A crowdsourced history told through on a regular basis objects – art and culture



Even a button can tell a tale of love, loss or longing, whether it’s been around long enough. That’s why Aanchal Malhotra and Navdha Malhotra want people to have a look at on a regular basis objects with renewed curiosity. Their digital project — the Museum of Fabric Reminiscence (MMM) — offers its website and Instagram account as a space where people from across the Indian subcontinent can record their personal histories through extraordinary objects from their homes, thus contributing to a crowdsourced repository of tales from a collective past.

An thing will have to meet two criteria to qualify — it will have to date back to the 1970s or earlier, and it will have to tell narrative.

There are exceptions. A passport issued in 1989, and used to trip between India and Bangladesh, used to be included on account of the evocative nature of its tale. In the post titled The Blue Passport, Debabrata Saha of West Bengal speaks of how the document became both a symbol of independence and of loss for his grandfather and their circle of relatives, issued as it used to be by India to refugees who had been forced to flee the land of their birth.

“You’ll understand your history better by writing and talking approximately it,” says Navdha, who works in the social-impact sector and may be a ceramic artist. “This project encourages people to be empowered by their own histories. There’s a sense of pride and proximity that comes to the fore when people share their circle of relatives stories and see them available in the market on the net.”

A still-intact pre-Partition chequebook.
Saba Qizilbash

Harsh Aditya, 19, a college student from Delhi, writes approximately his mother’s ornate silver sindoor dani, and the tale at the back of it that unifies three generations of a circle of relatives. He’d been fascinated by the thing since he used to be 10, he says. Recently, he asked his mother where it used to be from.

His maternal grandmother had it made for her in the 1970s, his mother said. As the three generations sat down to discuss it, he recalls in his post how his grandmother’s face shone with pride as she spoke of the care she took to design, commission and pay for it. “Now this precious thing will be passed on to my sister,” he says.

Aditya goes on to talk of how his mother knows that this sister would possibly not wear sindoor, the thing is now a symbol of love, a hope for prosperity.

The MMM is populated with the images and tales of such artefacts. There’s a still-intact pre-Partition chequebook , a voluminous farshi or full-skirted garment taken by a young woman as she left Panipat for Pakistan all through Partition, and preserved by her circle of relatives there.

Started in 2017, the lockdown has boosted traffic and contributions to the digital archive, with 30% of its posts added since March. Upon submission, each and every post is vetted and fact-checked by Aanchal and Navdha; 20 posts also submitted all through the pandemic are awaiting upload.

“Objects aren’t just fabric things; they act as an entryway into reminiscence,” says Aanchal, a author and oral historian. “Reminiscence deposits itself in things. That’s why a familiar space, smell or thing can make you nostalgic. Our project encourages people to introspect approximately this feeling and voice it.”


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