The importance of collections as the raison d’être of museums has been displaced in the 21st century by the educational role of museums. In this context, how can we use museum objects as a medium for the greatest purpose of educating, engaging and being relevant to society?
When we talked about working with objects, we normally focus on handling sessions in the museum as a way of approaching things to our audience so they can learn the characteristic of the object/artefact/specimen. But what we can get from knowing the material, texture, its origin and other details? Is it all about information or knowledge?
The Rekindle project produced in 2003 by the Manchester Museum in collaboration with Bernadette Lynch and the commissioned filmmaker Kooj Chuhan, presented an unexpected way of focusing on the process of understanding the object. In this project, the artefact was not the element of observation and study but an element in communication. The question “what is this?” was transformed into “who are you?” starting an interesting conversation between people and objects.
As Pearce (1994) explained, objects are social, symbolic and practical. This makes possible that we can bring objects into our own personal value system, facilitating conversations and other interactions with them. It is not surprising then, that we all have personal objects that we consider as part of our lives and a reflection of who we are. But this close relationship is not exclusive for personal items, but as Rekindle shows, it is possible to build a meaningful connection with objects in the museum.
A total sincere, honest, personal and profound exchange was the result of the project where objects story, personality, and own voice was revealed. The object was valued and therefore treated with respect and empathy by people.
Lynch, B. (2008) ” The Amenable Object: Working with Diaspora Communities through a Psychoanalysis of Touch” in Chatterjee, H. J. (ed.) Touch in museums: policy and practice in object handling. Oxford and New York: BERG, pp. 261-274.
Pearce, S. M. (Ed.) (1994) “Museum objects” in Interpreting objects and collections. London: Routledge.
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