Upcoming Exhibit Aims To Tell Our Stories Through Our Stuff

Somerville MuseumPhoto courtesy of Bess Paupeck.

What if you could collect an object of personal importance from every Somerville resident?

That’s the driving question behind “Our Stories, Our Stuff, Our Somerville,” an upcoming exhibition at the Somerville Museum. Bess Paupeck, who’s part of the first cohort of community curators at the museum, has been dreaming up this exhibition for about a decade.

Paupeck has lived in Somerville for 15 years, and does program and arts production for museums.

“This exhibition is an idea I’ve been kicking around in my head for a very long time,” she says. “It’s a combination of arts production, the stuff we think about in museum work, like community engagement, and creating experiences for people and communities to learn from and grow from and come together over.”

What types of objects is Paupeck looking to collect for the exhibit? She leaves it intentionally vague, as she wants to see the myriad ways people interpret the call. Some of the highlights of items she’s been lent so far include a wedding dress from an 1893 Somerville wedding, a 1950s juicer, and a framed note from the city rescinding a parking ticket.

“What people celebrate, or what they’re interested in, what story they want to tell, is really what it boils down to,” Paupeck says. “I’ve been pretty tickled to see the different ways people are interpreting it, and the variety is as vast as the diversity of our city.”

Rather than typical object descriptions you might find at a regular museum, “Our Stories, Our Stuff, Our Somerville,” will feature the stories behind the items as told by the lenders.

Paupeck’s contribution to the exhibit will be a collection of Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone’s annual holiday cards that she inadvertently kept ahold of throughout her years living in the city. The cards chronicle the births and growth of the mayor’s children, and are distinctly Somerville treasures.

People can drop off objects to Paupeck this Saturday, Jan. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Somerville Museum (1 Westwood Rd.). She’ll then spend the next month curating the exhibit, which will be open to the public from Feb. 14 to March 31.