Family or Cultural Artifact: This is a narrative essay, an essay that tells a story. Select an artifact (object) that tells a story about your family history or cultural background or personal interests that you can share with the class. Artifacts are tangible pieces of the past. An artifact is something that you can touch. It is not an idea or a story. Some examples of artifacts can include a picture, a coat of arms, a book or album, a piece of clothing, jewelry, a tool, or a quilt or afghan.
If possible, choose an item that illustrates something about your cultural background that is not obvious. If you cannot find a “hidden” part of your background, teach us something we may not have known about your family or culture. If possible, turn to your family members to learn more about your background.
There are two sample artifact essays (one by a student and the other by a professional) in this module. Take a few minutes to read them.
Once you have selected your artifact, write an essay that describes what the cultural artifact reveals about your culture or family, and analyze the ways in which it does so.
Your essay should have:
a clear thesis and
organized information to support that thesis.
The Introductory Paragraph (5-7 sentences) should state what the artifact is and make a claim about why it is important to your family history or culture. Try starting your introductory paragraph by describing the artifact in great detail, using your five senses. Include your thesis statement at the end of the paragraph. Your thesis should be one sentence and can follow this structure: My (artifact) is important to me because [reason 1], [reason 2], and [reason 3].
The BODY (3 paragraphs of 5-7 sentences each) of your paper should explain each reason from your thesis. Show the reader why the artifact is important to your family history or culture. Even if you believe your audience is already familiar with the object, assume that they are not. Show your audience, in detail, how and what the artifact conveys. Include examples, and specifics.
The Concluding Paragraph (4-6 sentences) The conclusion should bring the essay to a logical end. It should explain what the importance of your artifact is in a larger context. Your conclusion should also reiterate why your artifact is worth caring about. You can discuss the future of your artifact. Do you plan on handing it down to your children?
Your essay should be in MLA FORMAT which includes double spacing, indented first-line paragraphs, and 12-pt. Times New Roman font – see MLA Format for Essay
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or Purdue’s OWL website
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for detailed instructions.
The complete essay should be at 550-750 words in length. That is approximately 1 1/2 – 2 typed, double-spaced pages.
Your paper will be graded on its thesis, supporting evidence, organization, and mechanical correctness (MLA format and grammar).
Your analysis should shed new light on the meanings of your artifact. In other words, you are being asked to select a cultural artifact and consider its significance to you. Here are some questions you may want to consider as you write. You are NOT required to use these questions, they are simply to assist you in coming up with ideas to write about:
How does the artifact illuminate your family history or culture? What aspects of this culture does it bring to light? How does it do so?
What ideas are embedded in this artifact?
How are these messages conveyed?
What ideas, beliefs, or values are being represented through the artifact?
What is the purpose of the artifact? Does the artifact succeed in fulfilling this purpose? (Keep in mind that there can be more than one purpose.)
Lastly, your paper should include some evaluation on your part: Why do you think this artifact is important? What is its impact? How, if at all, do you think the artifact affects you, your family, or your culture?
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