Center for Design & Material Culture

A letter from the Director, June 2020

Sarah Carter headshot

Dr. Sarah Anne Carter

Dear friends of the Center for Design and Material Culture,

What a time to be working in textiles and material culture: between the COVID-19 virus, renewed Black Lives Matter movements, and the pandemic’s economic impacts, we are already seeing many material components of our everyday lives challenged or remade. Face masks, protest signs, food pantry boxes may be the ephemera of our new normal but are sure to leave a mark in defining 2020.

Meanwhile, staff of the Center for Design and Material Culture successfully moved our work and studies to home, ever centering the continued fulfillment of our mission. We transitioned several exhibits to online experiences, hosted virtual visits to the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC), continued work to develop a new website and polish our social media channels, and celebrated four student workers who graduated from UW–Madison this spring. Looking ahead, we are preparing to support fall 2020 courses, organizing a new CDMC Conversations series to connect with artists, designers, scholars, and community members in new ways, and innovating supportive tools for faculty and students to continue their important research.

Our faculty direction is stronger than ever, with Dr. Jung-hye Shin newly appointed as faculty director for Design Thinking and department chair for Design Studies. She joins Dr. Marina Moskowitz, Faculty Director for Textiles, and Dr. Ann Smart Martin, Faculty Director for Material Culture. We are also currently seeking an individual to lead collections-focused research in HLATC as the Pleasant Rowland Textile Specialist and Research Director. Finally, I am pleased to share that I have been hired to serve as Executive Director of CDMC and Associate Professor in Design Studies, beginning in fall 2021.

None of this would be possible without the generosity of our supporters, the support of our visionary Dean Soyeon Shim, and the leadership gifts that grew out of our 50th anniversary celebration of HLATC last year. In spite of the challenges posed by COVID-19, I am confident in the CDMC’s bright future, and I look forward to helping to steer its course as we navigate these both challenging and promising days.

With warmest thanks for your support,

Sarah Anne Carter, PhD

About the Center

Center for Design and Material Culture logoThe Center for Design and Material Culture (CDMC) is one of five Centers of Excellence within UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology (SoHE) that promotes human-centered scholarship.  In partnership with SoHE’s Design Studies Department the CDMC serves diverse communities of scholars who study, practice, and experience material culture and design as complex relationships between humans and the material world, today and in the past.


The Center for Design and Material Culture promotes learning, exploration, outreach, and community engagement related to design and material culture through interdisciplinary and human-centered scholarship and through stewardship and administration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection and Ruth Davis Design Gallery along with the Center’s other educational assets.


The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection is a teaching collections that comprises 13,000 artifacts. The Collection advances the understanding of cultures and their history through engagement with textiles for the creative, technical and educational benefit of scholars from the university and beyond. The Ruth Davis Design Gallery organizes exhibitions and public programs that strive to educate and engage diverse audiences in design within its historical and cultural contexts. All Center events and exhibitions are funded entirely by competitive grants and private philanthropy.


We seek UW-Madison faculty, staff, and graduate student colleagues, as well as off-campus community members, with scholarly, professional, or personal interests in design and material culture. We hope our affiliates will contribute to, participate in, and benefit from our Center programs and join us in supporting the Wisconsin Idea by promoting design and object-centered learning opportunities. See more about affiliation.

News and Events

Join our email list and follow us on social media to receive the latest news and event announcements, as well as compelling content from our collections and partners. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Support Us

All Center for Design and Material Culture events and exhibitions are funded entirely by competitive grants and private donations. Help us keep our programs free and accessible to the public through a gift the Design Gallery or Textile Collection through the the University of Wisconsin Foundation.