What can a fork tell about our history? Well, a lot, according to the Museu Particular project , by historians and museologists Àlex Rebollo and Anna Maria Andevert. The physical headquarters of the initiative was inaugurated on February 3 at the facade of the Rural Life Museum , in L’Espluga de Francolí (Tarragona). Throughout the year, this museum will display an everyday object each month in its display case and tell its story.
For Rebollo, responsible for the project and who also works developing cultural and heritage projects, the idea came from a series of situations. First, his relationship with the Museu de la Vida Rural, with which he had already developed projects independently, such as the exhibition The Dust Bowl. Quan nature is rebellious .
Then, the time isolated at home due to the pandemic: “You ask yourself things that perhaps you had not asked yourself before, such as, for example, what is the story behind the objects we use every day,” explains Rebollo. Hence the proposal for an “ethnology of walking around the house”, as stated in the description of the museum on the web, that is, explaining the origins, uses and culture associated with everyday objects.
The first piece exhibited in the Private Museum is a simple fork. In the window you can see the chosen object and a small poster with basic information about its history. But the museum also has its digital part on Twitter , Instagram and on its website .
There Andevert, who is also a cultural mediator, publishes articles (in Catalan, like all the museum’s publications) that expand the visitor’s experience and relate the object to contemporary art or pop culture, for example. In parallel, through the website of the Museum of Rural Life, the piece is linked to the collection , speaking of broader issues such as rural depopulation, feminism or ecology.
In the case of the fork, the museum collects in a Twitter thread the story of its origin, “a few centuries ago” (although this utensil is not millenary, like the spoon). Thus we discovered that in principle, the cutlery was not used to eat, but to hold and serve food, and little by little it became a tool for individual use.
Today, there are forks made of metal, wood or plastic, although the latter have their days numbered at least in the European Union : as of July of this year, their commercialization will be prohibited.
Permanent installation of gallows in the Museum of Rural Life. Museum of Rural Life. Throughout the year you can also see a tampon, a teddy bear or a plastic bag in the window, as well as other objects that Rebollo prefers to keep secret. The selection, he says, has arisen spontaneously: “I had the need to know why these objects are the way they are or how long have we used them”.
The historian and museologist wants to spin the pieces together so that they have a coherence, so that not only can he satisfy his curiosity, but also the museum goers and their followers in networks learn with the project.
For Gemma Carbó, director of the Museum of Rural Life, the proposal was a way of bringing the works in the collection closer to everyday life. In the museum, for example, you can see various pitchforks, instruments widely used in the field and predecessors of modern forks.
“It seemed like a good opportunity for the public to appropriate these objects that the museum guards, but which belong to everyone,” he says. Rebollo points out that what the museum does is choose an object and make it sacred.
“We are telling people that this sacred object is the same one that is in your kitchen drawer, in your closet or anywhere in your house. Cultural heritage is created by people and even the most everyday object also deserves to be in that category ”, he concludes.
Finding material on these so common objects is not always easy since, according to Rebollo, everyday life leaves little trace. “In the documents and history books the great battles and the great events are described,” he says.
To search for information for the exhibition, its main tool is the internet, but it is also helped by advertising from other times and works of art. “In many paintings we look at people, but they are surrounded by objects that are important for this project.”