The idea of objects accruing value through stories which in turn affect how they circulate through society, is not new. Below is a multimedia bibliography of projects with similar ideas and aims as The Object Ethnography Project.

Significant Objects– Significant Objects, a literary and anthropological experiment, demonstrated that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively. The project auctioned off thrift-store objects via eBay; for item descriptions, short stories purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers were substituted. The objects, purchased for $1.25 apiece on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total.

Object Stories– Object Stories is an initiative at the Portland Art Museum that seeks to actively engage the broad public, and diversify museum audiences. The initiative’s main components are a video booth, video gallery, and storytelling workshops.

Objects and MemoriesObjects and Memory presents stories of people preserving and offering meaningful objects. Thematically, the film mirrors the process of healing after a traumatic historical event. Beginning soon after September 11, 2001, the film follows the efforts of museum curators and everyday folk who were driven to collect and preserve objects that, once ordinary, are now irreplaceable.

I Never Liked it Anyway– I Never Liked it Anyway is an online store where “once loved gifts from once loved partners get a second chance.” When you sell your (dis)engagement ring, (unused) wedding dress, or gifts from your ex, you can also leave a story about the object.

Object Migrations Show– an exhibit at Proteus Gowanus that linked tools, waste, and the implements of culture, the things that drive us onward in our migrations, with their stories. “At the points where our stories intersect with objects, much is revealed, not only about our personal trajectories but also about our precarious relationship with the environment.”

Everything Must Go– An exploration of art and commerce through gift and barter economies.

The Saddest Thing I Own– The Saddest Thing I Own invites people everywhere to share the saddest thing they own. What are these sad things? What makes things sad? Do things start off sad? Do some sad things begin as happy things that then become sad? Are some things only sad because for some sad reason we kept them? Are some things just plain sad no matter what? This is what we want to know.

#inhabitation – This project tracks the economic crisis through the foreclosure auction process, focusing on several abandoned houses once owned by women who left their houses and belongings behind. #inhabitation is an experiment in creative critical, digital storytelling and tactical media, affectively constructing and inventing histories as experiences produced out of the excess of debt, urban remains, and the material rhetoric of these abandoned houses.

Comfort Objects – The least valuable, grungiest object in your house could be the most powerful and the most loved. “Comfort Objects” explores the resonance of childhood touchstones via video, photography, and installation. We invite you to participate.

Post Secret– PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.

Academic Books & Articles
Ahmed, S. (2004). “Affective Economies.” Social Text. 22(2), 121-139.

Appadurai, A. (1986). The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, London, Duke University Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. and E. Rochberg. (1981). “People and Things: Domestic Symbols and the Self”The Meaning of Things. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1-20.

Daston, L. (2000). Biographies of scientific objects. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Daston, L. (2004). Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science. New York
Cambridge, Mass., Zone Books; MIT Press distributor.

Glenn, J. and C. Hayes (2007). Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Signficance. New York, Princeton Architectural Press.

Henare, Amiria. (2006). Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically. London, Routledge.

Hoskins, Janet. (1998). Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of Peoples’ Lives. London, Routledge.

Kirsch, S. & Mitchell, D. (2004). “The Nature of Things: Dead Labor, Nonhuman Actors, and the Persistence of Marxism,” Antipode 36, 681-699.

Manno, J. (2010). “Commoditization and oppression. A systems approach to understanding the economic dynamics of modes of oppression.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences . Vol 1185: 164-178.

Marcel, M. (1950). The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. London, Routledge.

Marx, K. (1972). “Capital, Volume One” . The Marx-Engles Reader. Second ed. New York, W.W. Norton & Inc., 294-438.

Miller, Daniel. (2009). Stuff. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Miller, Daniel. (2009). The Comfort of Things. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Turkle, S. (2007). Evocative Objects: Things We Think With. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.



  1. See also Daniel Miller’s work (three text in particular: Materiality, The Comfort of Things, and Stuff).

  2. Please go to facebook page COMFORT OBJECTS and consider participating. many thanks, kathy

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