University of New Brunswick
In the interest of expanding upon my previous blog contributions, I’d like to introduce you to a project I’m currently working on, which involves object-based learning. Collaborating with a provincial history museum (The New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame), we are currently developing a unit of study that focuses specifically upon artifacts, sport, and war. Through a series of six lesson plans, teachers will be able to access a variety of primary and second sources, to compare and extend upon the artifact source, and thus reconstruct a “story” around each individual owner. This involves adopting a particular disciplinary approach to the past, which is commonly referred to as “material history” or “material culture.”
Material history, as often practiced in object-centered history museums, represents a unique approach to historical inquiry. As Hood (2009) has pointed out, “most historians are not equipped to do object-centered research” (p.177). For this reason, the challenge of “reading” an object that does not contain words, can be daunting for most anyone, if they have not learned the craft of material history inquiry.
With my own dissertation research involving seventh grade students, I found that participants particular enjoyed the sense of unbridled wonder that came from approaching their museum as a collection source. Object-based inquiry, although challenging for all, was also doable by all. Students quickly picked up on the technique, and in the process broke away from the official museum story, to create their own sense of meaning – a meaning that was grounded in evidence.