The Artifacts in Our Lives
In this project, students will photograph an artifact and tell its story. What stories do artifacts tell? What memories of your cultural and family heritage exist within the objects of your lives?
The artifacts in our lives are a vital part of our living history. An artifact, or a human-made object, physically exists in a place at different moments in time. It can contain historical and cultural memories. In what ways do artifacts connect us to our own history, culture, family, and place? What does the story of an artifact tell us about ourselves?
How can artifacts connect us across time to our historical, cultural, and familial heritage, to the living world around us, and even to future generations?
How can we creatively relate to artifacts so as to enhance their meaning in our lives?
- Grade Level:
- Camera or mobile device
- Art-making materials
- Share cultural perspectives using photography
- Learn how to approach past cultures and traditions with respect and curiosity
- Explore the ways in which artifacts tell stories about individuals, families, communities, and cultures
- Discover the capacity of artifacts to capture a moment in time
- Consider how an artifact reflects change (Cultural, historical, or social, e.g.)
Many artifacts are passed down from generation to generation, becoming a part of our family and cultural heritage. Some examples include family photographs, medals from war, jewelry, religious items, diaries, old coins or stamps, kitchen items, clothing, or literature. Artifacts are all around us. They can be found in our homes, gardens, streets, parks, and churches, among other locations. Anything that provides more evidence about the cultural, economic, historical, religious, and social aspects of our society could be considered an artifact. Preserved in museums around the world, artifacts tell the stories of humanity’s downfalls, achievements, and innovations.
An article from the Smithsonian Institution suggests different ways to think about artifacts. They include the following:
- Artifacts tell their own stories.
- Artifacts connect people.
- Artifacts capture moments.
- Artifacts reflect changes.
The aim of this project is to challenge students to examine the value of artifacts from multiple perspectives. “Imagine the artifact not in a spotlight by itself, but rather against a variegated backdrop of people, places, and events.” What story emerges?
Think about an artifact or object that you love.
You will take one photograph of an artifact, which responds to one or more of the following questions:
- How does your artifact capture a moment in time?
- In what ways does the artifact connect the people in your life?
- How does the artifact reflect change? (Cultural, historical, or social, e.g.)
Write a short reflection, or photographer’s statement, about your photograph, taking into consideration at least two of the questions below. The aim of this reflection is to tell the story of your chosen artifact.
- What informed your decision to take your photograph?
- How old is the artifact? Describe the artifact’s place in time. What meaning might it have throughout history—past, present, and future?
- How does this artifact connect to others beyond the people to whom it belongs? Does the artifact have a function?
- Where was the artifact made? How was it made and who made it?
- Where does the artifact live? Is this artifact important to you and/or your family? Has the artifact been passed down from generation to generation?
- Does the artifact bring forth memories? If so, what memories?
- In what ways does the artifact connect to a “set of values” or beliefs?
- Would you like to see this artifact preserved for the future? Why?
Photographs must contain an artifact(s) and should help to express your human relationship (to your home, family, and/or community) to this object as well as take into consideration the Global Oneness Project’s mission statement: Planting seeds of resilience, empathy, and a sacred relationship to our planet. How might the artifact you choose to document tell a bigger story about our common humanity?
Showcase and Publish Student Work
Encourage students to voice their power of perspective by showcasing their artwork with others. Share students’ work with classmates, family members, and communities in a variety of ways to promote thoughtful dialogue. Create a gallery walk or virtual presentation in your classroom or school to encourage students to engage in meaningful conversations.
Students can submit their photograph or illustration for consideration to be published on the Global Oneness Project student gallery! Contact us at email@example.com for details.
- "The Artifacts in Our Lives: Winners and Finalists” a Global Oneness Project Student Contest (2020).
- (Essay) Steven Lubar and Kathleen Kendrick, “Looking at Artifacts, Thinking about History.” Smithsonian Education.
- “9 Photo Composition Tips” with photographer Steve McCurry, YouTube video by COOPH.
- "Waiting to Move." Photo essay by Ciril Jazbec.
- "Still Lifes from a Vanishing City." Photo essay by Elizabeth Rush.
- "Kazuaki Tanahashi." Photo essay by Unnikrishnan Raveendranathen.
- "Mustang: Lives and Landscape of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom." Photo essay by Taylor Weidman.
- "Mongolia's Nomads." Photo essay by Taylor Weidman.