www.myvirtualmuseum.com A virtual space that addresses ideas of collection, archive, memory, and ownership.
My museum project is the result of a museum internship at the North Carolina Museum of Art in 2001. I was involved with the installation of Empire of the Sultans; Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection, and as I became more involved in the preparation for the exhibition I wondered about the events that had brought the objects to the site. Who had chosen to save them? What determined that the objects were of significance or value? Whose interest and energy went into preserving them and making them available for viewing and study? Each case in the museum was dedicated to one or more pieces of material culture from a period of history. The Ottoman exhibit was the collection of one man.
I decided to ask the questions that I had about museums, cultural preservation, curatorial decisions, and more generally, what should be kept? I asked people I knew. I have asked my questions in California, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Indiana, Washington and Texas. Choices for the case were very personal and often had more to do with personal identification than historical or cultural importance. The time spent with my curators and their conversations about their decisions are more important than the objects, but I have “acquired” them for my collection and appreciate their significance and interest for all who visit this site.
As a virtual museum, I don’t maintain an archive of objects in an actual, climate controlled space. Security issues and maintenance of the objects are only temporary concerns. My museum is always open to the public.
I know that my questions to others are in fact a question to myself. It isn’t what should be kept, but what memory or idea indexes an object and determines how it will eventually be sorted through and either distributed or preserved. The seemingly least significant object may indeed be the most significant when evaluating a era, a technology, a culture, or a life.
I continued this same inquiry without the museum vitrine, asking members of the Church Under the Bridge in Waco, TX, what they kept and why they valued it. (2007–2011) Their choices were more spare, fewer objects and often ones that were used daily rather than collected and stored.