Ghost in the Artifact: Object-Oriented Histories and the Archaeology of the Present

by Matt Spry

There’s a scene in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction where Captain Koons, played by Christopher Walken, explains the history behind a gold watch he’s delivering to the adolescent son of a fallen Vietnam War comrade. On its face, this scene is evidence that Walken is a great actor and Quentin Tarantino writes dialogue well. More important, though, it demonstrates that even seemingly mundane objects have interesting and sincere stories attached to them.


Since founding the Mobile Museum of American Artifacts (MMoAA) about two years ago, director Laurelin Kruse has explored the relationship between objects, the people who owned them, and the stories that bind them together. During a June 2015 event in Somerville, MA (co-sponsored by NEMMC), Kruse stood in front of the 1968 Cardinal travel trailer that houses the museum’s collection, and discussed its origins, objectives, and ongoing collection development.

The fuels that keep this traveling…

View original post 849 more words

The Unspoken in Louisa Hall’s SPEAK

My thoughts on Louisa Hall’s SPEAK for the New & Noteworthy book club at BookPeople.


What makes intelligence human? That is the unspoken question (branching off into a multitude of streams of related questions) throughout the cooperative narratives that span the course of over 300 years in Speak by Louisa Hall. First comes the diary of Mary Bradford, a young Puritan girl setting sail for the New World with her beloved dog as her companion and her unwanted husband in tow. Next are the letters of renowned inventor and mathematician Alan Turing, who dreamed of a “thinking” machine, to the mother of his schoolmate. Following are the letters of Karl Dettman, a German expat living in the US in the 1960s and programmer of a “speaking” machine, and his wife Ruth, a professor whose interests include the diaries of pioneer women and giving Karl’s machine “memory.” Stephen Chinn writes his memoirs from his prison cell, of how he found Dettman’s machine and gave it…

View original post 427 more words

It’s the End of the World…and We Love It!

My blog post and 2nd floor display for the End Of The World at BookPeople.


Processed with VSCOcam with n1 preset

Let’s face it: the world is going to end…and we’re obsessed with it. It’s all over our news, our movies, our television shows, even–especially–our belief systems. Whether it’s eschatology (a theology concerned with the final events of human history, or the “end times”), millenarianism (a belief in a coming transformation), the end of certain ancient civilizations’ calendars (as was predicted in English-language news media for December 21, 2012), Ragnarok (as was predicted in English-language news media outlets for February 22, 2014), Timewave Zero (having to do with calculating Novelty Time and reading the I Ching–I don’t understand it, but I sound smart mentioning it), mega-disasters, mass extinctions, global climate change, pandemics…you name it, we love it.

Well, we love to speculate on it. I’m sure once these come to pass, it will be quite unpleasant for all of us. And yet, we dwell on these unpleasantries to the…

View original post 620 more words