Members of the John Jay College humanities faculty designed the Making Objects Speak project in the hope that interactive audio tours of cultural and historical sites in New York City would enrich their students’ understanding of literature and history. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the MOS project has produced 12 downloadable podcasts designed to bring to life the concepts and information that students usually encounter only in the classroom or on the page by providing direct, visual experience of artifacts and historic neighborhoods.

Each tour is the product of collaboration between a professor experienced in undergraduate teaching and an eminent expert in a relevant field. The assignments and activities that accompany the tours are designed to encourage students to look closely at visual evidence and to place what they have seen in a larger historical or literary context. As they audio- tour a museum collection or a historically-significant neighborhood and complete the accompanying assignments, students will not only develop their powers of observation and deepen their understanding of the humanities, but also hone critical thinking skills, especially analysis, hypothesis, and synthesis.

Because the tours are in a digital format readily available through downloadable podcasts and compact discs, busy students can plan their visits to museums or historic neighborhoods to suit their own schedules. Members of the general public interested in the featured sites and topics can also download and enjoy the MOS audio tours.

A second purpose of the MOS project is to inspire humanities professors around the country to create audio tours suitable for students on their campuses. Guides for designing effective interactive tours can be found under TIPS.