Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Learning with Artifacts: Part 2

4. Changes through time - Look at how the artifact has developed over time. Is it still being made? How has it changed? Why do you think it has changed? Do you think it will keep changing in the future? A good example is weaponry. Earliest firearms used what was called a matchlock, then the flintlock was developed, then the percussion cap evolved, then the breech loader, then multi-shot weapons emerged, then machine guns and so on.

5. Look at cross-cultural comparisons - Hats are a good example for this one. Why does one culture wear a top hat while another wears a feathered headdress? What does headwear say about a culture? Are certain hats even acceptable in certain places within the same culture while other hats are not? Why?

6. What are the roots of the artifact? - This one is much along the same lines as number five. Where does the artifact get its influence? Buildings are some of the largest artifacts and architecture is a great example of this one. Many styles of architecture go back in time to get their basic design and influence. Popular 19th century styles such as Greek Revival and Gothic Revival are obvious as to their roots.
7. Does the artifact have a special meaning or value? - Does the culture that this artifact comes from place a certain significance on this item? Religious items such as Bibles and crosses are good examples, but they can also be secular items such as flags or even sports team memorabilia.
Hopefully these give you some different ways to look at artifacts the next time you or your students visit a museum. Museums are special places that often house one-of-a-kind items that you are not likely to see anywhere else, and sure, you can learn lots by just browsing and reading the labels, but so much more can be learned by taking some time to stop and really think about the items you are seeing.

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