Collective Narative

Week 5&6: Objects

After visiting the City Reliquary museum I found myself in a conversation with my cousin at a family dinner.  We were talking about how tragic it must be to lose your home in disasters like hurricanes or the wild fires that recently spread through California.  We noted how tragic it must be to lose all of your most precious items. Eventually we began to think about what object we would be sure to save in the event that our homes were threatened by a natural disaster.  My cousin began to tell me a story about a book her father got her when she was young that has made a huge impact on her life.

To view the story click here.

This thought experiment made my cousin tell me a really important story all centered around an object.  I thought that there were more stories like this that people must have so I decided to ask others what object they would save.  I created this survey and sent it out to classmates.  In the survey I prompt people to answer this question “Imagine your house was burning down and you only had time to grab one physical object, what would you grab?.”  I then asked them to elaborate on the object with a story.  While I got many responses, I found a fundamental difference in the types of answers I received in the survey as opposed to the answer/story I received during my conversation with my cousin. The majority of the answers I received for the survey were that people would save their hard drive or computer.  While some mentioned that their hard drive had precious photographs on it, most just said that their whole lives were on the hard drives.  Of course this was not the type of answer I was going for.  I wanted people to think deeply about the objects in their lives that hold sentimental value and are irreplaceable.  From there I wanted them to tell me a story centered around that object.  I found it fascinating how different these answers were.  Perhaps the way I asked, on an informal survey, was not the way to get meaningful answers.  Perhaps to get meaningful answers and stories you have to be there in person and have a real conversation with an individual.  This process made me think a lot about the process of story telling and how we extract good stories from others. The mode with which we ask someone to tell a story can dictate how formal or informal the story will be. 

I was going to make a website of all the objects and stories that people provided me.  However, the only real story that I had in the end was the one that my cousin provided me so I decided to just make a one page highlight story.  In the future I would love to continue this idea but think about how else to collect the stories.  Then I could create a website where everyone can explore the objects that we treasure.  

Eva Philips