Electronic Magazine of Multicultural Education

Fall 1999     http://www.eastern.edu/publications/emme    Vol. 1, No. 4

Theme: Understanding One's Own Culture Through Cultural Artifacts

[This Issue] [Articles] [Instructional Ideas] [Open Forum] [Reviews] [Contributors]


Cultural artifacts refer to material objects that are closely associated with cultures.  While they are not a culture per se, they are the embodiment of a culture.  They are a tangible expression of a culture.  They imply values and practices of their users.  They provoke cultural memories of the users as well as those of onlookers.  They may be no longer in use or still be used as everyday items.  We encounter cultural artifacts in our ordinary surroundings as well as in museums. Sylvester (1997) noted in her dissertation study of Cambodian immigrant women and girls that museums functioned as "mirrors" to help them discover and be assured of their Asian cultural heritage and simultaneously as "windows" for them to learn about the U. S. culture. The tangible nature of artifacts indeed make them wonderful tools of teaching and learning about culture.

This issue of EMME focuses its attention to the question how cultural artifacts could be used for self-discovery of one's own culture and celebration of other cultures. Hummer's article deals with cultural artifacts as art that need to be understood in their cultural context. Caruso's article, "My Life in a Bag," provides a wonderful activity idea to increase students' cultural self-reflection.  Ackerman's article includes four instructional ideas of authentic learning that she implements successfully in her 4th grade classroom.  Gordon's autobiographic writing in Open Forum brings forth the broad issue of racial prejudice in education and self-realization of an African American author through educational attainment.  The Reviews section specifically highlights print and multimedia materials with regard to artifacts and museums.  It includes numerous websites of multicultural museums organized by ethnicity and gender.



Putting Art in Its Place

Chris C. Hummer
Eastern College

ABSTRACT Art has its cultural function. It is an essential link between the past and the present as well as the people to their environment. Critiquing the American perspective on art that tends to separate art from its cultural context, the author argues that art needs to be understood in its cultural context.  He illustrates his argument with American Indian pottery.  Photos of three examples are included.



A Cultural Approach to Authentic Learning Using Artifacts

Banny Ackerman
Wayne Elementary School

ABSTRACT This article promotes authentic learning in which teachers use primary sources and artifacts from actual time periods and simulations of actual events.  Authentic learning makes learning more personal and meaningful to students. By providing opportunities to make connections across cultural lines and encouraging introspection and self-reflection, teachers challenge students to increase their awareness of themselves.  This article provides four instructional ideas that promote authentic learning and includes photos of some artifacts that the author uses in her teaching. 


My Life in a Bag

John Caruso Jr.
Western Connecticut State University

ABSTRACT This 45-minute diversity exercise uses cultural artifacts to help students clarify their cultural identities and build pride. The results can form the basis of an ethnic awareness portfolio using the collection, selection and reflection model.



Looking Through the Glass Darkly

De Voka J. Gordon
University of Pittsburgh

ABSTRACT The author shares her educational experiences from her early years through adulthood tainted by racial bias against "black."  Refusing to succumb to her teachers' perception of her as an inadequate student, she attains a doctoral degree and finally realizes her full potential.  She no longer sees herself as having no potential but fully appreciates the importance of her voice and contributions she is making to the society and the academic arena.


Literature for Young Readers



Sylvester, E. S. (1997). Inside, outside and in-between: Identities, literacies and educational policies in the lives of Cambodian women and girls in Philadelphia. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.


Editor: Heewon Chang, Ph. D.
Assistant Editors: Lhaki Tang, Gail Mast, Elaine Hoffman, Cynthia Tuleja, M. Ed.

E-Mail: emme@eastern.edu

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