Beyond the Text: Students Use Objects to Study History in New Exhibit at Kings Landing
Jacob Agnew, Denis Boulet, Rebecca Boone, Katlin Copeland, and Zane Smith, who are all part of Dr. Brad Cross’s Material History Seminar, are using objects to gain a better understanding of the past.
Their findings have been put on display at Kings Landing Historical Settlement in an exhibit titled, “Learning from Things: Researching New Brunswick’s History Using Everyday Objects,” which will be up for the summer.
“There’s so much to be said about how we communicate history, not just orally or in written ways, but with objects,” said Boulet, a fourth-year student.
“These objects tell their own stories and it leads to a whole new approach to history, so that’s refreshing and exciting.”
Living in a material world makes it hard to capture history using only written documents. Dr. Cross said objects, even those used on a daily basis, are an important tool for interpreting the past.
“Objects can be a powerful source for doing history,” he said. “My students have the chance to use the huge artifact collection at Kings Landing for their research. They also get to experience what it's like making exhibits for the visiting public.”
Students in the full-year seminar were able to choose objects that interested them, before researching and collecting the most important information for the exhibit.
Agnew, a third-year History and Political Science student, chose a handmade hunting knife.
“These objects became more than just the objects themselves,” he said of his exhibit. “Because they’re handmade and passed down through a family there’s a story attached to them. They became an emotional object that holds memories.”
The project took months to complete, but offered a unique opportunity to go beyond the classroom and put knowledge to work.
“It’s cool because we’re taking the material we’ve been studying in class and taking it outside. I really appreciate this experience,” Boulet said.
“How we communicate these object’s stories has to do with how we present them, and we’ve been exposed to different schools of thought on displaying history, so that was pretty interesting as well.”
Other objects on display in the student exhibit include mantel clocks, over-the-counter medicine, toys, as well as pastimes like woodworking.