EPHEMERAL ITEMS SERVING AS “CULTURAL ARTIFACTS”
This Saturday morning nearly fifty FIU Honors College students arrived at the museum for a general orientation and closer review of some of the objects in our galleries and library. Over the course of the semester, the students will be choosing an individual object for a project. They have been tasked with analyzing the purpose of the object, investigating its social context and message, and identifying the artist and their aim in creating the piece. The students will also be asked to pair up the historical artifact with a more contemporary version or modern variant that shares a similar function in today’s society, and to explore the implications of social and technological change over time.
While doubtlessly many of the students will opt for analyzing and describing one of the many “fine art” objects on view in our exhibition gallery floors, I also encouraged them to consider some of the unusual items held in our rare books and special collections library. In addition to holding some 50,000 or so rare and unusual books and periodicals, our library also holds somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 ephemeral artifacts, including postcards, mechanicals works, games, keepsakes, sound recordings, novelties, packaging, labels, stereographs, calendars, brochures, etc.
In today’s blog, I thought that I would provide my virtual readers with the same opportunity to look at and reflect on a few of these items to see what you can make of them. Please feel free to leave me a comment letting me know what you think. What do these items tell you about the times in which they were made? What parallel pieces can you match them up with from our own society and culture?