Monday, January 25, 2010

I made history. And so can you.

The BBC's Radio 4 and the British Museum have joined forces on a series called 'The History of the World in 100 Objects".

What's really nifty about it, is that you can add your own objects to it. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may recognise the object I added, since it has appeared here before.

I really like the folksy, common man feel of this project.

Of course, while the radio series is in 100 parts, the website is going to wind up with a whole lot more than 100 objects on it. This got me to thinking... if I were to name 100 objects that summed up my perception of the history of the world, what would make that list? The wheel would definitely have to be there, of course, as would the internal combustion engine. But then what about the intangibles that have changed history so much more than any object. Does fire count, for example? And what about the Internet? It's quite an interesting challenge.

Then I thought, if I were to personalise that project and make it my life (thus far) in 100 objects... what would make that list, then? My first car. My wedding ring. My Bible. A cryptic crossword puzzle. My laptop. Photos of my kids. That sort of thing. Would I be allowed to include a geographical feature, like Table Mountain?

And what if someone were to take on such a project after my death? What 98 objects would they place between my cradle and my grave? How different would those two lists look?

My mind is churning with this idea, now, and for a fleeting moment, I wished I were a history teacher to set my students the task of creating a history of their own family in 100 objects... but it was just a moment before I remembered that the national curriculum would put paid to any such ideas.

What about you? Is it an idea that has appeal for you? What sort of objects would make your list?

4 comments:

Dave Ferguson said...

I like this, Karen--sort of a physical manifestation of those "things about me" lists.

I think we're sometimes unaware of the things we hold on to--or of their real significance to us.

When my father died last fall, my mother asked if there were anything of his I'd like to have. Yes, I said--his naturalization papers.

It never occurred to my parents to get U.S. passports, so my dad must have used this diploma-like document at least 2,000 times. (Their Detroit, Michigan home was less than 10 miles from the Canadian border.)

The right third is barely in third's completely detached; there are holes where the corners of the folded document used to be.

It was the right thing for me to keep.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Dave What a lovely contribution! Quite brought tears to my eyes.

My husband keeps a letter written to him by his father shortly after his arrival at boarding school. My late father in law was not particularly literate in his own language (Swedish), and the letter is written in English. That, too, has become somewhat tatty over time, but I can't see him parting with it.

V Yonkers said...

It is interesting. When I first read this I thought of something else. But after reading Dave's post I thought of the core objects I have kept as I moved from state to state, country to country. I then thought, what would I rescue if I had to leave my house immediately.

I have a box of letters my father wrote to me when I studied overseas, letters my mother wrote to me when I was in summer camp, and letters I wrote my family when I lived overseas. These are priceless to me. My mother has her family's bible from the 1700's along with the names and dates of births of her ancestors. Finally, I have a drawer full of my kids things, tapes they made when they were little, letters to Santa, drawings that they made. I think I would be lost if I had to leave these behind. Interesting that for me, it is the things on paper.

Karyn Romeis said...

@v_Yonkers how odd that you would mention a Bible! In response to Dave's comment, I started to relate my regret over the fate of my great grandfather's Bible, but opted not to post it, because it was a bit whiny.

I used to keep my albums of my kids' photos near the front door, so that I could grab them on the way out in an emergency evacuation!