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An intergenerational and semiotic exploration of hair combs as material culture

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This study explores the value of hair combs as material culture, and their various traditions through the eyes of five intergenerational females (two women and three girls) who visited a retired couple to view examples of their hair comb collection and learn about its worth. A pre-questionnaire revealed the younger females' fascination with shiny details as worthy of attention and the practical considerations of the older women. The elicitation of participants' evolving questions led to the explanation of the importance of the combs by the collectors, an elderly couple. Based on Bolin's material culture categories, a semiotic analysis revealed that they learned about different comb forms, function, decoration, colouring, material, technique, trade practices (illegal poaching), style, date (acquisition), symbolism, condition, authenticity (determining fakes), attribution (cataloguing) and provenance (ownership). They were surprised that men made and wore combs (gender stereotype). Education on caring for these precious things goes beyond the museum walls and schools and should foster such intergenerational questioning and valuing even in classrooms.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Arizona State University.

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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  • The International Journal of Education through Art is an English language journal that promotes relationships between art and education. The term 'art education' should be taken to include art, craft and design education. Each issue, published three times a year within a single volume, consists of peer-reviewed articles mainly in the form of research reports and critical essays, but may also include exhibition reviews and image-text features.

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