Guest Curators

We want to say thank you to our outgoing Guest Curator Patricia Turner! If you missed a chance to see his fantastic artifacts, please stop by the Guest Curator Archive Page. You can also examine all of our past Guest Curator’s as well.

Welcome to our Guest Curator, Simon J. Bronner, Ph.D.!

Puzzling Objects

Simon J. Bronner, Ph.D. 

Maxwell C. Weiner Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities 

Missouri University of Science and Technology 

The objects that I display in this online gallery are puzzling. They invite inquiry on messages carved into them, sometimes in and sometimes out of the awareness of their makers. The first few are in the medium of wood that are part of the skills of traditional wood carvers—chains, caged balls, pliers, fans, and pivots mysteriously carved out of one piece of wood. I featured this kind of work in my book The Carver’s Art (University Press of Kentucky, 1992), and I continued my interest, and collection of these kinds of objects to the present. In that book I proposed that the objects were virtual riddles and communicated problems for viewers to solve. They looked like real objects that were solid and strong (chains, cages) but left unpainted they were intentionally made to look fragile and precious. I hypothesized that they represented commentary by older men on their productivity and creativity, although they felt dismissed in a youth oriented culture. They drew on tradition, often a skill they learned as children, to convey their usefulness. Since the book was published, I have collected other puzzling objects made from materials other than wood in different countries of the world. Here I present a Chinese puzzle ball, or “ball in ball,” and “barrel men” made out of metal beer cans (wooden versions also abound). When I look at them as a whole, I see the epitome of folk tradition varying, adapting, and communicating in myriad ways to meet vital human needs and feelings.

If you are a folklorist or a collector of folklore/popular culture artifacts, please consider becoming a Guest Curator. Your objects will be highlighted here on a rotating basis.

All we ask is that the objects be yours, you have a photograph of the objects, and all or most of the information about the object (see the guidelines below, for more details).

Guest Curator Guidelines:

1. Artifacts must fall within the subject of our website (folklore, folk art, popular culture, etc).

2. Artifacts must be a part of your own personal collection.

3. Submissions must be limited to no more than five artifacts.

4. Submissions must contain a photograph of the artifact, as well as the title, purpose, country of origin, culture , materials, and dimensions of the artifact.

5. We also would like your photograph and a brief biography to accompany the collection.

Please contact, and write Guest Curator in the subject line for further information or with any questions. We cannot wait to highlight your collection!