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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Warehouse 13 as a Museum #5: Using Artifacts to Heal

We all become attached to things for different reasons. I love the television show Warehouse 13 because it engages me, it has an amazing emotional capacity, and it has spoken to me as a museum professional.

In an earlier post (Warehouse 13 as a Museum #2: Can History Hurt?), I spoke about how history can be painful and how we have a tendency to lock away the “harmful” parts of history (sometimes in museums).

Inside the Warehouse…

The Warehouse does something special, though, for the characters. It is through their jobs, working with these painful artifacts, that they heal from previous wounds.

One of the things that ties all of the Warehouse agents together is loss. At the opening of season one, Artie lost the agents he was responsible for, Myka lost her partner/boyfriend Sam, and Pete lost his dad. Claudia (introduced in episode 4), lost her parents and brother (that’s a bit more figurative; he was caught in an artifact), and Steve Jinks (added in season 3) lost his sister.

It is through the collection of artifacts that the Warehouse agents find peace with their pasts. Artie watches his charges learn and grow, Myka makes peace with and resolves the mystery behind Sam’s death, Pete finds a father figure and makes peace with his mom, Claudia finds a father figure and a brother, and Steve finds a sister and makes peace with his mom. Wait, this is starting to sound like a trend.

Myka’s story, in particular, is interesting, as she was in DC originally to escape the past. I would say that she was living in the present at the time of the pilot. It was through her trips to the “past” through the artifacts (Pete had a semi-literal journey to the past to deal with his loss), she was able to heal and think towards the future. The Warehouse Agents don’t know what the future holds for them, but they still rescue the rest of the world anyways so everyone can have a future.

This isn’t a blog about Warehouse 13, though. This is a blog about museums.

Here is a theory of mine: Just like the Warehouse, a museum can be a place where we can process our grief and heal.

We build museums to heal. Think about the Holocaust museums, the Titanic museums and exhibits, the graveyards that have become museums, and the battlefields that have become museums. We call roads that pass through historic sites a Journey Through Hallowed Ground. Each is meant to be a memorial, a way to recognize and heal from the past, to inform the present and ensure a future.

Of all of the goals that a museum can have, I believe that this is one of the most honorable. Sometimes it is difficult, because it can elevate certain people or groups too high, but sometimes, after facing disaster, that is what people need to heal.

Have you found healing in a museum?

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