Museums are full of ‘old stuff’ and that’s what a museum is all about. Right? Yes, and no – and I’d argue that the ledger is fairly heavily weighted on the ‘no’ side. Let me tell you what I’m thinking, and why.
- A while back we posted a photo on this blog of ex Patea boxer Dennis McKenna in front of some memorabilia we have on permanent display. Tonight I phoned Dennis to pass on a message and phone number from a man he was an instructor with in the Army in 1968.
- This morning an Auckland teacher called in to the museum to have a second look at the video we have playing in the education room of Patea Primary School kids that was taken in 1970. She’d seen it on Saturday and something in it about the (calm / happy / largely unsupervised) way the kids were behaving had piqued her professional interest, so she wanted to have another look on her way back to Auckland.
- A woman doing family history contacted us last week and we were able to put some pieces of the puzzle together for her.
These three stories have something in common and it’s not ‘dusty old stuff’. The objects and photos are important, and as museum staff we value them and treat them accordingly, but it’s their capacity to connect people that matters so much to me. People remembering because of an object or photo. People filling in the gaps in their family history. People gaining insights into the past that inform our future.
The reason those ‘dusty old objects’ matter is that they form a collective memory, they show who we were and where we come from as a nation, and they bring people together. How amazing is that?