Questioning the modern Western intellectual categories that distinguish art from artifact, specimen from tool, and the historical from the anthropological, Tangible Things brings together materials from Harvard's museum and archival collections. Beginning in the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the exhibition introduces visitors to established ways of organizing things and challenges 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 are invited to discover the many guest objects carefully inserted into exhibitions of Harvard's public museums.
Tangible Things is the foundation for the General Education course "Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History." Curated by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 300th Anniversary University Professor, History Department; and Ivan Gaskell, Senior Lecturer, History Department; with Sara Schechner, David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments; and Sarah Anne Carter, Lecturer on History and Literature. Organized by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University.
This exhibition is made possible by funding from the Harvard Arts Initiative, Harvard College Program in General Education, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost, and the Harvard Art Museums’ Gurel Student Exhibition Fund.