Touching, feeling, smelling, and sensing history through objects

Teaching History article

By Michael Bird, Katherine Anne Wilson, Daryn Egan-Simon, Alannah Jackson and Richard Kirkup, published 17th December 2020

New opportunities from the ‘material turn’

Lots has been written in recent years about how history teachers can bring academic scholarship into the classroom. This article  takes this interest in academic practice a step further, examining how pupils can engage directly with the kinds of sources to which historians are increasingly turning their attention: the ‘everyday’ objects of ordinary life. Building on a funded research network that brought together academic history and art history departments, Michael Bird and his co-authors worked with museum curators and trainee teachers to bring artefacts from the rich (but often overlooked) collections of their local museum into schools. The article shows how carefully structured support as pupils handled the objects created a highly inclusive and absorbing learning environment. Pupils’  sense of respect, engendered by the authenticity of the objects, gave rise to highly productive forms of speculation, appropriately tempered by the contextual knowledge shared with them...

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