Go ahead, take a guess at this Monday’s object.
Where do you think they came from?
What time period?
Have they been modified or changed?
Do they represent something?
I came upon these objects by accident this morning while looking for objects to help a friend with an object-based lesson. Although I just called this an accidental find, an object I stumbled on today, I don’t think it was truly an accident that I found this today. I think I was meant to see this particular grouping of objects on this day, during this week.
These are shards of the stained glass window that was destroyed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, a bombing that killed four young girls and thrust Birmingham onto the world stage. The Smithsonian has included these shards in their list of the 101 Objects that Made America.
Recently a friend and historian said he didn’t believe in tearing down Confederate monuments or closing Confederate sites because he believed in his “right to be offended.” He got a lot of flack for this statement online, but his sentiment is one I share.
History is ugly and painful, and yes, we should be reminded of this so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
Objects can drive home this point, as can historical sites, monuments, and documents.
Material culture is evidence of cultural behavior, good or bad.
I know there is sometimes a tendency to steer away from using objects that are evidence of the not so great aspects of our history, especially more recent history. As educators we are wary of uncomfortable conversations with our students. But, teachers have the power to change perspective and create equity. Objects can pave the way to empathy and understanding because they are relatable. They build connections, and are the foundation of the narratives that can lead to true understanding.