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Art + Design Capstone Project | Cultural Biography of an Object

FAQ 1

1. HOW CAN I GET STARTED WHEN MY OBJECT IS GENERIC AND/OR THE SEARCH TERMS I WOULD NEED TO USE ARE VERY BROAD?

  • Find encyclopedias or books that offer you a general an overview of your object and put it into historical context. From here, you can identify possible ways to narrow your topic. Additionally, from this background information, you can identify key terms including related objects, companies, people and/or places to use as terms which will narrow your search results.

Your object: Collectible stuffed bear toys (Beanie Babies by Ty Inc.)

Technique: 

To search for a history of your object or object type, you can start with specific terms (beanie babies). If there are no results, expand to a broader term (stuffed bears; stuffed animals; toys) 

YOUR TOPIC encyclopedias:  beanie babies encyclopedias 

YOUR TOPIC history: beanie babies history

Search COMPANY/BUSINESS

Tools: catalogs (books, incl. encyclopedias); encyclopedia + company directory databases 

FAQ 2

2. HOW CAN I FIND PRIMARY SOURCES THAT RELATE TO MY OBJECT'S MARKING/RECEPTION, OR PUBLIC PERCEPTION?

Technique: Search historical newspaper/magazines or Worldcat

               beanie babies in NYT, limit to a specific date range (1993-2002):

               

Tools: newspaper + article databases; catalogs


Technique: Search for advertisements or other image sources using the search tools on the Research Guide under Finding Sources > Object Sources

                beanie babies in a magazine archive, such as Harpers 

Tools: magazine archives


Technique: Search for industry-specific materials, like sale catalogues

Tools: Worldcat (catalog) 

FAQ 3

3. HOW CAN I FIND OBJECTS THAT DEAL WITH MY OBJECT TYPE (FOR EXAMPLE, "FAMILY HEIRLOOMS")?

  • Search for scholarly sources adding your term and "material culture" (and possibly then narrowing by period)
  • Look at the RESERVE BOOKS listed in Objects! 

FAQ 4

4. HOW MUCH OF MY CB SHOULD BE DEVOTED TO DESCRIPTION + ANALYSIS OF THE OBJECT? HOW MUCH TO DISCUSSING ITS HISTORY? HOW MUCH OF MY OWN INTERPRETATION OF THE 'CULTURAL' MEANINGS?

  • Your CB should offer a ‘reading’ of the object that is based in all three elements. 
  • While they can’t all be equally weighted, they should each have their own space.  You could weave object description + analysis into the other sections if you like; you can connect aspects of the object’s biography to specific cultural contexts as well.
  • Try developing an outline that corresponds, not to broad topical areas, but a logical sequence of the questions you’re aiming to answer.  In each section, attend to the evidence that relates to that question…