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Learning with collection in akichi

Practice for learning with collection in akichi
KeMCo practices object-based learning

Using university collections for education: Object-based Learning

University collections have diverse origins and uses. For a long time, these collections have connected with education. Collections, often called ‘teaching collections’ are a very powerful and rich means to deliver knowledge and works as tangible textbooks.
Recently,”object-based learning” (OBL) has gained attention as one fresh approach to encourage participants to explore more themselves. Originally used in museums for primary and secondary education, it’s now adopted in university collections. KeMCo explores how to utilize and share collections in education, reframing based on the akichi concept. As one approach to addressing this, KeMCo practices object-based learning.

Practice at KeMCo:

OBL involves learners directly interacting with objects. It is one method of active learning. Not only sight but also touch, smell, and other senses come into play. It can be applied to any object, be it art, science specimens, or industrial products. Various practical methods are devised according to the objects used.

At KeMCo, we are using a worksheet by Judy Willcocks (Central St. Martins College of Art, London) titled “How to Read an Object?”. Judy’s worksheet is primarily for artworks (art collections), and it guides learners to engage with art by 3 steps: description, deduction, and hypothesis.

OBL Sheet
Worksheet (c)Judy Willcocks, Central Saint Martins, 2014 Take a closer look

For instance, when we view art at an exhibition, we’re seeing it in a curated context within the framework of that exhibition. What OBL offers is a chance to remove that art from such a context and engage with it as an object in itself — to see it, read it, and truly experience it. At exhibitions, the first information viewers receive is about who created the art and its title. However, with OBL, the process begins with whatever information one can draw from the object in front of them. As a result, details like the artist’s name and the title of the work don’t emerge in the initial “description” phase but only in the subsequent “deduction” phase. It’s a revelation that we often start with supplementary information rather than directly observing the art, encouraging a fresh, personal encounter with the piece.

Insights from OBL:

Two significant takeaways come from practicing OBL. Firstly, learners can sense the gestures of the creator, offering a closer connection to the work. Being able to vividly imagine the creator is key to truly connecting with the object. Secondly, a learner’s background and approach to the object become apparent. This promotes self-awareness and paves the way for discussions and sharing with others.

In the classrooms where OBL takes place, the way participants gather around objects and exchange opinions resembles the way people showand talk about the treasures they find at akichi. Instead of using objects for a predetermined lesson, in OBL, participants first think about what the object tells them, and then try to share it with each other. This kind of OBL practice opens up the possibility for new and different interpretations of the collection. Sharing collections in a learning space where various participants are proactively involved is also an opportunity to reveal the multifaceted nature of the collections.
In the next step, we look at the OBL practices at KeMCo, with students from various disciplines.

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Akichi in Collections Management: Perspectives from a Japanese University Museum

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