The idea behind the exhibit is the contemporary-traditional critical view of the ordering and categorisation of things:
Questioning the modern Western intellectual categories that distinguish art from artifact, specimen from tool, and the historical from the anthropological, Tangible Things brings together materials from Harvard’s museum and archival collections. Beginning in the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the exhibition introduces visitors to established ways of organizing things and challenges them to classify an assortment of objects according to these conventions. Where in the university do items like John Singer Sargent’s palette or the beads and dress of a Camp Fire Girl belong? Why? Armed with these questions, visitors are invited to discover the many guest objects carefully inserted into exhibitions of Harvard’s public museums.
(are we supposed to read Foucault between the lines here?)
The exhibit, which opened in late January and is running until 29 May, is organized by Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and forms the basis for the university’s general education course ‘Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History’.