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Michael J. Emmons, Jr.

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began September 2014

Michael J. Emmons, Jr. is an architectural historian with a master's degree in historic preservation (University of Delaware, 2014) and a master's in history (University of Connecticut, 2004). During his master's studies in historic preservation, Michael worked at the Center for Historic Architecture and Design (CHAD), where his preservation-related projects included extensive field documentation, historic district surveys, National Register nominations, photo documentation of historic sites, AutoCAD drawing, and research and writing of evaluative reports. In addition to his year-long masters capstone portfolio, Michael embarked on a major research project evaluating American country house architecture, the du Pont family, and their influence on Wilmington’s residential landscape. To support his research, Michael was selected as a DelPHI Summer Fellow (2013) through the Center for Material Culture Studies. 

Michael’s background in public history, preservation, and vernacular architecture is wide ranging, including three years of teaching college history, government, and geography at NSCC in Ohio, five years as a real estate agent selling historic properties in Connecticut, and many years of blogging about historic architecture, preservation, and real estate at www.HistoricHouseBlog.com. While at the University of Connecticut, he worked as a guide at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and The Mark Twain House in Hartford. Michael was also selected for a competitive archival internship at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, where he trained in collections processing and accessioning. Michael chaired the graduate student committee during the search for the current Connecticut State Historian. In Ohio, he set the agenda and was facilitator at the first meeting of the State of Ohio’s Commission for the Commemoration of the War of 1812. Michael’s public history internships as an undergraduate included living history portrayals at the “Canal Experience” in Toledo and Historic Sauder Village.

His committee members are: J. Ritchie Garrison, Chair (Director, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture), Sandy Isenstadt (ARTH), Martin Brueckner (ENG), Lu Ann DeCunzo (ANTH) and external member: Robert Saint-George (UPenn).

TOPIC: "Marking" and Inscribing in Early America

​Images: PSP student Michael J. Emmons, Jr. documenting the historic C&D Canal lock at Delaware City, DE, with the Center for Historic Architecture and Design (left), taking field notes and creating a measured drawing of the David Compton House in Mauricetown, NJ (top right), and examining the timber framing of the 18th century Thomas Gandy House in Seaville, NJ (above).

​Michael’s project examines the markings left behind on buildings and artifacts as powerful signifiers that are underutilized as historical evidence. As material culture with embedded messages, markings offer us the ability to “read” artifacts as historic texts—sometimes quite literally, as with datestones on buildings or inscriptions on clocks—but also in the archaeological sense, such as when historic graffiti can reveal important information about social and cultural context. Markings and inscriptions represent and communicate a broad range of personal and cultural messages. Depending on the type, markings can demonstrate temporal consciousness, signify rebellion and deviance, convey instruction or direction, express an innate human need to leave a permanent mark, indicate inclusion or belonging, express religious belief or superstition, assert possession or ownership, commemorate or honor, or display artistic expression. Michael’s work establishes a typology of markings in early America, and promises to lend valuable perspectives that inform historic preservation strategies and, more broadly, the interpretation and conservation of objects and buildings in museums and beyond.

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Michael J. Emmons, Jr.
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu