Making Things, Not Words: the Siege Artifacts in the Memory and the Museum
(Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera); European University at St Petersburg)
Paper short abstract:
The paper is grounded on the interviews with the people who donated their belongings to the museum of the Siege of Leningrad. I address the issue of the "artifacts of memory" which act as the material sites of the traumatic past and question the museum as an alternative to the family archive.
Paper long abstract:
The paper is dealing with the materials of the cooperate project with the museum of the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg, Russia). The museum serves as a crucial site of local memory related to the traumatic experience of Leningrad people during the WWII which was mostly silenced during the Soviet time. When the museum was opened in the end of the 1980s people started donating it various objects which they believed concerned the Leningrad Siege or required a special venue to become the real memory artifacts. Along with my colleagues from the European University at St. Petersburg we collected the interviews with the people who brought their belongings to the museum. Among them were those who survived the Siege as well as ones who had never witnessed the war. Some of those people brought the diaries and letters of their parents and grandparents. But some brought rather new things created in the recent years to commemorate and even to re-imagine the past. Within the paper I address the issue of the "artifacts of memory" which become neither the illustrations of the siege recollections but rather the material sites of the dramatic past. I focus on the symbolic meanings of the things and the ways they are transformed into memory artifacts through the act of donation to the museum. I question the very site of the museum as an alternative to the family archive asking about the reasons the public repository is today preferred to personal and family memory.
Breaking the Silence: Heritage Objects and Cultural Memory