Analyzing an Object Upper Grades
Purpose:
students will find important cultural information by looking carefully at an object and
analyzing it systematically.
Objective:
The students will retrieve historical information from an object by analyzing it with an
instrument.
Materials:
an object of material culture (a piece of furniture or a good picture of one from A
Matter of Style
http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/art/htmls/ms.html
)
pencils
Object Analysis form (B) for each student
Motivation:
Discuss how an historian can glean information from an object by looking at it care-
fully and making systematic notes of analysis. Brainstorm what kinds of things one
might want to know about an object by making an idea web on the board. Use the
printable pdf file from Behinds the Scenes titled Gathering Information Research
Procedures located at
http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/behind/
htmls/act_res.html
to help you select brainstorming topics. Discuss what the cate-
gories for analysis listed on the form and what they can mean. Students can brain-
storm what questions they want to pose and answer under each category about the
object.
Then have students choose an object to analyze (individually or in small groups). To
AMatter of Style
http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/art/htmls/ms.html
they could
choose a piece of furniture from At Home in the Heartland Objects (1800-1850)
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/athome/1800/objects/index.html
and At Home
in the Heartland Objects (1850-1890)
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/ath -
ome/1850/objects/index.html
.
Discuss where students could go for more information after they get as much as
they can from the object ask people, library books, encyclopedia, Internet sites on
furniture, museum labels on similar objects online, illustrations or photographs of
similar objects, old catalogs.
Procedures
Students print out the selected piece of furniture from At Home in the Heartland
(Objects) or from other source (e.g., magazine, book, Web site, photograph).
Using the criteria on the Analysis Form (materials, design, production, use, associa-
tion, meaning) students write questions for research and discussion about their cho-
sen object. Four-step process for object analysis: (1) Observation: Students explore
object in depth and answer as many questions as they can based on their observa-
tions. (2) Discussion: students discuss their observations and determine areas for
further research. (3) Research and document: students search various other
sources for information about their object. Students record their findings in a form of
their own design. (4) Interpretation: Determine and write up an interpretation of the
meanings, significance and importance of the object based on the observation, dis-
cussion, and research.
A Matter of Style: 19th Century Furniture
Object Analysis-Upper Grades--page 1