Material Culture

Museum field tripe in Birmingham


This week, we visited the Birmingham Museum and the Birmingham Bullring. Our task was to find 10-15 objects that are linked to our own object and to create a digital exhibition with a digital visitors guide here. As mine, I want to find something original, from nature, or being used as their natural beauty and power, which may be similar to my amethyst stone. Here are the objects picture I took, and I’ll explain them from right to left from line to line. You could see the number when you put your cursor on each picture.

In the museum part:


Picture No.1 is a Ivory head and plaque, which carved with the figure of a winged line. And No.2 is a Islamic tombstone in a simple style, the shape of the carved letters suggested information in Arabic. Which indicate that normal stones are used to be a recorder of words, or drawings for a lasting memory. And the same as No.1.1, 2.1, they are the same use. 1.1 is the stone made toy animal, like mini sculpture. 2.1 are Cuneiform tablets, using as the documents of recordings important activities, like a receipt, a private letter, a book, and an account. In the old age without paper, that is the old tool.

No.3 is a Marble from Handsworth’s landmark Gurdwara. The marble-clad Gudwara is a place where the Guru Granth Sahib is recited continually day and night in the main prayer hall. So this is the stone for buildings. No.4 is a Mani stone, Mani stones are inscribed with the mantra ‘om mani padme hum’. By reciting this devotees attempt to purify themselves by removing negative thoughts. So 3 and 4 are the part of religions using with stones.

In the next group of pictures, No.5 and No.6 seems similar. They are both original stones. 5 is a galena, a lead ore which also contains silver. 6 is a garnet crystals with calcite, and it is much more closer to my amethyst stone,and they are both without polished.

No.7 and 8 are familiar to me, they are both Jade. This kind of stone kept a long history and culture meanings in China, and the green one is the most precious kind. No.8 is from Costa Rica, they are decorations of pendants and ceremonial axes, been fine polished. No.7 shows are fragments series, ready-mades.

No.9 shows out the process of making the natural button. Form the mother pearl and abalone shells, to the final product. While No.0 is also the way of keeping nature, even the leaf can’t last long as stone, but people also tried to keep it’s natural looking in this kind and the aura of it also had been preserved. I want to keep this particular pair because, they are working with human-participate in keeping natural. Which means human are also trying to keep something naturally.


In the shopping mall part:




In Bullring, original stones are scarce, and most of them have been artificially made into jewelries, such as in NO.1 and 2. It’s more convenient to have the jewelries with people together to gain the helpful within and without. I found some crystal statue which is the picture in No.5, but this crystal are not totally natural and real, even though they look pretty and could be used as the decoration, not for our body. Owning to they have became goods, the only background are the place the material were born and the background of their company’s culture. Without their final owner, all of them keep the same contains history, thus we can’t feel the same as the objects in museum that could has a sense of history or culture. But I found a decoration on my friend’s bag, the eye stone( NO.7), carried a specific wishes and well known for its particular form all over the world. So, there still have some of the objects contain a specific meaning and almost originally being used in the market. They can keep their natural style as they are already unique and stylish enough for becoming a commodity.



To think about these two parts of object places:

  1. Basically the places are all for keeping objects in a place of indoor. People could see them freely because they need to be known by others. But one is for profit, another is for heritage and knowledge.
  2. In the museum we couldn’t touch even get too close to the objects, and mostly they are placed within glass boxes whereas only the watches and jewelries are settled in the secure glass in a shopping mall, the clothes and shoes which some of them are more expensive than some jewelries are still placed outside. So the objects are been treated individually in the two different places.
  3. The objects value inside of these two places are different. Museum is an institution of a public nation to preserve the priceless values, we have kept from long time ago which contains history and culture and more meanings within. while the in shopping mall, the place is for trading that people selling goods and consuming consumable.
  4. People will feel more meaningful with the objects in the museum rather than the goods newly with their price. It is because the former are affluent but the latter are empty. With connections of others, objects could built up its own inside information which a human could understand. It is not to say the goods has no connotations, its just much less than the objects in the museum from mainly aspects.

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