Museum of You: The objects in our homes say a lot about us

There’s a part of me I leave at home every day. It sits on the bookshelf in my bedroom. It’s a little brass rabbit.

It used to sit above my grandmother’s fireplace, one of a set of four or five. As a child I was always drawn to it—the littlest one in the group—and I can’t remember if I slipped him in my pocket or if my grandmother gifted him to me. She died a few days before my 18th birthday. Whenever I look at the little rabbit I hear her laugh and smell her cigarettes. I’m transported back to my childhood.

They say “home is where the heart is.” Our homes, and the objects inside them, reveal secrets, memories, experiences and transitions within our lives. They’re the architecture of our identities. The things we choose to fill our homes with, and how we choose to display them, fundamentally communicate who we are.

'The home is the truest reflection of life which is kept on display. ' John-Paul Sumner, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Our homes are like museums of ourselves, and we are all curators. The beauty of curating our own museums is that we get to set our own rules. We decide what to acquire, what to keep and what to exhibit. And, often subconsciously, we decide where and how to exhibit these things. The foyer makes a first impression. The living room is where we show off. The bedroom is reserved for our most private collections.

Try walking through the door of your home like you’re a first-time visitor. As you pass through the space, build a picture of the person, or people, living there. What do the objects inside tell you about them? What does each room reveal? As the layers start to strip away, who do you begin to recognise?

Don’t stop there. When you visit other people’s homes, adopt the same museum-like sense of curiosity. Notice what’s been laid out for you to see. Fragments of souls will take the form of photos, furniture, ornaments and jewellery, scattered here and there for you to piece together and admire. Don’t hesitate to ask the curator about them—the childhood toys and holiday souvenirs are filled with meaning you can’t see.

My curiosity led me to hold a public exhibition where I asked people to bring in their most treasured objects and share their stories. From lucky chillies to optimistic barometers, adventurous teddies to inseparable rings, the objects people brought exposed parts of them I’d have never noticed otherwise.

Each person’s individual space is as unique as they are. The closer you look, the more you learn about them. Unlike the personal image we curate online, our physical property carries true stories that can create stronger connections between us. After all, being invited over the threshold of someone’s home holds a higher degree of trust than scrolling through their Instagram account.

By reflecting on the objects we choose to acquire, keep, display, and discard, we can start treating our things with the dignity and respect that exhibits in our very own personal museums deserve. We can get to know ourselves, and each other, better. We can discover that a little brass rabbit is so much more.


Follow Louise on Twitter at @louisemushet

Photo credit: Martin Sercombe (header)