Eloquent Things: Teaching using real objects

In an increasingly virtual world, direct encounters with real objects have come to be regarded as important and versatile tools in University teaching across a wide range of disciplines. The Ashmolean has established itself as a pioneer of this exciting new pedagogy.

Eloquent Things is a short course intended as an introduction to the principles and practice of teaching with objects and comprises four mornings in the study rooms and galleries of the Ashmolean Museum.

Using works of art and archaeological material gathered from the Ashmolean’s extraordinary collections, we will discover methodologies that are also applicable to rare books, buildings, everyday objects or, indeed, any type of material culture. We will consider how you might collaborate with curatorial staff in museums, and the advantages and disadvantages of working in the Study Room with objects taken from storage or in the galleries looking at objects on display.

We will also explore how teaching with objects can offer new routes in to your own research; open up new ways of working with students in the classroom; or lead to inter- or multi-disciplinary forms of teaching.


The course is led by Dr Jim Harris, Andrew W Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean. Jim trained as an art historian at the Courtauld Institute of Art, specialising in late medieval and Renaissance polychrome sculpture, but his teaching at Oxford spans a wide range of disciplines from the Medical Sciences to the Humanities, calling into service the full breadth of the Ashmolean’s collections.

The course runs at the Ashmolean Museum over four consecutive mornings, with a small group of 8 DPhils and Postdocs.  
It is essential that participants commit to the whole course.



Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the ways in which a group of students might interact with objects, and explain how these interactions might contribute to student learning in your discipline
  • Articulate some of the advantages and challenges of working with objects
  • Design a lesson which makes use of one or more objects either related to your field of research/teaching or to another pertinent discipline
  • Design a class based around teaching in a museum gallery, centered on objects on display
  • Approach curatorial staff in a museum with some confidence regarding how one might work with museum objects in teaching
  • Understand some of the conservation issues surrounding the use of various materials and object types
  • Handle museum objects correctly


rd eloquent things




See our full Terms and Conditions below


If you have specific circumstances which may affect your engagement with this event, or your meeting our Terms and Conditions, please continue with your booking and contact us by email to discuss how we can support you: researcherdevelopment@socsci.ox.ac.uk


Course structure

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Why Objects? Looking and Handling in Museums

  • Handling objects of different types
  • Conservation issues raised by object handling
  • When not to handle
  • How to look
  • On the spot written assignment: object description

Contexts for Teaching

  • Where are you likely to teach with objects?
  • What courses might be appropriate for teaching with objects?
  • How can objects speak into more than one discipline?
  • How are objects useful in thematic teaching?
  • Assignment: plan a lesson, with a partner from another discipline, using objects from the Museum

Teaching in the Study Room

  • Deliver and discuss the lesson plans
  • Plan a short teaching presentation around an object on display in the galleries

Teaching in a museum gallery

Deliver and discuss gallery presentations

Researcher Development Terms and Conditions - Trinity 2023

In booking any training workshops, you agree that: 


COMMITMENT: application is not an expression of interest; it is a firm commitment. You will be available for the full duration of the course session(s); if you are not, please do not make a booking. You will not accept any subsequent meeting invitations that may fall during the given workshop times. 

PRE-WORK / HOMEWORK: if applicable, you will complete any given pre-work and/or homework as described on the workshop web listing, as it constitutes part of the workshop  

CANCELLATION: should your circumstances change, and you are not able to attend the full session(s). you will cancel giving at least 72-hours' notice, so we can offer the place to someone on the waiting list. 

ARRIVAL: you will join, or arrive at, the workshop 5 minutes before the advertised start time, to ensure a prompt start. 

LATE POLICY: you understand that the online room will be locked / workshop door will be closed 10 minutes after the event start time and late-comers will not be admitted. This is to preserve the integrity of the course for those who are present.  

ENGAGEMENT: you will give the session your undivided attention and engagement. You will not be able to do other tasks in parallel. If online, you will ensure that your environment and internet connection allow you to participate verbally and with video cameras on. These are interactive workshops, and it is not appropriate to attend from a silent or shared workspace. 

ATTENDANCE RECORD: you understand the Register will be taken in the last half-hour of the course, and anyone not present in the room at that point will be marked as non -attending (see below) 

FEEDBACK: you will contribute feedback afterwards, to help us understand how well the session met its intended aims, and facilitate our continuous improvement 

CONSEQUENCES OF NON-ATTENDANCE: you understand that any non-attendance  
a) is visible to departments and supervisors/PIs, and  
b) may result in any future bookings you’ve made within the same term being cancelled, and the place(s) offered to the waiting list.