"Our choice of the 'history of things' is more than a euphemism to explain the bristling ugliness of 'material culture.' This term is used by anthropologists to distinguish ideas, or 'mental culture,' from artifacts. But the 'history of things' is intended to reunite ideas and objects under the rubric of visual forms: the term includes both artifacts and works of art, both replicas and unique examples, both tools and expressions---in short all materials worked by human hands under the guidance of connected ideas developed in temporal sequence. From all these things a shape in time emerges."
This is an interesting take on the history of the imprints we as humans have left on the world, which trace back as far as we've recorded it. Kubler views it as more of an idea, it unifies the different types of effects we've caused on the world--whether good or bad, and puts these concepts under the umbrella of the "history of things." Once we've gathered enough under this giant umbrella, we then can step back and view the big picture, which results in a "shape in time."