Global Visual and Material Culture: 1800 to Present
Research Essay (20%)
Due at the start of class on Friday, March 17, 4:10 pm
The objective of this assignment is to construct and complete a research paper on a specific work
of art or design of your choosing that relates to the overarching theme of Social Status. You are
to select an object or artifact in response to one of the three questions below, each of which
highlights a particular facet of how objects are related to Social Status. You are to analyze your
object by researching its art-historical context. The finished paper will provide a rich, wellresearched, and thoughtful discussion of your object.
How do art objects (or design) function as an expression of social status?
How does your art object function as a rejection of (or challenge to) social status?
How does architecture express social status? (You must focus one of the buildings from the
list of musuems and gallery below.) You can focus on the social status of the artist, the
visitors, the patron, or the social status of the objects contained in the space.
1. Choose an object in the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gardiner
Museum of Ceramic Art, Textile Museum of Canada, Bata Shoe Museum or the Aga
Khan Museum in relation to one of the above questions. Your chosen work must fit the
chronological scope of this course (that is, you must select an object from any art-historical
period or cultural context manufactured afterthe year 1800 CE inclusive). The object can be
part of the museum’s permanent collection or part of a temporary exhibition, but the object
MUST BE ON DISPLAY—you must study the work of art in person and not simply online.
The object cannot be a reproduction or model (n.b. the reproduction of the Palette of Narmer in
the Royal Ontario Museum is not permissible.) Keep your admission ticket to submit with
2. Research the art-historical context of your chosen object. Students must use a
minimum of three academic sources (i.e. peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles, books, or
exhibition catalogues). You may consult your textbook, but for the purpose of this essay, it
will not count as one of your academic sources). Academic research databases subscribed to
by OCAD University such as JSTOR, and others listed on the Dorothy H. Hoover library
website, may be used freely to find scholarly articles, such as the Grove Dictionary of Art
available through Oxford Art Online. Wikipedia is not an appropriate academic source.
If you find useful information that is located in a potentially untrustworthy source it is your
task to track down a better source. Regardless, you must honestly report or cite any source
from which you have borrowed information or ideas, including Wikipedia. Furthermore,
you should only consult the museum website to verify the artist’s name, title, medium,
dimensions, date and/or place of production of your object, and to find an image of the
object to include with your paper.
3. Write a research essay that responds to this question by situating your chosen work within
its art-historical context. Information about the object’s specific historical context (its
immediate social/cultural/political/religious context, etc.) may also be helpful. However, please
remember that your work of art or artifact is the focus of your essay. It is highly possible that
you will not find scholarship addressing the exact piece you have selected—that’s fine. The
piece you have chosen is likely representative of/related to a category of objects, or part of an
artist’s body of work, on which you can find scholarship.
1) Your essay must be 5-6 pages (c. 1250-1500 words). It should be double-spaced, with
1” margins, using a 12-pt font in Times New Roman on 8 ½ x 11” pages. It should be page
numbered. Please include your TA’s name as well as your name and student number. Papers
that do not adhere to the above format will not be accepted. You must staple your admission
ticket to your paper.
2) Include a clear and assertive thesis statement in the introductory paragraph of your essay.
Your thesis should establish a clear position or argument and refer explicitly to your selected
object while reflecting the question you selected.
3) You must appropriately reference your research sources. Include a bibliography or works
cited AS WELL AS appropriate citations of your secondary sources using either the Chicago
Manual of Style (i.e. footnotes) or MLA (in-text parenthetical references). Plagiarism is the
act of taking someone else’s ideas, opinions, writings etc. and representing them as one’s one.
You plagiarize whenever you borrow another scholar’s ideas without paraphrasing or quoting
directly from a source and without giving credit through proper citation or acknowledgment. For
more information, please see: http://www.ocadu.ca/students/academic-integrity.htm and
4) Include a reproduction or rendering for your object, along with complete information
(artist, title, date, medium etc.). Please ask for permission before taking a photograph of any
object on display. Students are also free to print an image of the object from the museum
website, to submit a postcard of it from the museum gift shop, or to photocopy it from a
museum guide or catalogue. The image of your work of art or artifact is placed on its own
page, with a caption, after the body of your essay and before your bibliography (if using the
Chicago Manual of Style) or works cited (if using MLA).
The largest part of your mark will be calculated according to the content of your essay, but the
organization of your discussion and the style of your writing will also be considered.
Good luck, and be sure to pick an object that fascinates you!