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Last updated:

April 8, 2022


Unlimited Duration


This course includes:

Unlimited Duration

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

Unlimited Duration


This course, Looking at, describing and identifying objects, will enable you to practice and develop your skills of observation and description of objects. It will also enable you to interpret objects and work towards writing your own object life cycle. You will also work with, and understand artifact databases.


This OpenLearn course concentrates on describing objects. You will be reading and writing descriptions and considering why descriptions are important. Throughout the course, you will be exploring how things and words written about things are inextricably linked. You will focus on an object in isolation from the society which made it and works on developing the meaning of an unfamiliar object through the use of description. Next, you will focus on using observation as the basis for developing a model of an object life cycle (its production, consumption and afterlife) to structure an object biography.
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Figure 1 The life cycle of objects
The case study in this OpenLearn course is object-centred, in that it prioritises the history of individual objects, without excluding the need to understand the social group they belong to.  

Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • Demonstrate skills of observation and description of objects
  • Interpret objects and work towards writing object life cycles
  • Understand artefact databases.

Course Curriculum

    • Meeting an Object 00:15:00
    • Observation, Interpretation and Communication 00:15:00
    • Life cycle Production and Consumption 00:15:00
    • Identification 00:15:00
    • Life cycle Consumption 00:15:00
    • Life Cycle Afterlife 00:15:00
    • Writing an Object Biography 00:20:00
    • Conclusion 00:10:00

About the instructor

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Open University UK