Museum Education

Learning with Objects Toolkit

 December 1, 2019
 Denise Hansen
Author: Denise Hansen
Last Updated: December 2019
“Like many museum professionals, I have a vivid memory of the moment when I was first touched by the power of historic objects…

I was a grade four student living in Prince Edward Island and my family visited a small community museum located at a local beach. I remember the building was an odd hexagon shape, with the typical hodge podge assortment of community treasures. The labels were typed, faded and curling but one item in particular caught my interest. It was a late 19th-century pair of tied blade skates which reminded me of the type I had seen in an illustrated version of the Hans Brinker story. I, too, skated and even once did a watercolour painting of a skating scene in art class. These skates looked different than the ones I was familiar with yet they essentially functioned the same. I imagined a chiId my own age using them on the ice many years earlier. I was entranced and I have retained a visual picture of these rusty objects for half a century. I made an immediate connection to the skates and I wanted to know more… “Who skated in them? What was that child like?” Those skates were an immediate connection to me personally and it was an experience I will never forget.”

– Denise Hansen


In a word, objects – and the stories behind them – are fascinating. Objects help us make connections to history, art and culture and are relatable to all ages. Objects are powerful tools in teaching intellectual skills, including observation, analysis, inference and critical thinking. Objects are also the backbone of our museums and cultural centres. Objects can be instrumental in our programming.

How can we use objects to make lasting connections with our visitors?

This tool can help answer that question.

Acknowledgements and Special Thanks to Cathy Blackbourn, Rob McCullough, Lynn Stannard, Cuyler Page, Liz Crocker, Susan Marchand-Terrior and Members of BCMA’s Small Museums Toolbox Working Group:

Elizabeth Hunter, Eric Holdijk, Joelle Hodgins, Kira Westby, Lindsay Foreman, Lorraine Bell, Netanja Waddell, Ron Ulrich, Wendy Smylitopoulos


The B.C. Museums Association gratefully acknowledges funding support of this project