About the Project

This website features 3D models of religiously meaningful objects, accompanied by original Object Narratives that place those objects in their historical context. The models were created and the narratives written by James Madison University students in the Spring 2017 and Spring 2018 offerings of HIST 362, Introduction to U.S. Religious History, taught by Dr. Andrew Witmer, Associate Professor in the Department of History.

The Objects of Faith project applies the technologies and techniques of 3D modeling and printing to the field of material religion, which explores the physical, embodied, material aspects of religious life, from buildings to bumper stickers. Though the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional dimensions of religion typically receive more attention, material considerations are equally important.

Students in HIST 362 used 3D modeling and printing to explore material religion in a hands-on manner. Working closely with an actual physical object to create a 3D model offered opportunities to handle the stuff of religious life, attending to its feel, heft, dimensions, and materials. This field work was informed by, and offered new insights into, ideas encountered in course readings and lectures.

Our class is grateful for creative collaboration and technical support from the team at JMU’s Innovation Services, especially Kevin Hegg, Art Pekun, Grover Saunders, and Debbie Pugh. We also thank members of the community who let us model their religiously meaningful objects, and the Center for the Study of Material & Visual Cultures of Religion at Yale University, whose outstanding website provided inspiration for our own.