A Thing to Many; A Milestone to Others
By Daniel Paniagua
An individual acquires a lot of possessions over time. Some of them are tools used for everyday living, such as kitchen utensils and hammers; others are luxury items like jewelry and expensive branded clothing. All other things fall somewhere in between. Society has setup norms for what an item means and its function. People sometimes follow these norms unconsciously, so people often consume similar items as everyone else. For example, why do people wear jewelry and own TVs? While this underlying norm that guides people into buying certain things is important and very strong, sometimes an item is transformed into much more than what the normal person understands it for. For that individual, his or her personal item is much more than what it was designed to be or do. This is because emotion becomes infused in these objects, giving them much more value.
Ann Cvetkovich explains in, “In the Archives of Lesbian Feelings: Documentary and Popular Culture,” the idea of an archive of emotion. This goes against a traditional archive where an item is obviously very strong and prominent in an historical way, such as a document by a president or other important person. An archive of emotion is the opposite. It’s just a normal item that has an emotional attachment that then gives it significance. This is the same way many people’s prized possessions have value. Such as an ordinary baseball, that is passed from generation to generation, or a stuffed animal with an extreme emotional value. One huge emotional attachment is that these items represent a milestone. These items capture and represent an accomplishment and the journey it took to get there. An example we saw in class was the documentary Queen of Versailles starring David Siegel. In the documentary, David Siegel is in the process of constructing his mega-mansion nicknamed Versailles. It is obvious a mansion represents wealth, power, and success and anyone would be proud to own one, but to David Siegel it is worth even more. His mansion is to be a milestone. The journey of his business life has led him to build that mansion. It stands for more than just power and wealth to him. It stands for his personal accomplishment and that reason is why he is so reluctant to let it go. With emotions anything can be transformed into a priceless piece.
This is my SEIKO watch. I purchased this watch during senior year of highschool. At the time it was worth $500, but I had made a good amount of money through eBay merchanting to afford it. I didn’t have a job, so it was an accomplishment to be able to afford it. This was also my first major purchase with money I had worked for myself. To many people it’s just a watch, but to me it is more and I will never sell it. It’s a milestone for an accomplishment and I wear it proudly everyday. I also treat it as a “first of many” or “the beginning of something great.” Watches are luxury items and can exceed millions of dollars in price. They are often a measure of someone’s success (“Look at that guy’s Rolex,” for example). But to me, I treat the watch more as the beginning of my success, and to remind me that I have a long way to go before I can afford that Rolex and have it next to this watch.
This is my 1993 Ford Ranger. This car is my first car that I purchased with money I had saved up from working. Like many people, their first car is very meaningful, even though it is not worth much. I chose this as one object, because I believe that many people have this feeling towards their first car. No one ever forgets their first car and sometimes even it was horrible, people have soft spots and miss their car later in life. Again, this is because a first car captures an accomplishment; many actually. Learning to drive, affording your own car, and the beginning of becoming an individual adult. These emotions can cause a person to value something as much higher than what it means to others.
This is a souvenir I picked up in Colombia when I visited when I was 10 years old. Brand new, this thing was probably worth $3 but it’s worth much more in emotion. This reminds me of where my family is from and my visit to Colombia. I wouldn’t sell it for anything. This is much like an “archive of emotion.” The item itself is not worth much, but the emotions and feelings are priceless.
This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/