The Essence Of History – The Museum Of Material Memory
It is said that we do not age by years but by stories. All of us are basically writing our book and every new day is one new chapter of this book. The beauty, however, lies in the details of it. Even that dried flower in the old book that you bought at the flea market has a history and a story behind it. That wooden chest covered in dust, sitting in the dark corner of your house, has been there for ages and has seen more life than you have. Even the most mundane objects around us hold inside them a plethora of stories. These objects open to us our histories and a part of us that was buried in time. The Museum of Material Memory is one such project which aims at archiving such mundane age-old collectables along with the stories they tell, the importance that these ‘things’ have had in the lives of people who have inherited them from their ancestors.
The Museum of Material Memory is a digital repository of the material culture of the Indian subcontinent, tracing family history and social ethnography through heirlooms, collectables and objects of antiquity. The objects are from or before 1970. The idea here is to promote the preservation of material memory infused within objects, as they provide us insights on our culture and civilization.
An Idea Originating From The Remnants Of Separation…
“A research on objects that crossed borders during partition led to the inception of the project,” said Anchal Malhotra to a leading newspaper. She is an oral historian and the writer of the book Remnants of separation: A History Of Partition through a material memory. She co-founded the museum with Navadha Malhotra, a ceramic artist who works in the field of digital communication, in the year 2017. During her research, Anchal realized that there were a lot of things that could not be included in the book but they also couldn’t be left untold. This online museum, therefore, brings to us these objects from around the subcontinent with personalized stories of joy and sorrow.
A 70-year-old gramophone, belonging to her late maternal grandfather Shri Ram Puri who was an engineer in the royal courts of Punjab and Rajasthan, has been passed down to Bela Kapoor and this gramophone is her link to the other half of her ancestry. She takes pride in having an object that connects her to the past, to where she comes from and where her family comes from. This is just one of the many stories that you can find in this online museum.
For some, it is a trip down the memory lane and for others, these objects have become a part of their own life and story. “For the first time in my life, I want to own something that does not belong to me and make it a part of my history. I want to entwine my legacy with the horseshoe’s and leave it for the generations after me – for them to wonder and daydream about my present,” says Sanchita Mahajan while talking about a horseshoe which has been a part of the family for more than a century.
A Museum Of Personalities And Timeless Past…
The museum has provided people with a platform to share their own little tales of history, which would otherwise get lost. While the idea is beautiful and brings to us a more natural and personalized account of past, it is also very time consuming and requires endless efforts. The accounts that we read come to us after a very long process of verification, the history has to be traced and located. The entire process aims at encouraging people to participate in the process of archiving individual accounts that are often lost in time. A digital repository of these lost stories not only brings us closer to our past but also goes on to show that people across the subcontinent are more or less the same.
The museum is one of its kinds and is reaching out to people for their contribution. They usually post twice a week and the updates are written by the co-founders themselves, who hear the anecdotes from the founders of the objects. The museum is inspiring and talks about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people and their life in the times of partition. The next time you stumble upon that really old box belonging to your family don’t shrug it off as junk, it might change the way you look at life and history.
Visit this unique and soul-warming museum right now here: The Museum Of Memories