The Phenomenal Variation of Jim Costa's Collection Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • van Buren, Zoe
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of American Studies
  • This thesis explores the work of Jim Costa, a collector and restorer of 18th and 19th century handmade work tools and material culture in Summers County, West Virginia. Based on a collaborative documentary project with Jim, this thesis highlights one of his collection’s central themes of “phenomenal variation,” a term Jim uses to describe the unlimited scope and potential for human creativity as evidenced by the infinite aesthetic and pragmatic variations of the handmade. I explore Jim’s collection and restoration work as communicative practices that evoke not only historical memory, but also a more timeless concern for human nature itself. This thesis engages questions of material culture, nostalgia, collections, and laborlore, using ethnographic methodology to complicate and expand upon the question of how the past lives in the present, and how concern for old things may also be concern for ourselves and our futures.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Berlinger, Gabrielle
  • Hinson, Glenn
  • Sawin, Patricia
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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