Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Christa M. Beranek

Second Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Third Advisor

John M. Steinberg, Joseph Bagley


This thesis examines the ceramics recovered from the Martin Luther Orphans’ Home (1871-1945) within the Brook Farm Historic Site assemblage, to assess the ways in which the “orphan-parents” who ran the institution used material culture to shape the religious and domestic ideology of the children. The site provides a unique opportunity to study the lived religion within an institutional context and the engagement with domesticity to adhere to a pious lifestyle. This study isolates the archaeological contexts that can be associated with the orphanage occupation and that show minimal levels of disturbance through a series of statistical tests. Through examination of the material culture and documentary records, the study analyzes the symbolic narratives embedded within the daily rituals of the institution. Analysis of the ceramic tableware sheds light on the Martin Luther Orphans’ Home use of ceramics to emulate specifics of a middle-class domestic experience within the institutions, reflecting 19th-century notions of respectability and Christian moral values. The presence of specific decorative motifs and prevalence of plain tableware have strong Christian connotations, revealing a material component of the intentional construction of a sanctified space within the institution.


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