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Warehouse 13 as a Museum #1

It’s no secret that one of my favorite television shows is Warehouse 13 (just read my first post, Wonder). It is smart, funny, has a heart, and often leads me down the history nerd rabbit hole. Warehouse 13 has an interesting way of presenting history — it does not always adhere to actual fact, but uses an empathetic fact and object lessons to help viewers feel the historical emotional truth that lies underneath.

Warehouse 13’s first episode starts off with an introduction to its two leads, Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), and Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock), “coincidentally” inside a museum. They both work for the Secret Service, and are there to protect the President. I don’t want to spoil the whole story, but I will tell you that the events send the two agents to a new job — working for Warehouse 13.

The Warehouse is a repository of objects that have been effected by the historical people and events that they are connected to. From ancient history to modern history, from folklore to literary figures, if you like a period of history, it’s probably been mentioned in the series. Every object has been collected because it does something weird. From a chair that makes people act out their deepest (angry) desires to a teapot that puts people inside of video games, to a kettle that grants wishes (or creates ferrets), every object does something. Artie, the agent in charge of the Warehouse, describes it like this: imagine giving Thomas Jefferson a radio. What would he have done with it? Artie says that after studying it, Jefferson would have probably locked it away. This is what the Warehouse agents do: snag (collect artifacts), bag (diffuse them) and tag (basic accessions), the unofficial catchphrase of the series.

This leads to a few of my own wonderings about museums.

When we put objects inside of our museums, why are we putting them there? To protect them? To protect the story they tell? To retell their story? To share them with the public (obviously not what the Warehouse agents are doing)?

What do you think? What is the function of the museum in this day and age?


One response »

  1. All of the above but maybe not always at the same time. I’m thinking of ancient coins and sculptures that were both preserved and shared with the public at the art museum we used to have on campus, where I was a docent at one time. Or, their exhibit of African pieces, common household items in some cases, beautifully adorned, that opened a window into sharing the story of the people who created the work and how art was integrated into their lives and how the act of putting these items in a museum changed them (the exhibit was titled African Art, Western Eyes.)

    And the campus cultural and natural history museum that has extensive collections of animal specimens but also houses an extensive quilt collection and registry for quilters in Michigan; both categories of items that are preserved but not public. This same museum produces a folk festival every year patterned after the National Folk Festival, which came to campus many years ago and is the precursor to the current festival. It really is a celebration of story tied to our region. I used to be on their board and we talked about a “museum without walls.”

    Lovely question. I enjoyed thinking about this. Glad I finally remembered to subscribe as well!!

    (Re-enactors, another multi-faceted approach to story in the context of artifact. I know a young woman who does this and I can think of another tour guide at a fort out west who told a great story of life at this fort through the way she interacted with the group, she brought history to light. I am smiling now as I remember this, thank you for being the catalyst.)


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