Wednesday, October 24, 2007

On Collecting

This project is important within the fields of Folklore and Museum Studies as it brings together Folklore field work methodologies and the process of building a collection for a museum.

Using my training as a Folklorist I was able to make decisions about how to collect objects and am challenged with decisions of how to display those objects in such a way that they can communicate to an audience who has varied levels of exposure to the culture I am presenting.

For my collection I decided to collaborate with my grandmother, a cultural expert, as she has an important role in the culture I am working with. As a proprietor of a botánica, I asked her to select items for the exhibit that she would put in her own botánica. I did not ask her to select the most expensive or the most beautiful items. This way, my collection reflects her aesthetic values, which I learned have less to do with outer beauty than inner beauty. The statues we chose, for example, were chosen because they were sending off good vibrations to Lela. She selected them because of their energy.

Other items I selected were items suggested to me by proprietors of botánicas who insisted that specific items (statues or types of incense) are essential for my display.

Many times museums do not know much about items in their collection. Often scholars or collectors donate their collections to museums, but provide little information beyond the place of purchase. Sometimes museums know nothing at all about an object besides what you can tell from looking at it. My collection is accompanied by photographs, my own field notes, as well as recordings of Lela talking about most of the items. While this is a rare situation, it is ideal as the collection will now be preserved with contextualizing and supporting materials.

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