Friday, January 11, 2013

Sharing Memories

The allure of an object is not always its history or value; sometimes we are captivated by an item's power to expose a personal memory stowed away long ago.  These recall moments can be as small as a particular smell or as epic as an action that completely changed one's life; we simply cannot argue there is a certain magic to how objects can make us pause and reflect upon our own lives.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been revamping my friend Webby's Dive In cards. While  researching about Variety Unit's Doll section, my eyes floated to this picture:

Paris and Montreuil-sous-Bois, France
Probably Bru Jne. & Cie
About 1880
Chandler Collection, 1962-262.96

As I looked into the doll's wide, almost expectant eyes, I immediately started thinking about a specific instance with my doll when I was a little girl.  Unlike Shelburne Museum founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb, who preferred to carefully pack away her dolls at age 10, my doll was under strict orders to never leave my side.  After a year of being carted everywhere by a little girl, the doll's face was muddied, her arms and legs no longer fit in their sockets properly, the velcro of her dresses barely stayed together, and her hair was frizzed and falling out in clumps from constant, aggressive brushing.  I reminsced about the day when I felt sad and guilty about the condition of my doll.  In fact, I remember tearing up and whispering in the doll's ear as I hugged her close: "I'm sorry."  Looking at the picture above (particularly at the featured doll's hair), I realized how much I loved my own: physically and emotionally.

As an museum educator, it's my goal to use Shelburne Museum's collection to inspire discussion amongst visitors.  Since I started with my tale of guilt, it is now time for you to share your own toy story in the comments section of this post.  Check back often and compare your story to what others have shared.  Do their stories change the way you see doll above?    

Click here to view Webby's fun-filled and family-geared blog!


  1. Bebe up there reminds me of a childhood friend of mine, and the last time I ever saw her. I was about ten; she was a year or two younger with dark brown eyes and frizzy curly hair just like the doll's.

    I last saw her before my family moved from Maine to Arizona. She had lobster; I don't remember what I had. Funny, I hadn't thought about her or her lobster dinner in years, not until I saw that doll up here. Such is the power of objects though.
    They have the ability to reach deep into our past and excavate neglected memories.

  2. When I was a small child I spent much of my time at my Grandmother's farmhouse in Ortonville, Michigan. My grandparents subsisted on sheer resourcefulness and had a modest home. By the early 80's it had been relatively unchanged since re-furnished in the late 50's, early 60's, (except for a modern television that sat on top of the old television-cabinet-cum-table). Long ago the nooked and cubbied attic had become 2 bedrooms that were perfectly made up and untouched since their children had left home. In the 'girls' room was a vanity containing costume jewelry, pressed doilies, seashells, and a bureau full of antique linens, dresses and dolls. This picture reminds me of the dolls in that bureau. I always had the attic rooms to myself, since my grandparents could hardly climb the steep stairs. For hours, I would creep into the eaves to bring the china dolls to life in that time capsule of a room.

  3. Nice memory, Trisha! The attic rooms you describe sound like a little girl's dream, especially as it stayed the same as you kept growing older. I must admit, I began to daydream of the room having smells of aging linens and faint perfumes. The doll section of the Variety Unit also reminds me of a 'nooked and cubbied attic' that promises to keep the dolls safe from time and wear. Too bad we can't sneak up there to play: those antique dollhouses are sometimes too hard to resist! Thanks again, Trisha!