Material Culture as a Source for Writing the History of a School: a Brazilian Example
This paper presents and discusses theoretical-methodological questions that are raised regarding the collection, classification, and analysis of information found in documents and photographs. These questions are related to an extensive research project whose goal was to write a middle school’s history based on its material supports. These material supports—the buildings and the organization of their spaces, furniture, equipment and tools, books, notebooks, and other objects used in schools—enable a material culture approach for analyzing a school’s meaning and purpose. Based on Grosvenor’s proposal in 1999 and the Ginzburg’s historiographical operation of hunting, we attempted to visualize the past of the Maria Constança Barros Machado School, a Brazilian secondary school from the 1930s in Brazil’s Central Region. From administrative reports that had been prepared to demonstrate that the school was adequately equipped and had permission to offer courses, we selected four laboratory photographs. These photographs clearly indicate that the school had the material objects required by law to obtain operational authorization. This study may be relevant to researchers investigating the materiality of education history because the findings clearly express the theoretical inquiries that we often encounter, particularly questions related to the conceptual aspects of material culture.
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