Psychometry, Halloween, and museums

So last November, our Collections Technician, Kevin Maclean, told me about a story he had just heard on CBC Radio about a museum in Calgary's Halloween event. At this event, a psychic went through their Collection and "read" the instruments. I was very interested in this and the possibilities, and knowing who was telling me about it, I knew that though he may not be a believer, but that he was acknowledging that he wouldn't put a stop to this lightbulb in my head, as long as the Collection's safety was kept a priority.

Very excited, I began to have our different Katimavik volunteers over the last year, look more into this. I had them call the museum in Calgary a number of times (the Cantos Music Foundation for those in Calgary who want to check this event out) and learned from them and their research that there is a term for the reading of objects - psychometry.

It has been challenging in some ways, and easy in others, to find information on this topic. We finally found enough that the volunteers and I became quite excited about the possibilities but still had some logistical things to consider - how do you do this and keep the artifacts safe? where do you find a psychic with this ability?

I decided to put the latter question out to my world of Facebook friends and sure enough, a friend of a friend was recommended. We have met a few times and this woman is not someone whose career is using her abilities to do readings for people, in fact she has a wonderful professional career in our community. She explained to me the history of psychometry and she talked to me about how everyone has abilities but most of us are taught to ignore and turn off those feelings that we get. That first meeting though, she wasn't yet sure that this is something she wanted to do.

We met again last week, so she could try to read artifacts, as my last question to her had been, "can you read an object without touching it"? as of course, this goes back to the concern of the artifact safety and museum's rules of touching and handling artifacts as minimally as possible.

She came into this meeting and admitted to me that she did not understand why I was soooo excited during the first meeting, why people would care about this or be interested, but then she went and saw Body Worlds, a travelling exhibit that is currently in Calgary, and she said that not only did she want to read about the parts of the body that were explained in the labels, but she wanted to read about WHO each person was and their life.

Not coming to the museum world as a historian or a museum person, that is EXACTLY what I feel - often when I go into museums I am very disappointed in labels because I don't care that this object is "Jane Smith's hat that she wore when she lived in suchandsuch town from 1902-1918." I always wonder "who was Jane Smith? What was her life like? Would I have liked to have experienced her world?" etc etc.

So there we were, in the Education Collection room - a room filled with artifacts that are allowed to be touched, in fact we use them as much as possible to teach with because these are things we encourage people to touch and try......and she began to read the objects. I cannot tell you how exciting it was - even though we have nothing to prove what she was telling me was correct, and she noted frequently that she was telling me what she "felt" or "believed" but it could be wrong, especially because many people have handled these objects since the owner has, but there was sstill something interesting to put a face to these items, and to hear stories of these supposed individuals - if they were nice, mean, married or single, working or not, etc. It opened my eyes to museums and artifacts in a whole new way! Much of what she said was likely to be accurate, based on what we know, according to our one staff who uses the Education Collection the most and whom I brought into the room to help with this "test".

I, in fact, loved this so much that I would love to take her, or someone with abilities, to museums with me in the future.

I am very excited for Halloween - this will be such an interesting way to see and hear about our exhibit, and some Education artifacts that we will pull without showing her in advance, to get her to do readings to the audience. We have a lot of other things planned for that night, with the assistance of Trap\Door Artist Run Centre who is doing this event with us.

If you are curious to see this, tickets will go on sale on October 1st for the evening activities and will be $10 each. If you have similar stories or experiences, I'd love to hear about them and maybe include them in that evening, with your permission! Please share!