For records and evidence this week we were looking at objects as archive, and had a wonderful talk from the textile conservation expert Frances Lennard. As part of the class we were asked to bring in an object with meaning to us, and think about what archival traces it might hold.
My items were pebbles which my mother sent from one of my favourite beaches back home in Sweden. When they first came they were in a plastic bag, so the smell of seaweed and salt had been preserved for a little while. These are the type of gifts she often sends me when I long for home – such as dried flowers from my favourite walks and herbs and mint from the garden. All of them are very tactile – the rocks and the flowers have certain scents and the herbs taste of the lime rich water in which they were grown. They create moments of feeling transported, and flashes of memory which are hard to note down in writing…
This did make me think of an article by Daniel Miller* where he describes what makes us reverent to certain objects – he described it as being ‘faced with our own mortality’. Objects have the power to make us feel connected to humans who came before us, and give us a comforting sense of belonging. In a lesser scale this is how I would describe these pebbles. They transports and connects me to my home – but there is always a sense of melancholy in that this transportation is to the past rather than the present. From looking around at the objects which others brought in this also seemed, to me at least, to be the overarching theme. What did the rest of you think?
*See Millers article in the “Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology” (2002), ed: Tim Ingold.