Accepted Paper:

Visiting Old Ladies: Object Persons, Pedagogy, and Memory  


Sherry Farrell Racette (University of Regina)

Paper short abstract:

An ongoing multi-site project has been exploring ways to understand objects in their historical context and develop relationships with the items we study. We are nurturing and documenting pedagogies of engagement that incorporate Indigenous epistemologies, acknowledge object personhood, and facilitate their roles as teachers and storytellers.

Paper long abstract:

This ongoing project began with well-documented collections of material created by Metis women from the historic Red River Settlement in Manitoba. Unlike many objects that drift orphan-like into museums bereft of provenance, or items acquired by collectors with institutional or academic agendas, these objects reflect the evolving needs, interests, and movements of families over time. They became teachers and storytellers.

Objects stand as material witnesses and physical traces of community stories and historic events. As Eelco Runia described in his discussion of the “presence” of history, objects can act as holes, punctures or leaks, through which “the past discharges into the present”. This can be expanded into the notion of objects-as-portal, both triggering and holding memory, inviting us to step through and engage in the speculative creation of meaning.

Currently engaging several sites, the project connects archival resources, community memory, and resilient arts practices to provide deep context for understanding these objects and learning from them. This includes lengthy periods of building relationships and “visiting” with participants, guests, and the object-persons. How does deeper engagement change the museum research experience? Have the academic fields of art history, museum studies, and Indigenous studies adapted their curricula to reflect the changing object-relationships Indigenous people seek in museums? What are effective pedagogies that enable students and faculty to move beyond “talking about” to doing? This paper will focus on the specific research findings, methodologies, and pedagogical approaches to facilitate learning from person-objects (visual listening), sensory engagement (sight, touch and smell), and knowledge transfer.

Panel P050
Re-thinking Source Communities: Plural, Urban Indigenous Communities and Cosmopolitan Objects