Means of transport and storage: suitcases and other containers for the memory of migration and displacement
Several exhibitions in recent years – in the ‘Deutsches Auswandererhaus’ Bremerhaven and other museums in Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States – have used suitcases (and ‘the suitcase’) as a central symbol and metaphor for the migration process. Based on a variety of examples, the article discusses the idea and the use of memory containers – and their function as archives – in the context of emigration, transmigration, and immigration. Suitcases are the most obvious material objects relating to these processes and the connected cultural practices. They are concrete objects, but beyond that they have been used as symbols and metaphors for the experience of travel and of dislocation. Suitcases often contained, and therefore are connected to, other items of memory storage: photographs and personal documents (letters, diaries about the migration experience – documents that have been termed, in a different context, ‘Schreibakte auf der Schwelle’ – acts of writing on the threshold); manuscripts, farewell letters (written on the boat, in border stations, in port cities), memorial and yizkor books, songs and poems, self-drawn maps which show the stations of the journey. An analysis of such ‘things’ – material objects which often carried an emotional value – and their representation in museums and exhibitions opens up a wide and rich field of research for the ethnography of migration.
Main Topic: Culture and Heritage Museums Jewish Heritage Immigration Holocaust Memory Oral History and Biography
Link to article (paywalled), Means of transport and storage: suitcases and other containers for the memory of migration and displacement
Means of transport and storage: suitcases and other containers for the memory of migration and displacement. 2014: 76-92. https://archive.jpr.org.uk/10.1080/1462169X.2014.898965