Juliana Rowen Barton

Wolf Humanities Center Associate Scholar

20182019 Forum on Stuff

Juliana Rowen Barton

Ph.D. Candidate, History of Art

Juliana Rowen Barton is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in modern architecture and design. From 2017-2018, she was the Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she co-organized the exhibition Design in Revolution: A 1960s Odyssey. Her dissertation, “The Model Kitchen: Domesticating Modernism in the American Home, 1933–1963,” examines the kitchen as the site of debates about democracy, domesticity, and identity in the mid-twentieth century. In doing so, the project considers how ideas about kitchens were communicated and circulated, and the impact of this propagation on the construction of American culture. More generally, she is interested in how domestic and exhibition spaces participate in the politics of gender, race, class, and nationalism.

The Model Kitchen: Domesticating Modernism in the American Home, 1933-1963

The kitchen, located at the heart of the American home, became an increasingly compelling site of domestic debate in the mid-twentieth century. My dissertation employs the kitchen – specifically models designed for display and associated material culture – to trace how exhibited domestic spaces produced systems that cultivated conformity and established material and ideological constructions of American identities. In doing so, I argue that model kitchens functioned as agents of both progression and regression. As my study shows, the principles communicated by social actors from architects to home economists in these models existed in tension with the utopia of democracy and domesticity. My project excavates these tensions embodied in the kitchen – and the gendered, raced, and classed stuff within it – to reinterpret entrenched narratives about American culture.