The Fifth Piece of the Puzzle: Books

As expansive as the collections housed at the British Musuem, both online and in house, finding much information about the Vale of York Hoard on the British Musuem website wasn’t as fruitful as I thought that it might be.  It has LOTS of metadata for each of the 54 photographed items from the hoard and the 634 items yet to be photographed.  However, a larger body of content explaining how the hoard was found and processed or what history can be uncovered in examining each object is largely missing from the museum website.

Previously, I have relied on Neil MacGregor’s BBC Radio 4 broadcast about the hoard when I shared its story with my class, but that gives away too much of the narrative that I want students to try to create on their own.  However, I had a EUREKA moment when I remembered that I might have purchased a small book about the hoard from the Musuem’s gift shop on a trip to London three years ago.  I went digging on the shelves above my desk, I found it – The Vale of York Hoard by Gareth Williams and Barry Ager.

The book has been very helpful in fleshing out some of the specifics about what is known about each object, and I will use this information to scaffold some activities or learning opportunities in the lesson to make that historical thinking visible.  But, the most helpful part of the book is the conclusion at the end.  In three fairly succinct paragraphs, the book answers my guiding question:  “What sense can we make of the raw materials of the past?”  It reminded me of the importance of “backward design” in Wiggins’ and McTighe’s Understanding by Design framework.  In thinking about these very specific conclusions, I am hoping that I can design a lesson that will lead students to find their own meaningful conclusions without getting too lost in the weeds.

I also liked that the book spoke a bit more to the procedures employed by archaeologists, curators and historians as they actually collected the hoard.  I may include a short bit on the “forensics” of collecting artifacts in ways that doesn’t destroy the evidence of the past left by these raw materials.

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