Museum of Everyday Life: Life in Lists and Notes, Coming Clean
It was decided that the note “Pants Off at Lunch?” would be exhibited under the category entitled “Brief Directives or Notes of Urgency.”
When the Museum of Everyday Life asked the world at large to send their old letters, notes, grocery lists, any and all written missives, it then had to curate and somehow organize what must have been a mountain of paper. And so in its current exhibition, “Life in Lists and Notes,” categories include, for example, notes left, and then found, in returned library books, “A Selection of Lists and Notes found in Sunnyside Queens by Vermonter Skyler Maguire” complete with map (close up, just below), singular items like a tally of birds seen in 2016 by a pleased birdwatcher, and one of a Parisian woman’s daily blood pressure recordings in her own hand. And so much more.
Some of the items on display are curious, droll, so very familiar or so very not, ancient or just-last-week. Headphones await listeners, providing short audios explaining the meanings and histories of black lists, no-fly lists, and shitlists, the latter a word that appeared in 1942, defined according to Merriam-Webster as “a list of persons with whom one is displeased or angry.”
One exhibition about Atul Gawande, famous doctor/author who in 2014 wrote “Being Mortal”about end-of-life decisions, shows he was notable even before that.
“In 2009 author Atul Gawande created a splash in the world of medicine with the publication of his book "A Checklist Manifesto” which argues for the use of checklists to manage increasingly complicated medical care . . . When he first became interested in the issue of quality and consistency of care in the setting of complexity, Gawande introduced the use of a 2-minute checklist prior to surgery into the operating rooms of 8 hospitals. The average number of surgical complications and deaths dipped by 35%. Use of checklists is increasingly commonplace in hospitals across America.”
One note left me heartbroken, an entry in a display of “Unfinished Lists”:
Beyond this main exhibition is another in the adjacent Milking Parlor Gallery, the equally fascinating “Coming Clean.” It’s an exploration of why and how we bathe. Among other adventures, visitors are invited to wash their hands with water from the shrine at Lourdes, France, or to strip (bathing suits allowed) in the tiny dressing room (curtain to the right) and then take the “Cold Plunge.” (photo below)
The Museum of Everyday Life. Rt 16 about 5.5 miles south of Glover, Vermont. Self-guided, some guided tours, free admission with donations appreciated. Check website for hours. Find it, see it, and as always, remember to turn out the lights when you leave.
(All photos by Susan B. Apel)
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Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.