Bird-Shaped Ritual Vessel with Lid

China. Shang and Zhou periods (1766–249 BCE).

Reproduction. P0014A-B.

Program History

Since 2005, the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum—a museum of world cultures at the University of Illinois in Urbana—has offered the educational program An Artifact Speaks. The program is a collaboration between Kim Sheahan, the Museum’s assistant director of education, and Zachary Cain, a 6th grade social studies teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. By fall 2013, all Champaign School District 6th grade social studies classes were involved in the program - approximately 650 students annually.

Program Overview

An Artifact Speaks helps program participants gain knowledge and appreciation for ancient cultures and an understanding of the processes historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists use to learn about the lives of ancient people. The program covers the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Greece, and Rome. Participants observe and analyze primary sources such as artifacts, written materials, and oral traditions; examine climatic and geographical features that shape a civilization; and use games and other activities to engage in higher levels of understanding. Group questions allow participants to reflect and discuss what they have learned.

In the Champaign-Urbana version of An Artifact Speaks, Kim Sheahan makes seven visits to the participating social studies classrooms and students take a 90-minute tour of the Museum. Through U of I Extension, instructors throughout Illinois have the opportunity to bring An Artifact Speaks into their own classrooms, libraries, organizational meetings, home schools, etc., using the activities as they best fit into the group’s educational style. Details are available here.