The Museum of You and Me and Everyone

So you’re at a museum, some particularly narrow remit drives the collection and the narrative within, perhaps it’s the Icelandic Phallogical Museum  focusing on the Penis (The Author is far to sensible and adult to laugh at penis…. instead he giggled) or it’s the Vent Haven Museum of Ventriloquy, wherever it is, you’re there for one or a number of reasons. Perhaps that particularly narrow subject of specialism is a shared area between yourself and the collector/curator, perhaps curiosity has bloomed and it’s attractive petals have caught your attention or (and this is a genuine reason written in a visitors book I once inspected) “It’s raining and my wife is shopping – it’s alright for something small like this. Also it’s free, that’s always nice!” – I won’t presume to know your reasons, dear reader, for visiting certain sites, collections, exhibitions, stately homes, ruins etc etc over others, it’s not fair of me to do that.

I’m here because I have been moved to write about something that’s been sitting in the corner of my mental study. Whilst the desk is piled high with “Accessibility Audits” and great texts offering examples of how we limit access to shared Heritage (one project) and equally piled high with a vast array of sweet biscuits, all with labels attached such as “Byzantine Empire” and “Georgian England” (Equally another project #historyandbiscuits) – The Author has accidentally made a note in a book, just a throw away one. It was “Our Story” that was the original one, followed by that being scribbled out and ultimately the phrase “The Museum of Human Interest and Memory” – Sounds like some obnoxious Art Instillation…. It isn’t. It’s a potentially silly idea but equally one that has actually kept me awake with ideas.

I offer this up to you, dear readers, the missions statement or perhaps Manifesto of “The Museum of Human Interest and Memory” – The Museum of Human Interest and Memory is a non physical but equally entirely physical Museum, featuring a collection of incredible social and historical importance that has a direct relationship with the heritage of EVERYONE and equally a single person all at once. The Museum of Human Interest and Memory is a repository for public access and private contemplation. The Museum of Human Interest and Memory is a remarkable collection of agreement and conflict, comparison and contrast. All in all, it’s about people and their own heritage.

What is the Author talking about? Has he purchased a steel shipping container, painted the words Museum of Human Interest and Memory on the side? Is he now charging an entry fee? (Unless you have a Blue Peter Badge, which affords free entry to all museums apparently… The BBC equivalent of being a Freemason) – No, it’s far more simplistic actually, the above Mission Statement is simply for the amusement of the Author, who takes pride in tweaking the nose of the pompous and frosty y-front wearing Old Guard. It’s quite simple really…

Whilst wandering around on Twitter, the Author (@magpiememoria) found it necessary to complain about the lack of biscuits in his office. Noting that the rich tea fingers seemed appropriate for a house made notable by it’s chief former occupant, Oliver Cromwell, the great puritanical folk devil. Thus began the great #historyandbiscuits conversation, seeking to connect key eras in History to a biscuit and offering up why one is representative of the other (That is another blog….) – One of the responses elicited came from Twitter User @DemonArcher1 who sent a reply that ultimately changed the course of idea for the Author (The Author is so up himself he talks in the third person….) and ultimately planting the seed that is now growing as I write.

“The Barmouth Biscuit… from the 70s… because it reminds me of family holidays & nostalgia.” In these few words, spoken in to the ever increasingly dangerous sphere of Twitter, sang to something deep in the heart, soul and mind of The Author. One forgets all to readily, that History and Heritage isn’t always about Crowns and Gowns, it’s about people, individuals, families, tribes and it builds up from there. Heritage is not something to be kept in a Museum, not in it’s most organic instance and equally it is unfair to judge what is “Prestigious” – You’ve probably noticed the recurring theme about bring heritage to people, linking people with their shared past. Well, here we have a perfect example which could sadly be lost to pomposity.

The Author was forced to Google a Barmouth Biscuit as, despite his almost unsurpassed knowledge of 21st Century Biscuits, this particular one had missed him. I am pleased to announce that is is a thin, circular crisp biscuit, I am however saddened to note that it is no longer available. A french version exists, but purists on the Internet have denounced it as inferior. Is this not a note for the list of reasons it should be preserved in a Museum? The Original as it were, now copied and it’s memory and purity threatened, surely this would go some way to having it’s place in a glass lidded, slanted cabinet, made sacred…

Actually, I know the last sentence of the previous was written to be a tad humorous (Yes, Dear Reader, it was a joke, I promise to make them clearer in future… perhaps a different font.) it is the purity of the memory, the link that is created by @DemonArcher1 to memories he obviously holds dear, or returns to. A biscuit is a biscuit to you and I, but to him? It is perhaps wet canvas overhead, in the Lake District, perhaps it is jokes still uttered though the subject and context are long since lost but for some reason they still make the familial audience laugh, perhaps it’s none of this. Perhaps there is a story not told, perhaps it should never be told, but a story untold is still a story. We forget that, i feel, sometimes. We forget that the ice skates in the Museum in Ely, belonged to someone, they glided across ice, carrying a person who carried with them emotions, memories, experiences, and would go on to have many more.

We can share Heritage, from our surnames to our location of birth, and all of those Meta-Concepts, but equally we must preserve our particular and personal heritage – it is the realm of photograph albums, whispered stories, drunken arguments and silent tears in the dark. Do these things not deserve their own Museum?

Below are two items for the collection, submitted by M W Routledge on the 24th November 2017 – Accession Number – 1 and 2

  1. One Yellow Ticket Stub – Typical of the ones provided by low denomination gambling machines in Seaside Arcades, popular throughout the latter part of the 20th Century and in to the 21st. – Donation Narrative reads “Obtained by throwing a large number of two pence coins in to a machine in an Arcade on the seafront in Cromer, Norfolk. This time was spent with *Name Redacted* and much amusement was had.”
  2. One .33 spent Blank Firing Cartridge. – Typical of examples used in Historical Re-enactment. Donation Narrative reads “Fired from a replica Naval Pistol, the first shot fired by the Named Depositor, on a field in England, unremembered with good friends.”

I wonder, if any of that will mean anything to any of you reading this? It offers a slightly odd, but never the less important and potent, snap shot in to the life and legacy and the heritage, of an individual – perhaps you sat next to The Author in that Arcade, or you heard the pop of his gun going off, in Kent.

The Museum of Human Interest and Memory is accepting donations to it’s collection – why? Because the risk of loss is too high that they may be left behind, and that’s not right.

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