The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Significant Objects Analysis

You may remember that back in November Jenny posted a link to 'Significant Objects', a project which explores the creation of meaning and thus value ascribed to material objects.

Well, they've been squirrelling away, analysing the results of the pilot project of 100 initial objects. Each object was given a category: TALISMAN, TOTEM, EVIDENCE or FOSSIL.

...a fossil is an object that bears witness to a vanished era or way of life (including childhood); an object that played a role in a crime or memorable public event is evidence; a totem is an object from the natural world — animal, vegetable, or mineral — that is a tutelary spirit; while an object that has magical power, is lucky, or is alive is a talisman.
The initial conclusions:

(1) Apparently, an object whose associated narrative has to do with a vanished era or way of life (including childhood) is polarizing: potential owners feel strongly about it, either pro (FOSSIL is tied for most popular category) or con (FOSSIL is by far the most unpopular category). Perhaps this is because we love stories that remind us of our own happiest times, and hate stories that remind us of our least happy times — or which recall times to which we can’t relate at all?

(2) Apparently, an object whose associated story has to do with tutelary spirits — animal, vegetable, or mineral — from the natural world does not inspire strong feelings in potential owners; TOTEM is both the least popular and unpopular category. However… since only eight of our contributors wrote totemistic stories, maybe it’s to be expected that so few made it into the Top and Bottom Twenty-Five?

(3) When it comes to object/stories in the TALISMAN and EVIDENCE category, more analysis is needed. Are certain types of talisman (animal figurines, say; or novelty items) more popular than others? Should we add a new category (ANIMATUM, say? ANIMACULUM?) for those talismans that are alive, as opposed to merely lucky? If the evidence is associated with an incident in the life of a celebrity, does that make it more popular than evidence associated with, say, a petty crime?
The 'Significant Objects' people need help in interpreting this data. See their blog for more details.

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