Human Ecology Graduate Programs

Master of Arts (MA) - Material Culture

Master of Arts (MA)

The Department of Human Ecology offers both course-based and thesis-based Masters programs. Course-based programs are professional degrees intended mainly for practicing professionals who wish to update or upgrade existing knowledge and skills, or to acquire new competencies (eg. when changing subject matter focus). In addition to required course work, course-based students must complete a capping exercise that focuses on the direct application of knowledge to practice. Thesis-based programs emphasize acquiring the skills and knowledge required to conduct original research and are intended to serve students who wish to pursue research careers (policy, community-based or laboratory research), or who wish to progress to a doctoral program. In addition to required course work, thesis-based students must complete a piece of independent, original research.

Length of Programs 

The time to complete the thesis-based master’s degree will vary with the individual candidate; however, for those entering the program with a background in a related discipline, it normally takes two years of full time study to complete the program. The course-based program is designed to be completed in 12 months of full-time study. Our program welcomes and accommodates part-time students. 

Available Programs


MA in Material Culture

In the Department of Human Ecology we study social meaning related to the creation, use and circulation of objects today and in the past, with an emphasis on clothing and textiles. In studying material culture we seek to understand people, improve their surroundings, and preserve and exhibit artifacts. Come work with leaders of the Material Culture Institute as they explore the meaning of material goods of all sorts in urban and rural, local, national, and international, and historic contexts.

Research Topics in Material Culture

Material Culture research in the Department of Human Ecology considers the social meaning of objects in relation to their creation, use, circulation and consumption in both contemporary and historical contexts, with a particular emphasis on clothing and textiles. The focus on these particular material goods is enhanced by the Department’s museum quality Clothing and Textiles Collection which consists of more than 20,000 textile and garment artifacts. The interdisciplinary research in this field seeks to reveal how material forms are central to the socialization of human beings into culture.

Research website

University of Alberta Museums' Clothing and Textiles Collection