or on the Winterthur campus

Covers architecture, urban design, historic preservation, and urban planning history. It offers access to 2,500 international journals and contains nearly 600,000 citations dating to the mid-18th century. Includes 13,000 obituary citations (an excellent source of biographical info about architects). Indexes Country Life and Country Life in America

Historic American Buildings Survey, 1933-present - LOC

581,000 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 43,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century.

May also gain access through UD databases list /American Memory

Philadelphia Architects and Buildings

Architectural and historical information and images for 260,000+ structures, mostly in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties, including all those on the Philadelphia Historical Commission list of significant buildings, and the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s inventory of historic structures.

148,000+ images; biographies or biographical sketches of 2500+ architects

Saving Slave Houses Database

The Slave House Database has two parts – documentation and interpretation. The documentation is the visual representation of the spaces; and the interpretations are descriptions of the spaces from the actual inhabitants who lived and worked there during slavery.


Sam Margolin’s “‘And Freedom to the Slave’: Antislavery Ceramics, 1787–1865,” Ceramics in America (2002)

A digital collection of anti-slavery objects from the Chipstone Foundation (many easily considered design, lots of transferware) and an essay accompanying them

The Marks Project

A Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946-present

Makers' Marks by Kovels

Searchable database with information on identifying makers' marks for jewelry; porcelain and pottery; toys and dolls; silver from American, English, and Mexican makers; fashion, accessories, and textiles

Transferware Pattern and Print Source Database

Contact library staff for login information

To date, includes over 15,000 patterns and 1000 source prints used in the production of transferware printed pottery.


American Samplers at the National Museum of American History

Images and information about samplers in the collections of the National Museum of American History.

The Fashion and Race Database

The Fashion and Race Database expands the narrative of fashion history and challenges misrepresentation in the fashion system.

Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project

The Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project identifies and documents quilt makers and their quilts made in Louisiana from the days of earliest settlement of the state to the present. Collecting information for this online searchable database began in 2001 as a research activity of the Louisiana Regional Folklife Program at Louisiana Tech University and expanded to the University of New Orleans branch of the Regional Folklife Program.

Online Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics

Patterns, articles, and blog posts related to weaving.

The Quilt Index

The Quilt Index is an open access, digital repository of thousands of images, stories and information about quilts and their makers drawn from hundreds of public and private collections around the world. The Quilt Index is a digital humanities research and education project of the Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University. 

Sampler Archive: Information and Images of Historic Girlhood Embroideries

The long-term goal of the Sampler Archive is to create a freely available and easily accessible online searchable database with information and high-resolution images of all known American samplers in public and private collections nationally and internationally.

Sampler Survey Project

The goal of the Sampler Survey project is to make information on needlework found in the database as accessible as possible while sustaining National Society of the Colonial Dames of America’s mission to serve as a source of knowledge for the history of women’s education through needlework.

18th & 19th century Periodicals and Books

APS (American Periodicals Series) Online, 1741-2005 - UDel

Digitized images from over 1,240 American magazines and journals. Includes some original advertisements. May be searched in combination with the New York Times.

Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 - UDel

Digital copies of over 37,000 American imprints from the 17th and 18th centuries Definitive resource for information about every aspect of life in 17th- and 18th-century America, from agriculture and auctions through foreign affairs, diplomacy, literature, music, religion, the Revolutionary War, temperance, witchcraft, and many other topics. Records for materials located in this database have been loaded into DELCAT. Includes city directories for Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), 1701-1800 - UDel

Digital images of 180,000 publications from the 18th century. Includes books, sheet music, directories, sermons, advertisements, etc.

Making of America

A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.


American Ancestors

Available on the Winterthur campus

From the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Includes census books, vital records, school records, town records, probate records (all for New England).


Available on the Winterthur campus

Provides genealogical information through primary source documents such as census records, birth, marriage, and death records, and military records.

Includes numerous city directories from the period of 1821-1989, birth, marriage, and death records from American newspapers between 1851 and 2003, and unexpected resources including a long run of Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogs.

Winterthur Craftsperson Files now available here: Click on Search, then Card Catalog. Enter “Winterthur” as keyword. Winterthur records are titled: Delaware, Craftsperson files.


Available on the Winterthur campus; ask Library staff to log you in

Provides genealogical information through primary source documents such as census records, birth, marriage, and death records, and military records.

Other Useful Resources

The Cemetery Sista

The goal of The Cemetery Sista is to fill in the gaps of Black history through story-telling with feature stories of everyday Black people who have transitioned to the afterlife.

China, America, and the Pacific: Trade and Cultural Exchange - Adam Matthew database

Available on the Winterthur campus

Explore an extensive range of archival material connected to the trading and cultural relationships that emerged between China, America and the Pacific region between the 18th and early 20th centuries. Manuscript sources, rare printed texts, visual images, objects and maps document this fascinating history. Includes numerous Downs Collection manuscripts and drawings.

Decentering Whiteness in Design History Resources

A living, evolving bibliography that was established in 2020 with the essential mission to “help instructors of design history decenter whiteness in their classes.” The project welcomes bibliographic entries, edits, and comments from anyone interested in sharing resources that they have found useful in teaching and studying the intersections of race and ethnicity with global design history.

Food and Drink in History - Adam Matthew database

Available on the Winterthur campus

From feast to famine, explore five centuries of primary source material documenting the story of food and drink throughout history. The materials in this collection illustrate the deep links between food and identity, politics and power, gender, race and socio-economic status, as well as charting key issues around agriculture, nutrition and food production. Includes materials from the Winterthur Library’s rare books and Downs collections.

Google Patents Search

Coverage includes entire collection of issued patents and millions of patent application made available by the USPTO—from patents issued in the 1790s through those most recently issued in the past few months.

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses - UDel

Citations, abstracts, and full text for international theses and dissertations from 1861 to the present, including many full text theses from the WPAMC / WPEAC program through 2008ish

Trade Catalogues and the American Home (available on the Winterthur campus) - Adam Matthew database

Explore domestic consumerism, life and leisure in America between 1850-1950 with Trade Catalogues and the American Home. This resource presents a wealth of highly illustrated primary source documents that highlight commercial tastes and consumer trends, and provide a valuable visual record for a breadth of interdisciplinary study. The Winterthur Library, Hagley Library, and the University of California at Santa Barbara contributed materials.

UD Space

The University of Delaware’s institutional repository for faculty, staff, and student research.

Includes full-text Winterthur master’s theses from Fall 2009 to the present


The union catalog for over 1.3 billion items held by more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. Includes holdings from the Winterthur Library.

Not included: individual articles, stories in journals, magazines, newspapers, or book chapters.


A database of archival collections from 1,400 institutions worldwide. Includes more than 7 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more from archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.