more about ’40 objects’

The idea of representing personal, professional and social histories through artefacts is fascinating; the leap from abstract to concrete is demanding and rather satisfying. I’ve used a similar idea with powerpoint slides, to try to find a concrete image that represents the abstract thoughts on a slide, such as ‘participation’, ‘groundrules’, ‘change’ – I think it helps both the audience and me to see deeper into the abstract concept. It’s quite a challenge. Look at Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects for a successful example of telling an expansive story through a limited number of objects. I’ve also recently become acquainted with Sherry Turkle’s Evocative Objects, another good example.

How to achieve this with social work? Is it possible to evoke social work through a collection of objects and what would these be? A few years ago Community Care invited suggestions and these included a suit of armour, a mountain of paperwork, a blinking computer screen, a brick wall, a ball of tangled wool, and a two-headed coin (Mother Teresa on one side, Hitler the other). For this project I’m looking to choose forty objects that will, taken together, give us a vision of social work – facets of its past, present and possible future.

In order to collect a broad variety of objects that speak to the diverse nature of social work I want to open the idea up to whoever would like to join in. My aim is to select 40 objects  that, as a collection, tell the story of social work (so, ultimately, I’ll make the editorial decision about which 40 objects make the most comprehensive collection for the book; these are not ‘the best’ objects, but the ones that altogether present the fullest picture). Even so, I will make sure that every object that has been proposed (and their proposers) are included in the book in some way.

Like the best stories, the hope is that this collection will speak to everyone: people who have been immersed in social work for a long time in various ways as practitioners, service users, managers, researchers, educators and policy makers; people who are new to it, like students; and others who know very little about social work at all.

Again, thank you for your interest in 40 Objects. I’m looking forward to seeing the story unfold.