Over to you
You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
If our ideas are not reflected in our actions, we do not really think them.
The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.
What is happening?
We are coming to the end of my time in the Tower.
The objects arrayed before you in this blog represent that which will be forgotten, lost or deliberately destroyed unless it is cared for. Please take a look around at the exhibits and contribute to the discussions.
I want to make a few things very clear. The most important point is that I am not asking for suggestions as to what I or anyone else should do. This is not a space for moralizing. Nor is it some abstract game. It is simply a space in which you are free to examine your feelings and, if you wish, act on them. Do you care enough to do something?
Just as being a hermit is very different from the idea of being a hermit, so doing something is very different from thinking that something should be done. To actually care is not an imaginary or intellectual exercise. It is an activity that can be felt with your actual body.
To re-member something is to make it part of yourself. To appreciate something is to make it increase in value.
But also, in real life, choices have to be made. You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t do everything. To hold on to something you have to let go of something else. To remember something is to forget something else. To appreciate something is to ignore another thing.
What can you do?
Everything is degenerating and decaying, transforming and recombining even if you do nothing.
Some things may be best forgotten. Some things may be necessarily discarded.
You are free to forget about them and do nothing.
You may also leave it to others to act.
But then please don’t complain if things turn out in a way you do not like.
If you want something done it is your responsibility to do it.
Or you may collaborate with others in some way to get it done.
This is democracy.
But there is no one to represent you. Please do not tell me or anyone else what to do.
If you want to acquire an object or think it should go somewhere in particular you will have to use your own time and energy to come and get it or arrange for its transportation.
There is little point in simple acquisitiveness, however, because that is unlikely to be supported by others. People will want to perceive some genuine need. Your reason for having something or putting it to good use must be clearly apparent not only to you but to everyone else. It will be necessary for others to support you in your proposal.
Or you may choose to support others in what they have freely volunteered.
You do not need to come up with some terribly clever idea. Simply noticing a particular thing about an object from your own perspective and expressing it in any way that can be shared – that is enough.
Who’s in charge?
Let me emphasize that there is no point at all in appealing to me. Only your own inaction can cause something to be destroyed. If a choice needs to be made it will be discussed and agreed between all of us. The responsibility is not mine but ours.
By ‘us’ I also include the staff of the museum. I see little value in a distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’. The museum is staffed by public servants who are also human beings with ideas, opinions and powers. Every member of the public is also an expert in his or her unique viewpoint. All arguments should be made transparently.
The Museum is here as a public body precisely to hold in trust many of these objects. This public institution becomes an empty shell however, and may even become harmful, unless its purpose and strategy is publicly examined and renewed.
Its existence might also become an excuse for us, the public, to ignore our personal responsibilities. It’s very easy to think ‘someone else will take care of it’. In fact individuals have a duty to act.
None of us is an automaton. The museum too is made up of active individuals, many of whom have become experts because of a longstanding interest in a particular subject. This expert knowledge should live, not just through authoritative pronouncements but in active dialogue.
Museum curators have an obligation to explain why an object may be best held in their custody – in order to be made most widely accessible, for instance, or because it only makes sense within a certain context. No object has only one single interpretation, so all of us must contribute to this discussion.
What happens next?
At the conclusion of this exercise the Museum’s Collections Development Panel will meet. At this face-to-face discussion all the arguments put forward in this blog will be finally considered. This blog therefore constitutes a collaborative, transparent document.
The final meeting will be a formal signing-off of any actions, destinations, and recommendations for the various objects. Any relevant considerations will already have been put forward on this blog so this panel will simply formalise any decisions.
The conversation is open. Please get involved, however small or large and in whatever form your contribution may be.
If there is no interest in it then of course things will just carry on as they are.
Museum will continue to expand their collections indefinitely as more and more things disappear from the rest of the world.