Eloquent Things: Teaching Using Real Objects


In an increasingly virtual world, direct encounters with real objects have come to be regarded as important and versatile tools in University teaching across a wide range of disciplines. The Ashmolean has established itself as a pioneer of this exciting new pedagogy.

This short course is intended as an introduction to the principles and practice of teaching with objects and comprises three study mornings, all the sessions taking place in the study rooms and galleries of the Ashmolean Museum.

Using works of art and archaeological material gathered from the Ashmolean's extraordinary collections, we will discover methodologies that are also applicable to rare books, buildings, everyday objects or, indeed, any type of material culture. We will consider how you might collaborate with curatorial staff in museums, and the advantages and disadvantages of working in the Study Room with objects taken from storage, in the archives, or in the galleries looking at objects on display. We will also explore how teaching with objects can offer new routes in to your own research; open up new ways of working with students in the classroom; or lead to inter- or multi-disciplinary forms of teaching.

The course will be led by Dr Jim Harris, Andrew W Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean. Jim trained as an art historian at the Courtauld Institute of Art, specialising in late medieval and Renaissance polychrome sculpture. His teaching at Oxford spans the four divisions of the University, from Medical Sciences to the Humanities, calling into service the full breadth of the Ashmolean's collections.

The course will run at the Ashmolean Museum on the four mornings ,

This will be a small group of 8 and it is essential that participants commit to the whole course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand some of the conservation issues surrounding the use of various materials and object types
  • Handle museum objects correctly
  • Approach curatorial staff in a museum with some confidence regarding how one might work with museum objects in teaching
  • Articulate some of the advantages and challenges of working with objects
  • Discuss the ways in which a group of students might interact with objects, and explain how these interactions might contribute to student learning in your discipline
  • Design a lesson which makes use of one or more objects either related to your field of research/teaching or to another pertinent discipline
  • Design a class based around teaching in a museum gallery, centred on objects on display

Course Structure

Tuesday: Why Objects? Looking and Handling in Museums
Handling objects of different types

To book click here: https://bookwhen.com/teaching/e/ev-smu1-20180227100000


Digital Humanities
DPhil & Postdoctoral Researchers

Contact name: Dr Caroline Thurston
Contact email: caroline.thurston@humanities.ox.ac.uk
Audience: University of Oxford only