Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hoarding and loot- my education is getting in the way of enjoying my crap

My college education has been varied.  I took classes in many departments- P-sychology (where I decided the whole discipline was crazy), Sociology (not as crazy as psychology), History (public education lies, lies I tell you), Classics (awww, the comfort of mythology and ancient history), World Literature (so many things to read and so little time to analyze it all), American Indian Studies (I suck cause I'm white, but not as hard as most white folks), Labor Studies (did you know that you are supposed to have a bunch rights at work?), California Studies (cause Cali is just weird) and of course, my beloved Anthrppology classes.  I also had two museum internships which twisted my worldview a bit.

Musuems are the ultimate hoards of loot.  All carefully preserved and protected, locked away from the rest of the world, they prefectly reflect Western society's love affair with stuff.  Many Indigenous groups, especially Native Americans, hate them for this.  It's a bitter twisted history that exposes how nasty American history (and the Chrisitanization of North America) really was.  But, it was the study of this and two museum internships that began to transform my relationship with my belongings.

"Collection" is a dirty word when dealing with Native American museum housed artifacts.  It's one of those sticking points that causes negotiations between museums and Native groups to stall and flounder.  Personally, I think "collection" is a better term than some of the others that could be substituted;  in a moment of irritation after hearing about another contentious meeting between a museum and a Native American group, I jokingly asked somebody if it would speed things up to concede the point and start calling collections "hoards of loot".  Not my most professional moment, but there was a sad truth to it all.

I look around at the things in my life and I'm starting to see most of it as my own personal hoard.  I keep it because, well, I don't really want to let go of it.  I squirrel semi-valuable objects away from sight and use to protect and preserve them (sound familiar?), but nobody gets any use or enjoyment or education from these items, because they are locked away.  I hate when my education gets in the way of bliss filled ignorance in my personal life.  It makes me so uncomfortable.  I don't want to be uncomfortable, especially since it forces me to change.  Okay, I'm whining; time to stop.

My spiritual, personal and intellectual development has been tied up in weird ways with my education.  It has changed my worldview, opened my eyes to possibility and made me skeptical of what I know.  As uncomfortable as change can be, it's also very important to creating new realities both within us and outside of us.  


  1. Museums, although from one point of view only dust-collectors, are great because they give us a place to find out about our ancestors, and the good as well as the bad things they did. If it weren't for museums, lots of knowledge would disappear.

    And in some ways it is the same with personal collections - imagine you would disappear now, and in one hundred years someone would find your place and explore it. What would your place, with all your stuff, tell this person about you?

  2. Diandra, I fear what the future would see in my stuff. Archaeologists get most stuff wrong and the results could be terrifying or hilarious. Somebody wrote a kids comedy book on the premise in the early 90's and it was comedy at it's finest.


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