In the last lecture before Christmas break, I asked my second-year students on the Afterlife of Objects: Collecting, Museums, Display course to come up with a short definition of ‘object’ – basically to summarise in one or two sentences what the course was all about. Here are some of the students’ answers:
An object’s materiality can withstand time, but its meaning can be infinitely diverse.
An object is anything which is contextualised by the fact that it has the focused attention of a viewer.
Something we can visualise and hold – evoking feelings, memories, aspirations. It’s nice when they’re soft.
The meaning of an object is affected by its relationship with people. In many cases it represents an extended part of a person such as their memory.
Anything and everything.
A physical item that acquires meaning through labelling by human beings.
An object is something which has a biography – without it, it may not exist.
Simply something one can engage with.
A physical thing that belongs to someone or something, either part of a collection or existing on its own.
An object is an anchor for discourse and memory.
An object is a compound of physical matter meaningful to some, meaningless to others.
Something of personal value which can be defined by its context.
An object is an inanimate thing within a specific context that undergoes change through historical documentation and shifts in place and time. Constantly redeveloping its relations with humanity.
An object is an item which has significance to a person/culture.
An object dies away, but its memory is eternal.
An existential dilemma.