I just got back from World Horror Con in Portland, where I met many wonderful new people, had a good time, and came home with the same body parts I left with. I am, however, very tired and am in the process of losing my voice so I’m going to keep this post short this week. My hope is to over the next few months of Mondays to pull back the curtain a little on what goes on with museum collections.
What kind of things about museums do you want to know? I know when I was young I always assumed there were crack teams of PhDs in the back rooms studiously making all the labels for the objects. It wasn’t until I was an intern and I was typing up my 200th label about turquoise jewelry… I realized the truth was a lot more mundane and sometimes relies heavily on being able to use Google to fill in gaps the object records leave.
Another thing I never thought about was the weird gaps in museum collections, because everything is what people THINK to take to a museum so there’s a lot of wedding dresses and not a lot of tennis shoes. That museums don’t really end up with consumable items. Museums get a lot of items that were hardly ever used in their original intended uses. A lot of the time it becomes a physical record of special items or unused items. Museums are very specialized records of material culture, but they are a very limited and incomplete one.
The items I get the most excited about are the ones that show the wear and usage. Things that can tell a story beyond the object. After all, a museum without stories is just a building full of stuff.