Found objects, gifts and giving things up

We had a fantastic day today, meeting with a whole range of people to talk about objects in the Cuming museum and from their own lives. We talked about Damian jumping over his gran’s collection of snake-shaped draft excluders, pretending he was Indiana Jones; Amanda’s father’s collection of toilet roll holder dolls; Rebecca’s notebooks; Maria’s ‘wish box’ from Ecuador, and much more.

I had a very interesting conversation with local resident and architect, Sanna, about how we invest meaning into objects. She told me about a chain that she picked up in a park when she first arrived in London and how she’s taken it from home to home with her ever since. It has meaning because of its weight, the noise it makes, and the fact that her son and his friends choose to play with it. This chain – like other objects people talked about, which they take from place to place – has also accumulated meaning. The longer we have something, it seems, the harder it is to give up.

We discussed ‘giving up’ objects – whether to museums, charity shops, or the rubbish bin – why we do it, what we feel able to let go of. Sanna suggested that people might let go of an object to a museum in order to sustain its meaning and importance. She also talked about how difficult it is to get rid of gifts – however much you don’t like them or don’t have room for them – because they’re invested with meaning, and attached to the person who gave the gift and the meaning they ‘put into’ the object by giving it to you. Maria, talking about a gorilla statuette given to her by her father, spoke about how this gift, which he gave to give her strength and cheer when things might be difficult, came to fulfil his intention years later.

More stories and photographs to come!

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