When visitors see an object in a case that they have a personal connection to, they have an immediate story to tell. Whether it’s a soup bowl that looks just like grandma’s or the first chemistry kit a visitor ever owned, personal objects often trigger natural, enthusiastic sharing. The same is true for objects that people own, produce, or contribute themselves. Recall Click! participant Amy Dreher’s words about her pleasure in visiting the exhibition repeatedly: “I felt ownership over what was on those walls because I had been involved in it.”
Not every artifact automatically stirs a personal response. It’s easy for staff members to forget that visitors may not have personal relationships with many artifacts. Staff and volunteers who care for, study, or maintain objects often have very personal connections with them. One of the challenges for cultural professionals is remembering that visitors don’t come in the door with the same emotional investment and history with artifacts that professionals have and may not see them as obvious conversation pieces.