(Im)memorabilia: Ephemerality, Resonance and the Collector’s Item

The objects in this gallery form a composite sketch of their collector.  The portrait is fragmentary and remains incomplete.  Planning the exhibition, I had no idea that, in October 2014, I would travel to China to teach Art History.  There, a Chinese artist made me a gift of this fan [upper right corner].  He said he would paint it should I return in the spring. 

The unmarked fan suggests stories yet unfolding.  It also slaps me in the face for believing that words could adequately convey them.  Teaching abroad made me doubtful of English, my second language, as a universal carrier of meaning.  As a curator, I must learn to let objects speak.

Next to the fan, I placed artefacts from the collection of George Powell (1842–82), who lived in and near Aberystwyth for much of his life.  The English-speaking collector did not leave behind any diaries.  Instead, he communicates through his bequest.

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