Tangible Things (2011)

Presentation Date: 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Tangible Things bannerWhat do a Galapagos tortoise, a teapot, and a hundred-year-old tortilla have in common? They were part of an exhibition that brought together over 200 objects from the back rooms of Harvard¹s museums and libraries, raising questions about distinctions between nature and artifice, art and artifact, specimen and tool, and the historical and anthropological.

Beginning in the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the exhibition introduced visitors to established ways of organizing things and challenged them to classify an assortment of objects according to these conventions.  Where in the university do items like John Singer Sargent's palette or the beads and dress of a Camp Fire Girl belong?  Why?  Armed with these questions, visitors were invited to discover the many guest objects carefully inserted into exhibitions of Harvard's public museums.

The exhibition was a fundamental resource for “Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History,” a General Education course taught in the Spring 2011. 

Curated with Laurel Ulrich, Ivan Gaskell, and Sarah Carter.


See also: 2010s