Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stuck on an Object


All of us who work in museums see lots of objects--so many sometimes, that they seem to run together. But sometimes there's an object whose physicality or story sticks with us, for reasons we can't seem to explain.  My new job is just a block or so from the Morgan Library and last week I made a quick lunchtime trip--my first visit.  There is a major exhibit on Emily Dickinson there, all of which I enjoyed, but I found myself drawn to this tiny, house-shaped poem. In her tiny, unique handwriting, there it was:

The way Hope builds his House
It is not with a sill –
Nor Rafter – has that Edifice
But only Pinnacle –

Abode in as supreme
This superficies
As if it were of Ledges smit
Or mortised with the Laws –

I've thought about this piece of paper many times since that visit. But I still find myself puzzling over why. Is it that a house and a reclusive poet just seem to go together?  Is it the sense of hand, of personality in the writing?  Is it the combination of shape and poem?  It might be all of the above.

It was a gentle reminder of the many, many ways that each visitor approaches an exhibit and how many different ways there are to find meaning in the object. A generous exhibit design allows each of us to find our way.

What's a memorable object you've seen recently?

1 comment:

northierthanthou said...

The most memorable object I've seen lately would be a poison pill at the Inupiat Heritage Museum here in Barrow, AK. It's essentially a piece of bayleen folded up and tied together. In the days before guns came to the arctic, it would be put inside fat and left for an animal to eat. As the animal digests, the tie dissolves and the bayleen springs out. It would be an awful way for an animal to die, and a rather ingenious technique for getting food and clothing.