Photograph on canvas of the town of Dubrovnik, Croatia by William Fitzpatrick
Guide to Studying Objects
1. Identification What is it? (factual description: history, material, construction, design, and function)
What is it made of?
Was it made by hand or by machine?
Why was it made the way it was?
What was it used for?
Who used it?
Where and when was it used?
2. Description - How it looks and feels
shape
color
texture
size
weight
movable parts
anything printed, stamped or written on it?
special qualities
What do these visual elements convey?
3. Evaluation
How does it compare with other objects?
How is it alike?
How is it different?
4. Cultural Analysis - What is its relationship to its culture? (iconography-what symbols does it contain?)
Does it have value, monetary or otherwise?
Is it one of a kind?
Is the object unique to a particular time and place?
How has it changed over time?
How did it impact people's lives?
Does it have any symbols on it? What do they mean?
What does it tell us about the technology of the time in which it was made and used?
How long did this type of object persist?
What does it tell us about the life and times of the people who made it and used it?
5. Interpretation
What is the significance of the above information? Objects are subject to multiple interpretations, not just one. Interpretations will vary as the knowledge, interests and experiences of the interpreter vary; in other words, depending on the unique lens through which the object is viewed.

Last updated: March 1, 2013