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Spotlights on Material Culture

Objects provide a window into all aspects of culture. We can take an object and explore who makes it, what material they used, and how they got it and processed it. We can look at its history and examine what tools and techniques a person used for making it. We can learn about the people who make it and the significance of object to them and their community. For example, we can follow its use in religious, social, or commercial life in a community. We can ask how has it changed over time and why? We can appreciate its beauty.

In the Colombia program, the relationship between the natural and cultural landscape played a central role. In this series of “Spot Lights,” we approach this relationship through the object. For example, tagua crafts, costuming for carnival, and coffee beans help us explore links between natural environment, history, occupations, traditional knowledge, and cultural practices.

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