Object-based Education
Object-based education is very compatible with
museum education, as museums are collections of
objects ­artifacts, artworks, and specimens ­ and
present them in exhibits to the public. When visitors
can read the objects as well as the labels, they enjoy
a richer experience.
Decorative Arts exhibits such as At Home in the
Heartland, both the museum and the online versions,
and A rt W eb M odule sub-m odules such as
teenth Century Furniture Styles, Nineteenth Century
Illinois Folk Art, Illinois Quilts and Quilters, and
Two Illinois Photographers feature decorative arts or
historical objects as well as some works of fine art.
The images of the objects in these modules can be
used in the classroom to teach students how to
analyze or research objects by `reading' them, that is gleaning as much information from the object
itself before going to other sources. Material life studies, a branch of history, uses this method in its
various forms. Materials, maker or manufacturer, date, signs of wear, and style are some of the kinds
of information that an object itself may tell us. Some of the activities and online questions in these
modules focus on learning history from objects.
Format of Activities
The hands-on art production activities use a museum object or group of objects as their basis. The
given image from the collection is the source of the medium used, techniques applied, tools needed,
and general appearance of the object produced by the student. Within this framework, lessons are
adapted to the age and abilities of students, who should never be underestimated when they are
given energetic motivation before they start a project, and a model or concept to understand.
For example, the activity for a patriotic appliqué quilt top pattern, in paper or cloth, begins with the
image of Helen Gilchrist's bedcover pattern. After looking at and discussing the motifs in her
bedcover, and looking at other patriotic symbols and their meanings, students can choose symbols
from their own experience and background. Younger students could choose and render one symbol,
combine it with those of classmates to make a quilt top of blocks. Older students could create a
symmetrical pattern of many symbols. An ambitious project would be a wall hanging quilt with iron-
on fabric motifs. Students should be able to relate what they create with the model objects. This
connection reinforces the concepts of art studied in the activity.