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This morning I read an article in the Guardian Weekly by Madeleine Bunting which resonated with me. I want to share it with Glorybox readers.
‘Our history told in just 100 objects’ (an abbreviated version of the article which appears here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/26/our-history-in-100-objects-touch), prompted by British Museum director Neil MacGregor’s recent book and radio serial A history of the world in 100 objects (you can find pod casts here http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ahow), considers the value meaningful objects can have for the individual and for the way they ‘tell history’. She writes of the way ‘things communicate in a way that is often suggestive and associative, working on the imagination as music or poetry might, opening up possibilities…’ and how ‘telling global history through objects rather than texts … allows many more voices’ – those often unrecorded in the written archive.
I find similar themes in many of the Glorybox posts. We speculate about the origins of our textile objects, their purpose and makers. We tell stories based on the elements of the objects and any scraps of verifiable information we may have. Through them, we connect with women of past generations. We elevate ordinary, everyday objects to artifact status because they have survived to find their way into our gentle, appreciative hands. We might even love them just because they are pretty or quirky. And, we probably hope that our treasured things will be well cared for when we are no longer around.
I used to feel a little shy about collecting things, when in other areas of my life I try to limit the amount of non-critical objects around me. I do like the idea of striving for minimalism. But I’ve realised that many of my textile objects do tell this story. They are about making do and mend, using what’s on hand and not discarding what may seem like rubbish. Oven cloths made out of furnishing scraps tell a story of thrift and ingenuity. A cottage garden tea cosy represents an imagined, alternative life beyond perhaps narrow or straitened circumstances.
Since reading this article, I’ve reserved at the library another book Bunting mentions – Daniel Miller’s The comfort of things, in which he contemplates the time he knocked on the door of every house in a London Street and talked to the householders about the treasured objects in their homes. Bunting relays his conclusion – ‘I sort of expected but couldn’t really fully imagine the sadness of lives and the comfort of things.’