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What does it mean to live in a “material world”? What might we learn from studying the signs that surround us? In an increasingly consumer-oriented, globalized and digital age, how do objects and signs express the longstanding beliefs and values of different societies? The Minor in Material Culture and Semiotics is a unique, future-oriented program of study that combines the study of objects such as clothing, household goods, machinery, and built forms with semiotics – the science of signs, sense-making, and cultural interpretation. Courses examine the meanings people invest in their things, across cultures and time periods, and consider processes of production, consumption, invention, exchange, use, re-use, divestment, disposal, collection, and exhibition. Material Culture and Semiotics thus offers an interdisciplinary space in which to understand contemporary and emerging society through engagement with historical and theoretical perspectives on human behaviour and meaning-making. Students have the opportunity to participate in an internship course with a placement in museums, archives, cultural institutions, or creative design and advertising-oriented businesses. The Minor is designed to complement programs in such disciplines as Anthropology, Art History, History, Book and Media Studies, and History of Science and Technology and to prepare students for careers in such fields as marketing and advertising, museums and cultural institutions, communications, journalism, and education. 

Effective March 1, 2021, the current Material Culture Minor will be replaced by the new Minor in Material Culture and Semiotics. Students already enrolled in the Material Culture Minor will still be able to complete the program requirements as described in the 2020-21 Academic Calendar. Alternatively, students currently enrolled in the Material Culture Minor who wish to transfer into the new Minor in Material Culture and Semiotics may contact Victoria College for advice on their program requirements.


Program Contacts

Professor Joanna Papayiannis
Acting Program Coordinator

Chris de Barros
Academic Programs Liaison Officer

Program Requirements

Enrolment: This is an open enrolment program. A student who has completed 4.0 credits may enrol in the program.

To acquire a Minor in Material Culture and Semiotics, you'll need to complete a total of 4.0 credits, as explained below. 

Please note:

  • Only 1.0 credit (at most) from the 100 Level will be counted towards your total
  • At least 1.0 credit needs to be at the 300+ level. 
  • Up to 1.0 credit may be chosen from approved courses offered by other departments (see list of Cognate Courses below)
Mandatory Courses

You must complete: 

  • MCS223H1 - Signs, Meanings, and Culture
  • MCS224H1 - Approaches to Material Culture
  • MCS225Y1A History of the World in Objects and Signs
  • MCS429H1 - Advanced Topics in Material Culture, Information Systems and Meaning-Making
    MCS444H1 - Themes in Material Culture
Program Elective Courses

You must complete 0.5 credit from:

Cognate & Other Courses

For the remainder of your required credits, you may take 1.0 credit from the following options:

Material Culture Internship and Program Elective Courses:

  • MCS329H1/​ MCS329Y1 - Internship in Material Culture
  • courses listed in "Program Elective Courses" not already taken

Vic One / Vic One Hundred / Victoria Collge Courses (if applicable):

  • VIC163H1 - Cultural Forms and Their Meanings: People and Ideas
  • VIC184H1 - Individuals and the Public Sphere: History, Historiography and Making Cultural Memory
  • VIC198H1 - Posters and Propaganda
  • VIC199H1 - The Secret Life of Objects: Analyzing the Culture of Things
  • VIC246H1 - Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Monster

 Cognate Courses:

EDI Resources

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Resources for Material Culture and Semiotics

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