Using Collectibles To Teach

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about antiques, vintage collectibles, and why I collect…

This is the first, of quite a few, posts about these thoughts. Which, I suppose, is my way of warning you that a number of “pondering posts” about the subject are headed your way. *wink*

Vintage Magazines

Not many people know this, but I often wish I was teaching in high school, or junior high / middle school. I’d love to take a stack of antique photos, vintage magazines, or a box of “old things” into a classroom, have the young adults each select one that intrigues or out-right confuses them, and offer them the opportunity — yes, opportunity — to find out all they can about it.

Or at least research whatever aspect they’d like to about it.

Who made this? Was it popular? Why or why not? Would the item be acceptable today? Why or why not? Who did it belong to — if not in name, what kind of person would have owned or used it?

…Here all roads lead to learning.

Along with the obvious lessons in research, the self-directed subject of study would lead them to all sorts of things…

Not history in the boring memorization of dates; not a biographical sketch similarly based on facts which have little meaning to either themselves personally or the greater educational goals of school. But instead they would find themselves exploring the connections between the issues, or educational disciplines, we call “culture.” For example, the connections between art, technology and commerce in tintypes – which certainly mirrors the debates today over digital technological advances.

Even cases where little-to-no documentation exists is a learning opportunity.

What happened to those businesses, those people? People die, of course; but not all trails that end for businesses mean the business died… There are mergers, etc.  And even when a business does “die,” what was the cause of death?  Is this the same for styles and trends?  How could someone or something be so significant as to make headlines — and then just disappear?  How does this relate to the world we live in today?

You know; good old critical thinking skills.

But more than that, study borne of passion, self-directed study rooted in their individual area of interest, means that what they seek is more likely to matter and therefore be remembered.  That includes not only the dates, the periods, the names, but the frameworks — including how to go about finding information, analyzing what’s there and what’s not.

Even if their original intentions are not academically pure, if they selected a piece simply to mock it, I believe that at the end of the process they would find something to respect.  People far removed in time who are not so different than themselves in terms of needs, motivations, humanity.  And maybe these students would even respect themselves more for being able to not only find the facts but find the connections as well.

Published by


Deanna is the founder of Inherited Values, among other sites. She is also an antique dealer.

4 thoughts on “Using Collectibles To Teach”

  1. That is such a terrific idea. I wish that teachers at my community’s schools would consider this idea.

Comments are closed.