Intro to Material Culture

The blogging has begun again. This semester for the Public History program I am taking a class in material culture. Through this class I hope to develop a greater understanding of the study of things and objects since my past experiences have relied heavily on archival written material. I am excited for this class since I believe material culture will aid in my work in the field of Public History by giving me the tools to better study and interpret the past.

Also for this class we have a semester long project where we pick one object and write a material analysis of it. I have chosen the torpedo tubes and/or the torpedoes on the USS Becuna, which is the submarine on display at the Independence Seaport Museum. The Becuna was built in 1944 and saw service in the Pacific during WWII, where it sunk a number of Japanese merchant ships. The Becuna has six 21-inch diameter torpedo tubes in the bow and four in the aft. I am interested in this piece since the torpedo tubes were retrofitted in 1951 to allow the Becuna to carry nuclear warheads. The submarine also has three torpedoes on display in the aft torpedo room, one with parts of the metal exterior removed and replaced with plastic so that the inner mechanisms can be seen. This also fits into my area of focus since the submarine was used during the Cold War to track Soviet submarines in the Atlantic. Furthermore, these objects are of interest because they can help us understand the nature of both World War II and the Cold War since they were built for combat. Thus through this project, I hope to learn about the Becuna’s role as an object for war and examine how that is understood and represented at the museum since the torpedo tubes/ torpedoes’ history did not end when the submarine was decommissioned.

Stay tuned for more blogs as the semester continues.

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