Sarah Fayen Scarlett

Sarah Fayen Scarlett


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  • Associate Professor of History
  • PhD, Art History, Building-Landscapes-Cultures Program, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • MA, American Material Culture, Winterthur Program, University of Delaware
  • BA, American Studies, Yale University


I am a social historian who privileges architecture, landscapes, objects, and artworks in my research, public interpretation, and teaching strategies. My work relies on the idea that the built environment and the objects within it reflect and also shape human beliefs and attitudes. I locate myself at the intersection of three interdisciplinary subfields: vernacular architecture, material culture, and cultural landscape studies. I interface with scholars and methodologies from fields including history, archaeology, geography, American studies, architecture, and art history.

My recent book Company Suburbs: Architecture, Power, and The Transformation of Michigan's Mining Fronter (Univ of Tennessee Press 2021) was awarded the Abbott Lowell Cummings Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum and the Fred B. Kniffen Award from the International Society for Landscape, Place, and Material Culture. It investigates space, materiality, and mobility in domestic landscapes to explore complex social identities in America between 1875 and 1920.

Another area of my research explores the roles of digital spatial tools in community-engaged heritage projects. I co-direct the NEH-sponsored historical GIS of the Copper Country called the Keweenaw Time Traveler, which asks "citizen historians" to contribute their own knowledge about landscape change over time and help process historical data. 

Research Interests

  • Spatial, material, and experiential aspects of social power in industrial communities
  • Historical GIS for Community-Engaged Scholarship
  • American Vernacular Architecture and Material Culture Studies
  • Public History, Historic Preservation, and Museums
  • History of Design, Craft, and Production in the United States
  • Cultural Landscapes and Historic Architecture of the Keweenaw