Monday, September 3, 2012

Where Will My Artifacts Go?

     As I have written earlier, my house- the walls, the shelves and the tables- are covered with artifacts from my many years of travel. Yet I don't expect to travel any more and, even if I do, I surely will not return laden with additions to my collection. All of our travel items were bought either because of their appeal to us or the memories they represent, or they became additions to the examples of art and culture I shared with the audiences I lectured to about the Third World. They all remind me of delicious past pleasures and experiences and/or contain palpable information to help folks understand what my travel in Laos or Belize or Ecuador was all about.

     But that is all over. My wife and I sometimes joke about the sale that will be held after we leave this house where everything will go for a dollar an item (an artifact dollar store with lots of bargains). That may not really be a joke. These artifacts will never be worth to others as much as they are to us. They will be regarded as bargains, picked up at a house sale in the neighborhood. How fortuitous! No story will accompany my gable mask from New Guinea and no future owner will ever imagine the countless evil spirits that were turned away because it stands at the head of our stairway.  If we had just picked up travel items for our own memories, there would not be such a plethora of them in our home, yet the additional small but worthy additions collected to enhance my lectures and covering about two dozen travel experiences are also articles of value, at least to us.

     Because, the stories that accompany them are at least as important to me as the objects themselves, I am working to have at least my roughly one hundred masks kept together as a collection after I can no longer enjoy them. Each one is already labeled with its tribal origin, locality and other pieces of information. Just the placement of such a collection in a site where one might peruse them and learn about mask making or tribal life in the world would be very satisfying to me. The group of rather unique examples of Indian tribal metalwork would also be significant enough to make an informative and attractive display. Getting these placed in the best sites for educating the viewer are current efforts on my part. Suggestions, anyone?

     It is interesting to contemplate the remaining power of the items on my walls and tables and in the travel bags assembled for lectures. When someone visits our house, they are very often fascinated by these and tend to peruse them with interest and inquiry. I walk along explaining the origins of each item and what it represents. That will not be the case forever. A collection, an interaction, and exchange of information and a lovely conversation will be lost. Where does all that go? I guess it disappears in the mist of the future but it has earned its worth quite fully in the present and the past.

Maskmaker, Rural Bulgaria

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