Objects Tell a Story, Part 2 or Opening up my Cabinet of Curiosities

Have you ever heard the term “cabinet of curiosity”? Precursors to museums, they were collections of objects, often rare and eclectic, displayed in rooms or cabinets. These objects could be natural or manmade. 

My husband often calls our house “a museum”, so I think a cabinet of curiosity accurately describes my object collection.

Inspired by my last blog post on objects, one of my friends wrote about one of her objects and about generational trauma. It is really a powerful post, and to read it, you can click here.

Also I read an interesting article about how by going to an estate sale, you can build a picture of the deceased through their objects. “And if you remove yourself from the picture, the stuff you surround yourself with tells a story about you. It is a physical autobiography you write by living,” the author notes. To read the full article, click here.

In my last blog post I talked about my family objects. This one is going to be about personal objects instead.

Personal objects are a bit different than family objects, or at least family of origin objects. They have a slightly different meaning, as you bought them yourself or they were gifted to you personally. Sometimes with family objects you have no idea where they came from, and you don’t know the meaning something holds for a person. I discovered the latter if I tried to get rid of something from my father’s collection. “You can’t get rid of that, because…,” he would protest. Well, at least then I would find out the history behind the object

Here are three of my personal objects that have significant meaning to me:

  1. The Wooden Horse

The last time my mom went to her homeland, Germany, before she passed away, she brought me back this wooden horse on wheels. I didn’t think much about it. She simply told me that my uncle, her younger brother, had made it. I only met my uncle a handful of times, and I don’t know much about him, except that he was an accomplished carpenter. She knew that I loved horses, so she must have figured that I would be the best recipient for this particular piece.

The horse took on more meaning when my cousin, my mother’s youngest sister’s son, visited from Germany last summer. I had it on display in the room where his sons were staying. He asked me where I got it. I told him the story, that my mother had brought it back to me from Germany. He told me that it looked exactly like the one he used to play with when he was a boy. In fact, he was sure it was the same one.

Wow! Had he not visited, I would have never known that bit of family history, a piece that connected us even more.

2. The Cat Necklace

When I was dating my future husband, he asked me to pick out something as a gift from him from The Museum store. After considering all the items in the store, I settled on this cat necklace.

He later told me that he was very touched that I had considered his financial situation and picked out the least expensive item in the store. (In fact, he asked me to pick out something else too. And I did, a watch, but I don’t even know if I still have it. It was less meaningful for me.) I don’t think that I was consciously considering his financial situation, but I generally am fairly frugal when it comes to paying for objects, especially when it comes to other people’s money. But let’s face it: I love cats! Yes, that was probably the main motivating factor. Anyway, it still indicated that we were compatible, consciously or not.

I don’t wear this anymore, as it has a little bell in it (and that would prevent me from sneaking up on family members—yes they do complain about it! But please don’t tell them that they could bell Linda with the cat…). The necklace hangs in the living room as a reminder of our early years.

3. The Chinese tea pots

I love drinking tea. I also love tea pots. I collected a few when I lived in China. 

These tea pots are made from special clay. The interesting thing is that they will absorb the flavour of the tea that is made in them, so it is advisable to stick with one type of tea for every teapot.

I have given more than one friend one of these teapots. I also gave one tea pot per table away at my wedding.

These tea pots come in so many different shapes and sizes! The possibilities are endless. Check these ones out. The one in the middle that has a dragon on the front has a phoenix on the back. The dragon and phoenix represent the emperor and empress.

I would love to hear about your personal objects.

Bonus: If you simply cannot get enough of objects and their history, then read further.

I have been skimming the book “A history of the World in 100 objects” by Neil MacGregor. The book describes the significance of certain objects to human history, beginning with 2 000 000 BC up to 2010. I was particularly interested in which object he chose to represent our most recent history.

MacGregor mentioned several objects that had been considered, including an object from Antarctica, a cooking implement, and the smartphone. In the end, a solar-powered lamp was chosen. The lamp was chosen for several reasons. For example, “Solar panels circumvent the need for massively expensive infrastructure…” and “As this low-cost, clean, green technology is made available to greater numbers, it could bring enormous opportunities to the poorest people in the world.”

What do you think? Would you have chosen a different object? 

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2019 Linda Schueler


3 thoughts on “Objects Tell a Story, Part 2 or Opening up my Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. bevbaird

    I used objects in different ways during writing lessons when I was teaching. One set of objects were used to have the students act as detectives and describe the person who owned them. The other set was to fire their imaginations, to use the objects in some way in their stories. I changed the objects fairly regularly.
    I know what you mean about having a museum! I have items from my mom, my hubby’s family as well as ones I have gathered over the years.
    Great pair of articles Linda.

  2. Pingback: 5 Objects from China | Shoe's Stories

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