Meaningful pasts: Post #4

1. What objects from the past do you particularly treasure?

I have things like my maternal grandmother’s telephone with her number still on the front, and a walking stick from either my great-grandmother or great-grandaunt (not too sure), and vintage clothing from my mother, and an old pillowcase with a 1970s design that seems valuable or precious for some reason (I think it’s from a set of two and my dad is still using the other one).

2. Do you think that some objects from the past are best forgotten?

No, I can’t think of an object that’s best forgotten. Even an unpleasant object (e.g. scold’s bridle) would tell us something useful about the past.

3. What intangible pasts (e.g. customs and languages) are meaningful to you?

Some old Finnish sayings that my grandparents used and my parents still use.

4. How is it best to preserve these intangible pasts?

I keep using the sayings, and I also keep letters from my mum and Finnish friends that might be thought of as a record. I’m also interested in Diana Taylor’s (1997) work on embodied memory as repertoire (repertoire as a tool for knowledge) and Rebecca Schneider’s (2011) work on historical re-enactment and how ‘the live’ records the past in such practices. (‘Might a live act even ‘document’ a precedent live act, rendering it, in some way, ongoing, even preserved?’ 2011: 37) So, how do we record those embodied memories (intangible pasts) by using them in our daily lives? This approach does not ignore the efficacy of affective engagement in the way archives for objects sometimes do.

5. If we save more and more objects and intangible pasts, is there a danger that here will be too much past in the future?

Interesting question. I think if we ‘preserve’ or record intangible pasts by using them (see above) then they become part of our future in the way that’s malleable and in flux. With objects, I wonder if the question becomes, who has ownership of these objects and how might they make them part of a community and their future (so that not all objects are housed in one archive that has sole guardianship)?

Female, 30s, academic


2 thoughts on “Meaningful pasts: Post #4

  1. Reblogged this on Baba Yaga's Handbag and commented:
    An excellent short piece on tangible and intangible pasts and embodied memories. There are many items of worthless ephemera from my own family’s past — flotsam and jetsam that I incorporate into my daily life. I’ve always wondered why I treasure them so dearly. And here’s part of the answer; the intangible objects (my grandmother’s tin of buttons, for example, are pointers or clues to the intangible, which has somehow rubbed off on them. I warm my hands and revive my memory on these well worn objects.

  2. Pingback: Meaningful pasts: Post #4 | Baba Yaga's Handbag

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