Object-Based Learning at the Business School – New connections and old memories

Painted limestone stele fragment. Thebes, Egypt, Dynasty 18 (c.1479-1390 BC). Chau Chak Wing Museum
  • The OBL program has had over 47000 students partipate at the Chau Chak museum for object based learning (OBL).
  • This has helped develop several skills for students such as observation, analysis and many more.
  • Students are able to view ancient artifacts and make their own interpretations on symbols of leadership and power.

New connections and old memories were ignited when students from The University of Sydney Business School studying social action and leadership visited the Chau Chak Wing Museum for an Object-Based Learning (OBL) program. OBL is the active integration of curated objects into the learning environment to facilitate the acquisition of cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills (Chatterjee & Hannan, 2015). This approach aids in the development of transferable skills such as deep observation, critical analysis and reflection, interpersonal communication, and teamwork (Marie, 2010). 

We piloted OBL in Business education during 2021 to help students connect creativity with analytics (Wardak et al., 2021). During September, another curious group of Business students visited the Chau Chak Wing Museum for an OBL workshop facilitated by museum curators as part of their coursework for BUSS4921: Managing Post-Crisis Through Action Research.  

Since the museum’s opening in November 2020, the OBL program has worked with over 47,000 participants from disciplines across the campus, including the University of Sydney Business School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Arts and Social Sciences, Engineering, Science, School of Architecture, Design and Planning and Conservatorium of Music. 

The museum has purpose-built OBL learning spaces and dedicated curators to facilitate access to and learning programs around the diverse and unique collections of ancient artefacts, ethnographic material, works of art, natural history specimens, scientific instruments and historic photography.  

For this class, students first looked at the museum’s fascinating collection of Tin Sheds Posters and identified various methods of social action represented, including strikes, rallies, conferences, a dance, film festival, art exhibition, a giant mural project and even a bike ride. They then worked in groups to respond to the posters by creating their own awareness campaign for a social issue of their choosing. 

Poster, Lolita Lebrón: Que Viva Puerto Rico Libre! La Raza Silkscreen Center, California USA, 1978. Chau Chak Wing Museum, UA2014.713

The focus of the class then shifted to leadership in different contexts as students were challenged to explore styles of leadership and different forms of leadership across time and space.  

Old memories 

For me Craig Gilliver, it was marvellous to see a group of high school students from Condell Park on an excursion at the Chau Chuk Wing Museum when I arrived there with my own BUSS4921 class. Seeing students in 2023 from the South-West of Sydney being taken to see the same artifacts that I was shown as a lad from Bankstown in 1981 gave me a good feeling. Not only of nostalgia, but also that these contemporary students were able to access an incredible, modern museum, as opposed to the dusty old Nicholson Museum where we were taken to further our Egyptian studies in the 1980’s. That history field trip was my first time inside a university, but not my last, as I went on to become first in my family to attend university and receive a degree.

Image from Craig’s personal collection – The sarcophagus in 1981

Now, as someone who teaches at the University of Sydney, it is fantastic that we not only have the broad collection on hand, but classes are also able to access it as a teaching facility with specialist staff and programs at the ready. Students can view artifacts from a stone scarab seal that is thousands of years old, to a poster for a protest from several decades ago, and make their own interpretation on these symbols of power and leadership and where these two important notions intersect, or indeed, digress.

A continuing collaboration 

This wasn’t the first time that students from the Sydney Business School visited the museum. Our collaboration began in the early days after the establishment of the museum and is continuing. You can read more about our past students who visited the museum in our paper published in the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and in a University of Sydney news piece. 

For more information or to get in touch with the Chau Chak Wing Museum’s Object-Based Learning team, contact museum.obl@sydney.edu.au.

Featured image: Painted limestone stele fragment. Thebes, Egypt, Dynasty 18 (c.1479-1390 BC). Chau Chak Wing Museum, NMR.7

About the author

Eve Guerry

Eve Guerry is a museum educator with over 15 years’ experience in designing object-based learning strategies for curriculum-linked learning programs and exhibitions. She has a PhD in Egyptology and extensive experience in teaching and research for Archaeology, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Israel.

Jane Thogersen

Jane Thogersen has been working with museum collections for over a decade, with a particular interest in building engagement and access across multiple environments, collection types and platforms. Her interest in object-based life-long learning particularly focuses on the way in which university collections can support OBL through innovative and cross disciplinary approaches.

Craig Gilliver

Craig has a degree in literature and a graduate in journalism. He is published in magazines and newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald and the New York Times. He has worked in government, tertiary education, the arts and the not-for-profit sectors.  He is a teacher, with skills in programming events, production management, corporate communications, publicity, and entertainment logistics. He has taught and lectured at tertiary level and has broad experience working with senior leaders in government, the arts and corporations. His reputation in the Australian and international arts festivals circuit is for handling top-level artists and being a problem solver and fixer. He is currently undertaking a further graduate degree in creative writing at Falmouth University in the UK.

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