As one of the most visible forms of consumption, clothing performs a major role in the social
construction of identity. While we often think about fashion as a means of expressing our individual style or identity, in previous centuries, East Asian societies dressed more or less according to their social station. Certain items of clothing worn by everyone, such as hats, were particularly important, sending instant signals of ascribed social status. Thus, clothing was the principal means for identifying oneself in a public space.
Grand Valley State University professors Meghan Cai and Jeremy Robinson collaborated with the GRPM to develop a research project for freshman students in an East Asian Sequence offered through the Honors College.
Student groups had personal choice in selecting a piece of clothing or accessory item from the GRPM's archives. They completed this object pre-study using the Digital Collections website. Students took an onsite visit to the Archives Building and worked with museum staff to analyze the items and make detailed observations, 'reading' the clothing to find further clues about the stories they contained. They recorded their findings in this Object Study Worksheet.
Students were pushed to think critically about the artifacts and what they reveal about the lives and identities of the people who owned them. They conducted scholarly research to connect their observations with information about the cultural norms, context and history of past East Asian societies. Their final product will culminate in a research poster and presentation. Select posters may be selected for inclusion on the GRPM Digital Collections website to benefit the whole community of learners.
A detailed description of the project, including the grading rubric, can be found here.