Historiography of World History

Constructing Narratives through Objects

In this activity, you will create a visual narrative of an historical object and its journey in world history. This narrative method is characteristic of historian Timothy Brook’s analysis in his 2008 book Vermeer’s Hat. See this interview http://www.essentialvermeer.com/interviews_newsletter/brook_interview.html

This activity is an exercise in historical thinking about a specific material primary source. You have two choices: 1. You can follow the historical context of the object and trace its journey through to the present; or 2. You can construct a world historical narrative that centers on the object but does not necessarily follow its “biography.” You can refer to the BBC “History of the World in Objects” link for inspiration and don’t forget the Cleveland Museum of Art https://www.clevelandart.org/. Be sure to cite your sources.


  1. Choose an object to serve as your “lens” or a “door.” See the Essential Vermeer for examples of how this works using the “Officer and Laughing Girl” (1658). Be sure to scroll over the image of the painting to see the embedded narratives.
  2. You can create a visual narrative using StoryMaps or the app of your choice.
  3. For StoryMaps, go to StoryMaps JS (https://storymap.knightlab.com/). Click on “Make a StoryMap.” Sign in with a Google Account ID.
  4. Create a title page for the StoryMap that describes your narrative. Also include an introductory paragraph to introduce the narrative inspired by your object.
  5. Create a concept map or outline to plan your narrative. Submit to your learning management system (i.e. Blackboard, Teams)
  6. Add additional locations and pins as appropriate. Cite sources whenever you use them using Chicago Style 
  7. Click on “share” Publish your StoryMap and share the link with the class on the Teams discussion board.

Assignment Resources

Historical Object Narrative Rubric

Historical Object Rubric

CSU Students: For a video overview of the assignment follow this link: http://bit.ly/HIS370object. Log in to Panopto using your CSU credentials.

Apps for Creating Visual Narratives

StoryMaps JS is a very useful platform for creating visual narratives, yet there are many apps that can be used depending on learning management systems, platform, or preference.


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