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HUM 200 - Applied Humanities

Research and information guide to support the learning objectives of this course.

Background Research

Exploring encyclopedias and similar high-level sources can quickly catch you up on a topic and help you make choices about how to shape your research. Generally speaking, these sources aren't the type of source you want to cite, instead they provide needed context to design strong searches in later stages of your research.

Resources for finding Artifacts

There are plenty of places to look for artifacts! The list below includes library databases and digitized / photographed museum collections. It's far from exhaustive, so feel free to explore.

Choosing Artifacts and a Theme

For the purposes of this course and project, cultural artifacts are examples of artistic expression including literature, poetry, music, film, dance, painting, sculpture, and more. With the wide range of artistic human expression to consider, choosing just two artifacts may feel daunting. You know that your artifacts need to be created by different artists and during different time periods (at least 50 years apart), and that you'll be expected to identify and discuss a theme they have in common. Choosing artifacts with a common theme carefully is important:your analysis of this theme is a big part of both of your projects in HUM-200. Your theme and artifacts will guide your research and discussion, so be sure you find them interesting.

Your course gives you many ways to identify artifacts for analysis. You can explore the Soomo webtext Gallery, but you can also choose artifacts from outside this gallery with instructor permission. Check out the Resources for Finding Artifacts information on this page.

We could pick two artifacts at random and attempt to connect them with a theme. This might be difficult or result in a theme that doesn't fit one or more of the artifacts very well. Instead, it may be helpful to find an artifact that appeals to you, identify a theme, then find a second artifact from another era and artist that touches on the same theme.

Ophelia by John Everett Millais. Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet is depicted floating in a stream in this Pre-Raphaelite Painting

Ophelia by John Everett Millais Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Let's consider an example. Suppose I browse ARTSTOR This link opens in a new window for inspiration and find Ophelia by John Everett Millais This link opens in a new window. If I don't know much about this painting, learning more is my first step. Background research allows you to learn more about the context of a topic. It's great for narrowing topics or helping you choose a direction for your in-depth research. Reading Ophelia 1851-1852 Painting by John Everett Millais This link opens in a new window in Credo Reference tells me that Ophelia is a literary painting from the Pre-Raphaelite period based on Queen Gertrude's description of Ophelia's death in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Additionally, the Tate, the museum that currently holds Ophelia, has more information about it This link opens in a new window. Searching relevant cultural institutions can be very helpful. I can tease out several themes here, including death, despair, and mental illness. I want to explore the theme of despair.

Next, I can look for other artifacts from other artists and time periods that touch on the theme I chose. I could choose the Weeping Woman statue This link opens in a new window, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah This link opens in a new window, Anne Sexton's Despair This link opens in a new window, or one of so many more artifacts. Alternatively, you could choose a theme first, then select two artifacts that touch on that theme. For our example, I'll choose Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I like the juxtaposition between the musical artifact and the painting. Both artifacts also have religious tones and I think I can write about that, too.

When selecting your artifacts, try to think ahead to later stages of the project. You know you'll need to find supporting sources for your project. Make your job easier later by selecting well-known and well-studied artifacts now. You can always do a few preliminary searches to make sure scholars have researched your artifacts before moving forward with them.

Guiding Questions for Choosing An Artifact

  • Is the thing culturally relevant?
  • Does the thing have a function beyond its initial purpose?
  • Is the thing a specific item (rather than a broad concept or group of things, flags, phone, etc.)
  • Is the thing personally relevant?
  • Are there academic resources available to support your project?

Guiding Questions for HUM-200 Projects by Priscilla Hobbs-Penn