Objects can tell the history of the world. Objects are involved in politics, diplomacy, war, rebellion, and colonialism. They also reflect intimate and personal concerns like community, gender, and religious practices. We can’t go through a day without interacting with consumer objects, and yet we rarely consider how they affect our world. By drinking coffee, wearing a cotton t-shirt, and smoking a cigarette we are perpetuating the long history of these commodities. Our hope is that looking into the historical background of objects will help create a firmer understanding of their place in today’s society.
This community of concerned student/scholars evolved out of a history course, “12 Objects that Changed the World,” taught at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Through lectures, research, collaborative planning, and work with the greater community, students in this class have conceptualized and created podcasts about the world-wide social significance of objects. We seek to explain the long history of objects and connect it to our personal relationships with the commodities.
Through this ongoing project we seek to provide historically accurate information and help fuel interest in modern-day connections with the past. This is also a career-building opportunity providing students with such skills as web-design, research, document analysis, oral presentation, podcast creation, and writing that will be important in our future employment.