I have always been a collector. As a child I collected Barbies (in the box), ceramics, and Cabbage Patch dolls. I collected books and Russian trinkets and JFK memorabilia. I even had a shopping bag collection at one point growing up. Today my collections are too numerous to count: Liberty Blue, presidential bobble heads or really anything presidential, bicentennial artifacts, coal hogs, colorful pens, campaign buttons, Lladros, Hummels, and …
I would rather be in an antique store than a mall. I prefer a museum over a theme park.
I love objects. Not because I love stuff. Far from it. I’m not a fan of clutter.
I love the stories. For me, collecting is all about the story.
Some of my friends say my house is like a museum. No, my house is full of stories!
When I walk into a museum or an antique store I hear the stories of objects. I feel the narratives competing for my attention. There’s the narrative of the materials an object is made of. The tale of the individual who created the object and of those who used it. There’s the story of how it ended up in a museum or an antique store. The story of the value of that object to the people who owned it and the person who owns it now. Objects tell us a lot about who we are as a people and what we value.
I guess it should be no surprise that the girl who grew up collecting and writing became a museum groupie. Museums house collections. They house stories.
I was using objects in my classroom before I knew what object-based learning was. Everyday I used an object for our opening activity. I searched for objects to share that would promote inquiry. Objects that would force my students to look at the details to tease out the story. Over the course of the year my students saw about 180 objects. My hope was that at least half of those were objects they had never known about before. Over time they began to see the connections and it became more challenging to find the more intriguing and unique objects. My students became masters of observation. They pointed out things I never noticed before. They made wild guesses. They asked questions and made inferences. Their hearts were broken when they read about the damage to the King Tut mask. They argued over repatriation. Repatriation! Fifth and sixth graders debated where cultural heritage should be housed! They went to the Smithsonian and hunted for the objects we talked about in class. We built new shared stories around the objects we learned about together.
Because museums and objects are so important in my life, I want to devote at least one day a week to sharing the stories of my favorite objects and providing strategies for using these objects in the classroom. I’ve got about 51 weeks left in #BLOG365 which means 51 objects I can write about. I can play curator on #BLOG365!
I’ll start next Monday with an object I spent a semester with in college, a grotesque, mythical object thousands of people paid to see in the 19th century. I’ve never used this one in my classroom. But, I love the story behind it and it features one of our country’s favorite personalities and an old fashioned American hoax.