"Material culture as we understand it is a direct consequence of the collecting traditions of the nineteenth century, liberal Enlightenment era notions of universality, colonial expansion, industrialisation and the birth of consumerism. As stated before, these collections were the primary means by which we studied other societies in distant time and space. We abandoned these studies to the promises made by social anthropology, which sought to go direct to the source rather than try and understand and translate it through ethnographic collections. If we consider Krystoff Pomian's thesis here, these earlier ethnographic collections were clearly attempts to mediate between two worlds, one known (Western) and one not known and invisible (non-Western), that could be comprehended through these mediating objects we call material culture."
Buchli, V., (2002) (Ed.), The Material Culture Reader, Berg, Oxford.