Looking at, describing and identifying objects
Looking at, describing and identifying objects

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Looking at, describing and identifying objects

7 Writing an object biography

Towards an object biography

As the netsuke has moved through time it has changed location, visibility and ownership; it has also changed both its function (what it does or is) and its utility (what it is used for). The difference between the function of an object and its utility is subtle and reflects the difference between an object-centred approach and an object-driven approach. Essentially this is the difference between what an object was for (or what it was designed to do) and what it was actually used for by people (or what the artefact actually did itself).

Activity 8

Make a list of the various functions that our object has performed over its lifetime.

Discussion

Here’s my list, and I’ll try to surprise you with my starting point. The object has functioned as:

  1. a tusk for digging, etc. (while still raw material)
  2. a netsuke – a toggle on a kimono belt, for suspending objects
  3. a chattel – an object with a monetary value
  4. a museum object.

This varied list illustrates the changing functions that the same object may perform at different points in time.

A105_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus