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Reading an Object in the Main Library Gallery : Home

This guide contains an an activity design to engage visitors with Main Library Gallery objects and exhibit content.


The following steps and resources can get you started engaging with objects and exhibit content presented in the Main Library Gallery.

Instructors: Please contact Katie Hassman (Undergraduate Engagement Librarian) and Sara Pinkham (Exhibition and Engagement Coordinator) to discuss how to incorporate this activity into your courses or to discuss other ways to engage your students with Main Library Gallery exhibit content. Direct class visit requests to Sara Pinkham.

The 'Reading an Object in the Main Library Gallery' activity is available in Canvas Commons and UI faculty and instructors can import this activity into their ICON courses. Please contact Katie Hassman ( for questions. If you would like to arrange a time for your class to visit the Gallery as part of their completion of this activity, please contact Sara Pinkham (


Estimate activity time 20-30 minutes + time to explore the physical or digital exhibit
Learning objectives
  • Practice documenting research and inquiry
  • Name and describe cultural and information objects
  • Reflect upon the characteristics of cultural and information objects that indicate the underlying creation process
  • Articulate how individual objects relate to exhibit themes and topics
  • Recognize rhetorical strategies
Activity checklist
  1. Visit the Main Library Gallery and wander the current exhibit. Or explore objects in available virtual tours of past exhibits.
  2. Choose one object from the exhibit that excites you. Or one that challenges you. Choose an object that compels you in some way.
  3. If you visit the Main Library Gallery and have a phone or camera available, take a photo of your object and any accompanying signs containing information about the object. Please make sure your flash is off when you do so. You can use this photo as reference should you need additional time to complete the handout after leaving the gallery.
  4. Complete Activity Reflective Prompts #1-7.
Gallery location

The Main Library Gallery is located at the University of Iowa Main Library at: 125 W. Washington Street, Iowa City, IA

For more information about location and hours:

Available virtual tours of past exhibits:


Activity Reflective Prompts

1. What is the object name or title as described on the placard (sign) near your object?

2. What type of object did you choose? Try to describe the object without naming the object.

EXAMPLE: Instead of saying: "I chose a can of soup." I could say: "I chose an object that is shiny and grey, perhaps made of tin and is cylindrical in shape, approximately 5" tall and 3.5" in diameter. It is placed on a piece of pale wood used as a shelf. There are no clear labels on the object, but it reminds me of a soup can -- perhaps there is tomato soup inside."

3. Who created the object? Who is the intended audience? When and where was it crated? Why would you guess it was created? If no obvious creator, do your best to guess about and describe who may have created the object and why.

4. What is the exhibit title? Why do you think your object was chosen for inclusion in this exhibit?

5. How did this object get here, to this place? What had to happen beginning at its creation for the object to be included in this exhibit? In 4-6 sentences or numbered steps draft a story of how this object came to be in this exhibit.

6. Why do you think your object was placed next to or in relation to other objects near it in the exhibit? Why is it in this specific place?

7. What questions do you have about your object? Share at minimum 3 questions you wonder about your object?