The Power of Objects
Film Screening and Discussion: Objects and Memory filmmaker Jonathan Fein
Probably the best way to end my day attending sessions that have really focused on the power of the public in public history. In addition to the power that the public holds in shaping the interpretation of the past, this film focused on the power of objects have on bridging the past with the present. Objects and the language they embody, are one of the main reasons why I entered the discipline of archaeology. I have always been fascinated with people’s interaction with the materials around them. This film looked at the everyday objects that were recovered from Ground Zero of the World Trade Towers from 9/11 and the Oklahoma City Bombings and the meanings and memories they now hold. It showed how people communicate—communicate with memories both positive and in this case traumatic and with the dead—but it was a very reciprocal communication. In the film many people interviewed not only felt as if they were communicating with loved ones that were victims by leaving objects at memorials, but also found objects at the sites were the loved ones way of communicating with them. This was also seen in the Legacy of Slavery Session, where many of the sites discussed showed present day people communicating with the past through ritual and objects. It is as important to have the historic objects for the present as it is for the present to give present objects to the past. They really are ways people can as Ed Linenthal stated in the film, “touch the past” and are extremely powerful.