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The reading materials for questions 1-5: https://web.archive.org/web/20130501101704/http://artsconnected.org/collection/152513/the-living-years-seeing-art-with-all-five-senses?print=true#(1), and my book from the course) Studying Artifacts;

We use and interact with artifacts every day. We can study these artifacts from the past and present to learn how people live, what they value, and how their attitudes and actions contribute to the world we live in. Some artifacts, like a gold bracelet, exist only for beauty and the pleasure they inspire. Others, like a medal for heroism, reward and encourage acts of courage at home or in military conflict.

These are just a few of the kinds of artifacts that can be studied to better understand culture, people, and their times, and to establish links between the past and present and where these trends may lead in the future. But how do we study artifacts and decode the information they contain?

One of the first influences we will encounter is whether or not we like the artifact. Are we impressed by it or do we find it off-putting? Is it something we would like to encounter often, or is one glance enough to send us running the other way? Examine your own reaction to an artifact. Ask yourself why you like or dislike it. Is there a good reason it is the way it is? For example, a Day of the Dead mask may be frightening, but it is understandable once you know the history and purpose behind it.

We will look at two ways to fully understand and appreciate artifacts. First, we need to examine them closely with our senses, and second, we need to think about them critically and scientifically. Here are some ways we can engage our senses to explore, identify, and understand artifacts:

  • Sight: Look closely at the artifact from all sides, as possible. Notice color, shape, and how it compares with other artifacts. What does it remind you of? How have various cultures used artifacts like this?
  • Sound: Some artifacts, like music, are pure sound. Professionals listen closely and observe patterns in rhythm, harmony, and melody. What is the quality of the sound? Is it high-pitched like a tinkling bell or low and loud like a tuba (a wind instrument with a low, deep sound)? Even non-musical artifacts can be explored by sound. Have you ever tapped a bone china teacup with your fingernail? It has a beautiful tone.
  • Taste: Most artifacts do not engage the taste, but some professionals do taste artifacts to determine their composition. Some works of pottery, for example, may have a salty taste, telling the expert that they came from near the sea.
  • Touch: If permitted and if it is safe for both you and the object, feel the artifact. What is the texture of a sweater from northern Europe knitted with rough sheep’s wool? Does a smooth stone statue feel surprisingly cool to the touch?
  • Smell: A trained professional can gain much information from the way an artifact smells. The scent may reveal the kind of glue used in the manufacture of the artifact or where it was kept. An oboe, a wind instrument in an orchestra, may have the strong odor of cork grease, while a violin bow may smell of rosin from old trees, applied to the bow to increase friction.

Having explored the artifact with your senses, it is time to call in your critical thinking skills. Ask probing questions about the artifact. Journalists, who are always full of questions, rely on what they call “the five W’s plus How.” We can learn a lot about an artifact by asking questions that begin with who, what, when, where, why, and how. You may want to ask a few “do they” questions as well. In Part VII of Project 1, you will be asked to speculate on how you would answer questions you will pose about your chosen artifact. Keeping these ideas in mind will be helpful as you study your selected artifact.Where are the artifacts from? Who created them? Why were they created? What are they similar to and different from? Do they have practical as well as aesthetic value? Do they reflect the life or values of a certain group of people, either by ethnicity, gender, or occupation? You can no doubt add many more challenging questions to this list.

Responses 1-5 need to be at least three sentences long.

1.) Identify your chosen artifact. The American Flag is the artifact I’ve chosen. In 1777, the Continental Congress passed an act establishing an official flag for the new nation. The American Flag is a very special artifact and has become an important symbol of the United States.

2.) Describe the artifact in detail using any applicable senses mentioned? For instance, how would you describe it to someone who could not see it?

3.) What are the elements of the artifact that you believe are most important to how you experience it? For instance, what particularly catches your senses or makes you want to keep experiencing it? Does the choice of medium impact your experience?

4.) State your opinion on what you believe is the purpose of this artifact and the success of the creator in achieving the purpose.

5.) Discuss how the artifact reflects the culture (or context) in which it exists. Be sure to address what aspects of culture have relevance for this artifact: politics, history, religion, social perceptions, technology, media, education, and so on. In other words, how do the artifact and its culture interrelate?

Read Nicholas Kristof’s editorial “Starving for Wisdom” from The New York Times- (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/16/opinion/nicholas-kristof-starving-for-wisdom.html)

Read Jaweed Kaleem’s “Keeping Alive the Big Questions” in The Huffington Post-(https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/07/big-questions_n_3886381.html)

Classmate 1: I would agree more with Jaweed Kaleem, that the disconnect between people and the need to talk about feelings has become strained. It seems almost taboo at this point in time for anyone to show emotion. There is an almost mob mentality being shown by people commenting on posts that deal with these kinds of subjects, mostly people coming into it and saying “This isn’t the right place to talk about these kinds of things”. This, along with the dependence on technology and social media by extension, makes it appear to me as though people seek validation from others rather than a meaningful connection and engaging conversation.

Classmate 2: In the article written by Kristoff Nichols, titled Starving for wisdom: Commentary. The author says that those who study Humanities are more rounded in their professional lives and in there personal lives as well. The author also goes on to say that staying current with Humanities helps with world affairs and decision making regarding policies. I’m not sure if I agree or not. I do know that the more informed you are the better you can inform others. In the next assigned reading an article written by Jaweed Kaleem, Keeping alive the big questions. I tend to agree more with this article based on the author saying that most people nowadays don’t study Humanities because they’re too busy worrying about recovering from the economy having no jobs in wondering how people are going to live from one generation to the next.

Now respond to the (2) classmates’ posts in 5 sentences, and explain why you agree or disagree with their point of view.

Then, read the article Extraordinary Outsiders: The Makers Who Don’t Know They’re Artists-(https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/16/project-art-works-de-la-warr-pavilion-in-the-realm-of-others-exhibition)

Do you think the creative process is good for the average person? Explain why or why not in (1) detail paragraph.

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