Hi, my name is Linnet and I am a sixth form student in year 12 at Oxford Spires Academy. When I first read the email about this project it jumped out because it was about creativity, historical objects, cultures and people – all of which I love. I’d never done an audio recording for a podcast before though, so I was a bit unsure about that at first. However, I thought it would be an opportunity to try a different form of media and create something new, so I was up for that challenge and signed up!
Before we started the project I thought it would be easy to choose an object to focus on – how difficulty could it be? I had completely underestimated the museum. Beforehand, the hundreds of cabinets seemed niche and cryptic, but going around the museum as a group with Marenka revealed each item had its own evocative story. It was difficult to choose one item, as I wanted to free all their stories from the constraints of the glass cage and tiny faded numeric labels and let them out into the world as they wanted to be. The dark museum hall became full of potential life! It took me several weeks wading through piles of records and files to decide on an object.
Before they were just artefacts and now, they are a person’s story.
The objects I eventually chose were actually the ones that surprised me the most when I first saw them as I didn’t expect them to be there. They were the Japanese Noh theatre masks, which represented to me a personal connection I have with a Japanese family – we have taken each other into each of our families and that bond has created for me friendship across cultures. After participating in their wedding ceremony we were gifted a Noh mask, so seeing them in the museum reminded me of them. With this inspiration I didn’t need any convincing to spend my time researching their story, history and my appreciation of the art form.
Figure 1 Noh Mask, 19th century, Japan, Pitt Rivers Museum, image courtesy of the PRM (PRM000005507)
Making the podcasts was much more natural than I’d thought it would be – Catriona was so supportive and encouraging that in the end it was just like a normal conversation. It felt a massive honour to think we could add to the story that the museum objects had – that we were rewriting their labels in words and sound and storytelling and therefore give them new life and freedom from the constrictions of their ancient labels. Over the course of the project we questioned our own assumptions and stereotypes about labelling other societies, cultures and histories and I feel like my appreciation of their complexity; before they were just artefacts and now, they are a person’s story. Now, I can’t wait to go around museums and look at the objects as what they are; pieces of us, not objects.
Figure 2 Noh mask gifted to Linnet's family, image courtesy of Linnet Drury