Pär Cassel, associate professor of history, explains the significance of an artifact in the Museum's Chinese Government Collection: the flag of a generalissimo (UMMAA 11287). The character on the flag signifies "Commander in Chief."


In fall 2020, when most U-M classes were held online, UMMAA connected with students and curricula remotely. In late October, Pär Cassel, associate professor of history, brought his class to the Research Museums Center via Zoom to view material from the Chinese Government Collection. Cassel’s class, History 354: War, Rebellion and Revolution in China through Two Centuries, explored how China was transformed—through war, rebellion, and revolution—from the White Lotus Rebellion in the late 18th century through the last decades of the 20th century. Professor Cassel showed his class military uniforms, banners, and other objects people used during the Qing Dynasty to display their rank.

“These colorful objects bring history to life in a way that black and white photographs cannot. We use these objects to illustrate concrete points in Chinese military history,” Cassel commented.

The Chinese Government Collection was originally put together in China for the 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans. After the Exposition closed, the entire collection was awarded to the University of Michigan, thanks to University President James Angell’s previous appointment as the U.S. Minister to China.

For information on how to show museum collections in the classroom, please contact Andrea Blaser and Jim Moss at ummaa-collection-mgr@umich.edu.