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How can researchers take information that they have gathered and build a focused argument about it? This module is part 6 of a 6 part series on researching the background of the Souvenir of Egypt, a textile that is part of the Travelers in the Middle East Archive. It brings together the information that we have uncovered and explores a few directions in which the research project may be taken next. The module discusses how historians frame arguments and looks at political history and material culture.

Refining our research project


In the series of modules that make up the course on the "Souvenir of Egypt" , we have been trying to learn as much as we can about this unfamiliar textile, which is part of the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA) . In the process, we have used various research strategies, including consulting experts, using reference sources, searching online databases,and consulting general histories. We have identified the Texts , Flags , Faces , and Symbols found in the silk. Now that we have deciphered the majority of the images inthe Souvenir of Egypt, it is time to hone our research project. The next step in the project could take us in any number of directions. This is the time to reflect on what wehave done so far and ask: What about the research we have done so far has really caught your interest? What questions remain unanswered? Among all that we havediscovered about the souvenir of Egypt, what seems to be the most historically significant aspect?

In this final section of the course, we will explore a variety of research topics using the work we have done so far as our foundation. It is, of course,impossible to list all of the possible directions we can take the project from here. But it is possible to discuss different ways of thinking about those directions.

The most obvious fields of historical research our artifact/document fits into are Political History and the study of Material Cultural. But, to be sure, thereare countless ways our souvenir could be used to tell a story about the past. Let's take a look at what we mean by Political History and the study of Material Culture.

Political history

Political history is what we usually think of when we think about the writing of history. It focuses on dates, names, places, and events withan eye to connect them all in a narrative. Often, the emphasis of political history is on states or nations and the way they change independently or in relation toone another over time. It is the kind of history we find in middle-school textbooks, but don’t be fooled into thinking that political history is for kids. Some of the mostsophisticated and influential works of history have been in this genre.

Material culture

Material Culture consists of the relationship of people to the material objects around them. Scholars of material culture assume that the thingspeople surround themselves with, from coffee cups to aircraft carriers to birthday cakes, have discrete functions and meanings in their lives. These scholars seek toexplore those meanings and functions by uncovering the ways people understood and viewed the things around them. Some areas of investigation in this field would be how things areproduced, obtained or consumed.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Understanding material culture: deciphering the imagery of the "souvenir of egypt". OpenStax CNX. Oct 08, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10301/1.7
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