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Course Review: Tangible Things

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Provider: Harvard at EdX [course page]
Lecturers: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Sarah Carter, Ivan Gaskel, and Sarah Schechner
Subject: History
Delivery: intake-based asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 4-6 hrs/week over 5 weeks
Completion Date: 07/04/2014

Selected items from the Main Street Museum in ...

Selected items from the Main Street Museum in a collections group (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description: Laurel and the team discuss the importance of museum collections in telling us about our past, present and future. It consists of videos, plenty of readings and discussion of the material, with a strong focus on students looking for examples of artifacts in their local area.

Strengths: This course discusses the mindset of individuals involved in establishing and maintaining museum collections. In this regard, we see how a collection can be more than the sum of its parts, helping inform, entertain and assist in making decisions about the future. It also deals with issues relating to how and why we collect artifacts, such as in the fourth week where we see the affect that the removal of cultural and religious artifacts has had on the destiny of native peoples.
The team discusses a bunch of different parts of history as well, ranging from gender issues via a poncho; to global economics through a museum-in-a-box. It finishes on an interesting note as well. We see, curious as it is, how an artifact can also be used to make other artifacts. I found that rather charming, but something that we rarely think about when we consider museum items.

Weaknesses: No Zebra death-matches.

Conclusion: The multi-disciplinary approach used for this course added relevance and variety. We never get bogged down thinking about one item, thus helping us to get a taste for how much museum collections have to offer. I recommend this course for anyone with an innate curiosity for the world around them, our past, present and our future.


Author: keikomushi

Reader, Writer, New Media Buff, Anime Fangirl, Gnome Hunter, Last Action Femme Fatale, Appreciator of Nature, Jack-of-all-trades.

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