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University Library DePaul Library

Introduction to Object Research

Often, when viewing objects at museums or in archives,* we are presented with contextual information pertaining to an object's origin, purpose, historical, social, political or aesthetic meaning. If that contextual information has not yet been created, observation and research will need to be done. This guide will provide you with information on how to conduct object research for the purpose of creating your own interpretation of an object.

Object research will help you contextualize an object in respect to other collection objects, photographic collections, or archival materials held at an institution and help you to define its place within a broader style, genre or historical period. It will also aid you in considering contemporaneous aesthetic, social, or political concerns and how these might shape the object’s reception (during various historical periods and among different groups of people).

The tabs on the left identify stages of object research and can be used in conjunction with your course material.


*For information about archives read: Schmidt, Laura. "Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research." (Society of American Archivists, 2011), 1-16.

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Alexis Burson
John T. Richardson Library
1st Floor Reference Desk
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614-3210
(773) 325-7833
Subjects: Art & Architecture