My Travelling Object

Many of us have been spending more time in our homes with lockdown during COVID-19. But what stories do the objects in your home tell?

For centuries, people have decorated their homes with objects that have travelled across the globe and which tell fascinating as well as troubling stories. Artists too have long been inspired to paint, draw, or mimic imported objects from around the globe.

This project from the department of Art History at the Open University sheds light on commonly found objects in your home and traces their historic origins. Building on our outreach work with schools, Open Arts Objects is giving you the opportunity to tell the stories of the objects in your home.

Take a picture, send us a video, create a still life, or draw your object and tell us your object stories! Find the instructions on how to do so below, watch our video outlining the project on youtube, and follow us on social media to see your object stories featured! We’ll then produce some new films explaining the historical display of these objects with expert Art Historians. [update!: we’ve produced one here!]

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Art History, why not check out our 50+ free films on Open Arts Objects or follow the travels of objects from around the globe on our interactive OpenLearn site, Travelling Objects.

Choose an object or set of objects in your home from one or more of these categories:

  • Blue and white china
  • Incense burner
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Carved metalwork
  • Decorated Glassware
  • Spice jar

Answer at least one of the questions below:

  1. Where is the object from? (guesses are fine)
  2. How did you obtain the object?
  3. Is there an interesting story behind your object?

Send us your object in one of four ways (you can find some inspiration from examples further below) :

1.  Send us a picture of your object with a short summary answering the questions above.

2. Create a still life or ‘portrait’ of your object(s) by staging and sending us a short summary answering the questions above. 

3.   Record a video of your object. Tell us the story of your object on a video!

Try to record in a room where there is minimal noise (such as radios, talking, cars, etc). On a smartphone, make sure the camera is set horizontally, not vertically.


4. Draw or paint an image of your object and send us a picture with a short summary answering the questions above.


Send all entries to For all films and high resolution images, please use a transfer service such as wetransfer. Alternatively, share them on social media and tag us:

By sending in your pictures or videos you consent for us to use them on social media and as part of our final films.

If you’re 16 OR UNDER, make sure you have consent from a parent, by getting them to fill out this form, and sending it along with your contribution. 

…& find more inspiration on our film on youtube:

Make your own Open Arts Objects film!

Open Arts Objects (OAO) is an open access platform which provides free films to support the teaching of Art History. This activity will teach you how to make your own film, based on the same questions that we use to make our professional films with curators and art historians. These are short films (between 2-5 minutes). You can see examples on our website and you can also see examples from other students on our youtube channel . You can also download a pdf of these instructions.

Choose an object/work of art:

From a gallery website, conduct a search to find an object of your choice. It can be anything: a painting, sculpture, a ceramic, metalwork, textile, print… We’ve also compiled a list of suggested websites and resources.

Once you’ve picked your object, answer the following questions (based on the same questions that we use to make our professional films with curators and art historians). Try to use your own words rather than copying what the museum’s website says. You don’t need to answer every prompt under each main question; these are just some suggestions and not each question will relate to the object/work of art you’ve chosen:

1.     Who are you? (Optional)

Introduce yourself and your interests (e.g. your favourite art or art history topic) in one sentence.

If you choose to share this on social media, you might not want to identify yourself. You do not have to introduce yourself by name.

2.     What is it?

In no more than two sentences, describe the main components of the object/work of art.

Does it have a title?

Who is the artist? Or is it anonymous?

What is its medium (painting, sculpture, textile, ceramic)?

Does it have a genre (portrait, landscape)?

What time period is it from?

3.     What is it made out of?

What material is it made from?

How do you think it would feel to touch or hold?

4.     What does it look like?

Are there decorative elements to it? Are these associated with a particular culture or region?

What colour is it?

Is there a subject matter?

What is the scale? (How big is it?)

Where is the viewer? (Are we looking up/down at the scene?) or if it’s an object, how might the beholder engage with it?

Can you describe the composition? (How are elements arranged in the space?)

If there are figures, can you describe their poses, gestures, expressions?

5.     What is its purpose/function?

Where is the object from?

Where did it end up?

Who created it and why?

For what purpose was it created? Does it still have the same function?

How was it used and by whom?

6.     What is its relevance for today?

Where is it housed?

Why is it important to study?

What does it tell us about the culture who produced it or used it?

How might it be related to a current issue or debate?

Presenting your object

Once you have answered the questions, rehearse your answers: how will you put these into your own words to present to camera?

Once you feel you are ready, have a go! Try not to look at your notes but present to camera as if you were talking to someone in person. Remember, it doesn’t have to be long: about 2-5 minutes should be enough to cover all the above points.

Tech spec:

On smart phone, make sure the camera is set horizontally, not vertically.


Once you are done, you can share it on youtube, (if you’re a minor, only if you have permission from your parents). Mention OpenArtsArchive in a comment and use the hashtag #myOAOfilm and we will add it to our playlist!  If you don’t have a youtube account, you can also upload to Instagram tv (IGTV) and tag @openartsobjects and use the hashtag #myOAOfilm. Alternatively you can email your video through wetransfer to along with your permission form from your parents to share on social media.

You can watch more students’ films here





{Free Art History Teaching Resources}


We realise this is an exceptional time and many of you will be struggling to suddenly take classes online or to help support students working from home. This will be on top of your own personal and professional hurdles in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

Just a reminder that we have over 50 free films on the Open Arts Objects platform, many of which are directly related to A-level Art History. Some of these films are filmed inside museums that are currently closed and offer virtual handling sessions.

You might not also be aware that we have a list of our free open access courses on OpenLearn, which could be rather useful: from Renaissance Venice to Dutch painting to the Enlightenment to graffiti. Most of these are aimed at university level, but they are written in an accessible way: you might find an activity or two here that you could direct students to.

Open Arts Objects in schools

We’ve had the opportunity to come into classrooms and meet students. As part of our school visits we’ve had students make their own films on objects. You can make your own film from home. We think this might be a fun and engaging way students can keep occupied while they are stuck at home. All info here.

My Travelling Object

What stories do the objects in your home tell? Take a picture, send us a video, create a still life, or draw your object and tell us your object stories! Find the instructions on how to do so here,  watch our video outlining the project on youtube (and below) and follow us on social media to see your object stories featured!

Critical Terms for Art History

We also have a series of films on critical terms for Art History: MobilityEssentialismIconographyCommemorationGlobalisationClassicism, Hybridity and 3 on Modernism.

Finally, if there’s anything else we can do to make this time any easier for those of you who teach, for students at home, or for people who just need to keep occupied as they self-isolate, please do get in touch with suggestions!

Stay safe and well!

Leah Clark (Project Lead, Open Arts Objects)