One of the Learning and Teaching projects for this year is developing a model for comprehensively mapping collection objects with teaching units across campus. The aim is to unlock the resources buried in the university’s museums and maximise their value to our skilled teaching staff and curriculum developers. It is all about removing barriers between the learning and teaching community and the university’s collections.

We recently undertook a series of workshops with unit convenors to discuss how they could find new uses for museum objects in their teaching programs.  This is a pilot program, so we are only investigating objects from the two Faculty of Arts museums, the Museum of Ancient Cultures and the Australian History Museum.

We are greatly encouraged as an increasing number of unit convenors discover the resources of the two museums and investigate new applications in their teaching practice. These colleagues form our growing Object-Based Learning Community of Practice, #OBLCoP.

Convenors running Marketing units in the Faculty of Business and Economics are discovering objects relevant to the history of commerce in the Australian History Museum. Convenors of units in the Faculty of Human Sciences’ Department of Cognitive Science are discovering they can use objects from both museums in teaching programs around cognition and memory and units in Early Childhood Education are finding new uses for objects to inspire creativity in trainee teachers. Historical health related items in the Australian History Museum are finding new teaching uses in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. General Science units in the Faculty of Science and Engineering are discovering objects in both museums that can help their teaching.

In the Faculty of Arts, units in Sociology are discovering a rich vein of material on activism and social change and units in the Law School material on heritage and government in the Australian History Museum.

Quotes from the unit convenor workshops show our teaching community are very keen to develop object-based methodologies as part of their practice:

“It’s great trying to get students to think about how to communicate and seeing things differently when using objects. It’s a different way of thinking than having them sit down and prepare a presentation or write an essay.”

“It’s another way of getting ideas across by exploring how objects relate to each other…”

“I think the angle of repurposing the object is fantastic.  You can challenge students to think about other examples from their everyday experience…”

“…my idea was to tie an initial assignment, which is a reading based, to an object in the collection. I thought that it would be a new way of thinking for the students….”

“…what we would like to do next year is make it a little more focused, so the performance that they create will be based on one of the object/artefacts as a starting point, so the object/ artefact will be like a pretext for them deciding how they might present”

These new pedagogical uses of objects will be recorded in the combined museums database so that we have a history of the teaching uses of objects from our museum collections. This includes data such as subject categories/hierarchy, technology (image, 3D surrogate, original object), and pedagogic application (lecture illustration, tutorial task/discussion, assessment task, etc). The project is developing new interdisciplinary capability for both teachers and students across all five faculties at Macquarie. We see a future where unit convenors search our museums database to select objects that challenge, ask questions, provoke curiosity or develop skills for our students.

Some other highlights so far this year include a recent publication in the journal Education for Information that outlines progress with the project.

We have a one-day symposium, the Knowledgeable Object, coming up on November 28 that covers our project and broader issues of Object-Based Learning. There are still some places left if you want to register.

But be quick!

Posted by Andrew Simpson


  1. Cecille T. Gelicame 22 November, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you for your sharing this article. A similar undertaking is being done by our university museum, Museo De La Salle in Cavite, Philippines where curriculum-museum object connection is explored. Just recently, we conducted a consultation with university faculty from various disciplines like social sciences, history, math, biology, high school. The idea of Object-Based Learning (OBL) and using collections to support classroom learning sparked ideas. We are now working on the possibility of developing series of modules that will respond directly to their curricular needs.


  2. Hi Cecille,

    Thank you for the message. It is great to hear that other universities are going through the same process of seeing how they can get the maximum use for their teaching programs from their museum collections.

    Our project only involved 2 museums and was a pilot program.

    I’ll contact you directly, as I’d like to find out more about your project.

    Best regards



Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *