The personal histories of things : keeping and caring

KEYTE, Julia (2014). The personal histories of things : keeping and caring. In: Custodians of Home, conference of the Centre for Studies of Home, Geffreye Museum, London, 31 January 2014. (Unpublished)

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This paper focuses on the personal histories of home possessions, and explores the decisions we make to keep and care for them.

Through my research I collect first-hand stories of peoples’ possessions. These ‘alternative’ histories of things are idiosyncratic, but are nevertheless valid. The paper will reflect on some of these stories, and the diverse emotional and practical considerations that inform decisions about the fate of personal possessions. This will be considered alongside literature from design history and anthropology on domestic practices of curating (the selection and display of objects as an ongoing process of individual meaning creation), and caring practices of divesting of unwanted things (e.g. Miller 2008, Whincup 2004, Crewe et al 2005)

For the purposes of this paper, I plan to interview one of a team of volunteers who run a small public museum in the UK, which houses an eclectic range of historical artefacts. In the corner of the museum toilet there is a Victorian washstand, displayed with a bowl and jug on the top, and chamber-pot underneath.

The washstand set used to belong to the museum secretary, and was kept in her home until she redecorated and it no longer seemed to fit. When the museum acquired funding to build the toilet, she saw an opportunity to rehome the washstand. Her decision to move it out of her home and into the museum was a creative and caring one which transformed the washstand from a personal possession, into a public historical artefact.

References: CREWE, L., GREGSON, N. and METCALFE, A., 2005. Identity, Mobility and the Throwaway Society. MILLER, D., 2008. The Comfort of Things. Polity Press. WHINCUP, T., 2004. Imagining the Intangible. In: C. KNOWLES and P. SWEETMAN, eds, Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods and the Sociological Imagination. London: Routledge.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Julia Keyte
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2014 12:29
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 23:30

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