Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Katherine Wells

Committee Members

David Pacifico


Conditioned Value of Decorative Art, Functional Art Object, New Museology, Personal Relationship with Objects, Sense of Place, Shopping and Belonging


This paper is the written portion of the thesis requirements for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Art History, Museums and Curatorial program. It corresponds with the other component, a museum-style exhibition in the Emile H. Mathis Art Gallery, as its catalog. The catalog and exhibition together address the factors of change in decorative art reception since the modern era and how museum institutions can continue to broaden the conditioned meanings of such art in a dynamic, responsive way.

These changes and suggestions are illustrated through objects and their display in the exhibition vignettes “The Home,” “The Boutique,” “The Museum,” and “Storing Stuff.” These settings appear as separate spaces but exist together as one exhibition. As participants walk through the exhibition, they notice items of overlap showing how functions of identity, consumption, and aesthetic all bleed together in the life of just one object. Differing styles of object labels in each section also speak to the variety of functions a decorative art object can have.

The storage section concludes the exhibition by showing that conditioned value trickles all the way down into how people store their surplus at home, at a store, and in a museum. Spoons in a drawer organizer are ready for daily use in the kitchen. Spoons twist-tied in cardboard packaging are ready to be shipped, displayed, or sold. Spoons in Gaylord Archival boxes are prepped for preservation. Which function do you value most? Which spoon seems the most valuable? Why do you think you understand it that way?