Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reclaimed "Things" From Our Commercial Past

Claimed and unclaimed artifacts from the city's former Commercial Museum will be on display beginning Friday April 30 in a new exhibit at the Slought Foundation in West Philly.

The exhibit's curators seem to be considering some very interesting questions about cultural ownership, forgotten history, and the nature of museum collections.

But even more intriguing is the foundation's invitation to "members of the community" to borrow artifacts from the display.

You too can display remnants of foreign cultures (with no known provenance), in your very own home!

I wonder if the foundation would consider adding bar-codes and tags to these objects a la "Tales of Things," letting users create and track new memories for these orphaned artifacts. (For more on the "Tales of Things" project, check out the Center for the Future of Museum's recent blog post about it.)

You can read more about the Slought Foundation's "Commercial America" exhibit in this Philadelphia Weekly article, or on the foundation's web site.


  1. Hi Dana. Just a little shameless self-promotion:

    Last week, we (Independence Seaport Museum) posted a brief history and timeline of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, developed by our intern Katelyn Wolfrom.

    The Seaport has material in our artifact collections that was part of the Commercial Museum’s economic history collection (including mineral and manufactured material samples). We also hold several photo albums that the Museum produced, including a wonderful 1910-ish album containing interior shots of the museum, photos of school groups, museum departments and facilities, etc –- a total of 98 photos that we've also scanned and made available on Flickr (also thanks to the work of another volunteer John Armstrong).

    Photo album (c.1910):

    I found out about the opening of Slought's Commercial America project opening reception too late to attend, but I (and some others here at the Seaport Museum) plan to visit in the next couple weeks.

    Please keep up the excellent blog work! I've been following for a while now and recently enjoyed your post on 'Making Meals a Part of Visitors' Experience' -- a couple years ago, my girlfriend and I stumbled upon the NMAI cafeteria where we regaled ourselves with fry bread and fiddlehead fern soup. It was the inspiration for (mentally) redesigning the cafe of my maybe-one-day dream museum: the National Snack Food Museum (working slogan "Let History Spoil Your Appetite").

    Go history.

  2. Thanks, Matt!

    Those photos of the Commercial Museum are amazing. Interesting to see "traveling trunks" in use 100 years ago, too.