Most of us have a few items around the house that we refuse to part with. Maybe it reminds us of a special moment that we relive every time we see our treasure. Or perhaps it reminds you of the love you had for a person no longer physically in your life.
Objects can be visual cues to memories and can help us tell the story of our lives. Multiple projects, across many disciplines, have explored the role that material items play in our lives.
Anthropologists have particularly focused on the topic of how items evoke storytelling and portray the relationship between an individual and their surroundings. For example, The Portland Art Museum has a relatively new installation called Object Stories, which is an open-ended look at the relationship between the subjective and objective, people and things, and the Museum and the community. It is a powerful, and at times humourous, look at the objects that hold importance in our lives. The piece asks individuals to enter a sound booth in the Museum and record a story about (and with) the object that matters to them. On their website you can see many of these stories, including one called “An envelope I don’t open.” This story is about a daughter who found a large envelope belonging to her mother and the forbidden knowledge of the contents.
Collectors, a mini doc series by Amy Joy and Darryl Murphy, joins the conversation by showcasing five people living in Newfoundland who have grown a collection of memories through objects. While checking into a hotel in Buffalo, Joy and her partner were told that there was a salt and pepper shaker collector convention going on. The clerk asked if it would be okay to place them on the same floor as the convention, Joy’s partner started to laugh, knowing that Joy would be overjoyed to join them. She spent a lot of the weekend picking the brains of attendees on their collections, even going as far as sneaking into a costume party where people dressed up as their favourite salt and pepper shakers. This got Joy’s brain “shaking” about the different types of objects people collect.
Through the use of Kijiji and personal connections, Joy found her star five people among the many collectors in Newfoundland and Labrador. These individuals include Tibor Devai, who collects paper money, Joanie Sears, who has been saving the greeting cards she has received since age eleven, Rebecca Hollett, who has a “room full of memories” embodied by her collection of Barbies, Sandra Vey, who has been saving Elvis merchandise since the age sixteen, and Dave Mullowney, who has been collecting Wrestling paraphernalia since he first saw the super hero like characters come to life on TV.
We should hope Amy decides to grow her own collection of stories and continues to produce more. Have a look at these stories by searching for CBC NL’s website for the web video series, Collectors. Tune in here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/collectors-why-barbie-elvis-and-fake-money-matter-1.3008567