Intangible memory

Museums were and are never neutral places. They are subjective spaces, which often tend to be frozen in time or stained by time. The objects and the intangible heritage they are preserving, manifest omnipresent knowledge and stories that are often not visible to the naked eye but are affecting us when entering a museum space or depot, especially in those collections that are saturated in historical violence. These feelings and perceptions of the absent history live on in our narratives/insights, which haunt us in an unspoken way. They are generated by (collective) memory, which has a constant influence on the present and also on future decisions.

Jill Praus, 2023
I chose this term to add an extra dimension to ongoing debates around critical cultural heritage practices and collection history. It could add a critical gaze, especially to those collections that deal with decolonisation, restitution or the failure of certain futures. Intangible memory as such could probably be included in the definition of immaterial heritage. When museums look beyond individual subjectivities and connect diverse perspectives, they can avoid telling a single story. This led me to work together with my colleague Lina, who chose the term ‘herstory’ to illuminate untold stories in a museum. In the medium of a fairy tale, which tends to store certain knowledge and memory, we combined our terms to unveil dusted and historically grown structures. 

The ‘ghosts’ of the past could encompass collective histories for example of violence and exclusion, extinct lifeforms as well as personal narratives and histories e.g. of trauma. Museum depots are most likely to be frozen in time and tend to store those stories.

Jill Praus, 2023
Exhibition View Of Hum Ii (2023) By Hajra Waheed At The Sharjah Biennial 15
Exhibition view of Hum II (2023) by Hajra Waheed at the Sharjah Biennial 15.