If you see the movie version of “In the Heights” based on the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, you are likely to be wowed by the lavish dance numbers, moved by the stories of dreams and swept up by the fantastic music. Yet for me it was the poignancy of a collection of artifacts that show up in the film’s penultimate scene that will linger long after the images and tunes leave my head.
An artifact is something made by humans that carries some kind of historical or cultural value. A classic example might be when an archaeologist discovers some primitive tool used by an ancient civilization.
On a more mundane level, we are surrounded by artifacts – most often in our homes but in any space we inhibit frequently.
Every knick knack, picture, or household item that carries a story about who we are, what we’ve experienced, or what we love, is an artifact.
While I am not a hoarder by any means, I am a collector of artifacts that tell the story of my life. On my shelves, hanging on my walls, stuffed in my drawers, packed in boxes, you will find pieces of me that when collected tell you all you need to know about who I am and what I cared about.
Even these weekly notes serve as digital artifacts intended to be read each week but are always available to be discovered at a later date.
I suspect many people sprinkle parts of their lives throughout their homes or even online in the hopes that someone might ask about them – providing the opportunity for us to reflect on a wistful memory.
For those, like myself, with a limited understanding of their own family and cultural history, the desire to collect or leave artifacts laying around for others – especially our children – to find, may be even more pronounced.
As we begin to return into the homes of our friends and family, it is a reminder to take interest in the artifacts they chose to display. To ask questions, like “where did this come from?” or “what’s the story behind that?”
Doing so will likely bring a smile to their face and a good story to your ear.
Or simpler yet, just look around your own home, choose an artifact to focus on and watch a short film from your own life play in your mind’s eye.