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Material Culture Images



You be the historian

Material Culture - Images: How do images function as symbols?
Developed with Michael Chang, George Mason University

This interactive exercise is designed for students. Students examine a portrait from China’s Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) that is full of symbols. They then scroll over and enlarge portions of the portrait to access a historian’s explanation of the symbols. Finally, they answer three questions about the historical significance of the portrait.



Material Culture - Images: How was the image made?

This interactive exercise is designed for students. Through photographs taken in the U.S.S.R. between 1917 and 1985, this exercise explores the use of photographs as historical evidence. It shows that, even before the age of digital manipulation, photographs could be altered purposefully in attempts to distort the historical record—whether by erasing part of the photograph, or strategically cropping the image. The exercise presents a photograph of the Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mikhail Kalinin, which appeared in popular Soviet publications in 1919, 1971, and 1985 cropped three different ways. Through an interactive Flash screen, it asks students to determine which photograph appeared in which year.



Material Culture - Images: What are the social conditions of the use of the image?
Developed with Brian Platt, George Mason University

This interactive exercise is designed for students. It challenges students to think about the motivations of the people who stage historical photographs, and the reactions of the audiences that might have viewed them. Students are given brief background information on a photograph taken of General Douglas MacArthur of the United States and Emperor Hirohito of Japan shortly after Japan's surrender to the U.S. forces after World War II. Then, through an interactive activity, students are asked how they would stage the photograph if they were General MacArthur.



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with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
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