Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Historical Collections in Teaching: Object-Based Learning Fundamentals

This guide suggests ways to combine Object-Based Learning (OBL) teaching philosophies with Federation University Historical Collections to create engaging learning activities.

Federation University Australia Historical Collection Samples

What is Object-Based Learning?

Object-Based Learning (OBL) is an approach to experience and inquiry-based learning that emphasizes the value of multi-sensory interactions with objects to facilitate deep learning. It began with universities trying to maximize the educational value of legacy museum collections and has expanded to include fields as far apart as nursing, education, and history.

OBL draws heavily on Kolb's Experiential  Learning Cycle.


In order for a student to gain deep understanding, students must participate in, reflect on, and analyze an experience.

Why use Object-Based Learning?

  • OBL engages the senses, particularly touch, sight and smell

  • OBL accommodates different learning styles

  • OBL motivates deep learning

  • OBL provides experiential engagement with primary research methods and materials


The video explains University College London's OBL programs and how students benefit from them.


What Objects Should I Use?

When selecting objects, ask yourself:

  • Is it complex or puzzling to demand engagement? 
  • How has it been damaged or de-contextualized? 
  • How has it been re-contextualized in regards to where it is located and how it is organized?

The object must encourage active experimentation and reflective observation to encourage deep learning. Library staff can help you select suitable objects from the historical collections. Alternatively, you might consider using day-to day objects that have rich stories.

Flinders University: Guide to Object Based Learning

Flinders University has created an in-depth guide to OBL in a university setting. You might find it useful for inspiration, approaches, and literature. 


Flinders University: Object-Based Learning Toolkit.