Chances are pretty good that you have never thought of your own home as an art museum. Yet, look around. On your walls are paintings you have chosen. Not only have you chosen them, you have chosen where to hang them. You may have even chosen the wall color.
Look at your tables and bookshelves. There are things all around you that tell a story. Perhaps you have things from your childhood, or your vacations, family pieces or beloved treasures that your children made in school. Look at the displays around you. It’s all the stuff that you love.
You are doing the same thing that the curator of a museum does; choosing what, where and how to display YOUR things. Think of that… every piece in your home is placed and arranged just as thoughtfully and carefully as any museum professional prepares an exhibit for the public. One of the differences about your museum is that you can actually pick up and touch these things without getting yelled at by the security guards! Your home is one very, very cool art museum. Complete this sentence. “Hi, my name is (fill in the blank.) I’m the executive director and curator of the (insert your last name) art museum.” Imagine that. And I can pretty much guarantee that you have even given tours of your exhibits to family and friends with details about where and when you acquired each item, perhaps a small story about it and why it’s important to you.
Just think. Your closets hold the textile collection. Your cabinets display your ceramics exhibit. Your walls have the art and photography exhibits. In the garage or basement you may have an industrial tool exhibit. Chances are you even have seasonal displays that you change (remember the Christmas tree and decorations? remember the Menorah? Remember the Kinara?). You don’t have to go to an art museum. You live in one!
I hope, by now, you have a newfound respect for what you have created. The task now is to uncover an even deeper connection to your collections and your exhibits.
There are four questions that I am going to ask you to consider regarding your museum. Behind each question is one major assumption. It is my assumption that you consciously chose to display each piece exactly where and how you displayed it, though you may not be quite aware of the full implications of that choice. I invite you to read that sentence again before we begin the tour of your museum.
More than likely you are sitting in your home, though if you are not the questions will still help you appreciate your surroundings. I now want you to “stop, look and listen” to the objects on display in your museum. Pick ONE object to focus on for the purpose of this exercise. Just one. Here come the questions.
Question One. Look at the piece you’ve chosen. How does that object make you feel emotionally? What are the feelings that arise? Perhaps there is a memory attached to the piece. I have a photograph of my daughter dancing with her new husband on her wedding day. I look at it and have a very strong emotional reaction. I feel deep love and joy as a dad. I have happy memories of the wedding, the reception, the gathering of family and friends. I display that picture and love sharing it with people who come to my home/museum.
Question Two. What do you think about when you look at that object? What is your intellectual response to the object. I look at the picture of my daughter and I think about family. I’m fascinated by genealogy. My daughter is now a mom. I’m a grandfather now. The picture provides an opportunity to reflect upon the past, the present and the future.
Question Three. Pick up or touch the piece you’ve chosen. Turn it in your hands or run your fingers along the surface, the frame. What do you experience physically when you look at the object? How does your body respond to the article? When I pick up the photograph, I always smile. I smile and can almost feel the exultation I felt at her life events. She was the first girl born on one side of my family in four generations!
Question Four. What do you experience spiritually when you look at the object? How does your soul respond to the piece? When I pick up the photograph, I feel profound gratitude for the experience of being a dad and a granddad. I feel a sense of connection to the human family. What about your piece fills your soul?
There are the questions. I’ve shared the story of the photograph to support you in your efforts to begin appreciating even more deeply the object in your home. Look at your object. That coconut shell from Florida is a lot more than just a coconut from Florida. It may bring back a flood of memories about a fun vacation, a humorous story, the odd shop where you found it and couldn’t resist. To others, it may seem silly or strange but to you, it has a connection to your life. And you should take time to pause and appreciate each one of those treasure that have small connections to a much larger life story.
Have fun curating your collection. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself moving things around and pulling things out of cupboards. Just last week I found my great-great grandfathers hymn book in a trunk. I didn’t know I had it. It is now on prominent display in my living room. Your home is a museum. Your home is a sacred place. It holds the story of your life. You are so generous to share it with the world.
Bly Photography, Kate and Tim, 2016, Heilakka Home Museum