Object-Oriented Histories and the Archaeology of the Present

When the Mobile Museum of American Artifacts visited Massachusetts in the summer of 2015, I visited the museum. It’s small, quirky, and fascinating.

The resulting piece was a contribution to NEMMC.org, and I had the opportunity to interview curator Laurelin Kruse further on in her travels (over email) for a subsequent piece I contributed to the New England Archivists quarterly newsletter in April 2016.

Kruse is exploring an “archaeology of the present” and whether “it’s possible to create [a] kind of intimate, emotional connection between strangers” through the relatable stories that donors tell about their personal items. The objects that line the shelves of the museum’s walls couldn’t be more different — a pair of oven-melted glasses sits alongside a group of “flip” cell phones and an antique doorknob, among other exhibit configurations — but all of them, now divorced from their primary use, attain artifactual value in this museum setting. However, in the space between an object and the donor who once used it, an odd phenomenon emerges, according to Kruse. “[W]e can try so hard to summon a person or a moment through an object, something that was once very much alive, but objects are inherently inanimate, and so this absence and silence is all the more apparent, devastating, creepy, heartbreaking, present. Objects contain the presence of an absence and an absence of a presence.”

Ghost in the Artifact: Object-Oriented Histories and the Archaeology of the Present

Read the full article at NEMMC.org

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