Laurelin answers all your questions and more
Q: Why a MOBILE museum?
A: Traditionally, people go to the museum. We're bringing the museum to the people. MMoAA's itinerant nature allows us to reach people whose histories may otherwise go unheard. This gives us the possibility of traveling to rural towns and ignored neighborhoods in urban area. It also allows people in X community to encounter the artifacts and stories of Y community. For example, the New Haven Parking Authority donated some old parking meters to the collection. For people in New Haven, these meters reminded them of the daily shlog of parking in a crowded, expensive urban place. When I eventually bring the collection to my hometown in rural Colorado, how will people respond to the parking meters? Will these artifacts evoke trips to the nearest big cities, Denver and Albuquerque? What kinds of memories will they bring up?
Q: Are there any kinds of artifacts you won't accept or include?
A: We're excited about pretty much any personal artifact, as long as it has a story behind it. We aren't looking for anything in particular, and we're mostly curious about what people would choose to put in a museum when the curatorial standards are so open-ended. Strong artifact submissions harness a memory, a feeling, or a moment in someone's life, and tell a story that's usually tangential to the object itself. Case in point - knitting needles that represent someone's love of knitting don't really tell us anything specific about the donor or their life. Also, we don't accept people's art works or crafts. We're looking for objects that have been worn and have a life of their own. However, there are always exceptions. Once, a woman named Anastasia donated a baby bib she cross-stitched for an infant boy named Joey, but by the time she actually met him, he was too old to actually use it. I liked this object because to me it conveyed how quickly time passes, the sadness of getting older, and love that's never fully expressed. There are no hard and fast rules to what belongs in MMoAA.
Q: Museums are institutions of learning and collection. What would you say the MMoAA helps us learn?
A: Most of the artifacts and stories in MMoAA are charged with emotion and sentiment, the sort that runs through us as we go about our daily business while being ever preyed upon by the BIG questions of life. At its best, MMoAA makes us realize we're all experiencing some universal human things, as divided as we become by the details and specifics of our lives. One of the most memorable MMoAA moments took place early in the morning at the Amistad Catholic Workers House in New Haven, CT during the daily breakfast service. I'd parked my trailer in front of the breakfast line and invited the guests (primarily homeless people and recovering addicts) to check it out. One woman was particularly taken with the Mourning Flower Journal (a widow's record of every flower she put on her deceased husbands grave). She said "wow, I really get that - my boyfriend's been in jail for two years and I know what it's like to be obsessed with someone like that." At that moment two women connected across time, geography, and class through this emotion of longing and love. Those small but powerful moments are what MMoAA's all about.
Q: What are your best stories from your time on the road?
A: Sometimes I sing and tell these stories at the same time (well, not at the same time, it's more a weaving type of action). Bring me to your town and I'll show you. In the meantime, I'll tell you I once drove under a cloud that looked like this while crossing the Kansas/Colorado border, and, after downloading multiple tornado warning apps for my iPhone (and some you're-a-tornado-busting-through-the-town games), I was bombarded with vibrations warning of impending severe weather and certain cyclonic doom. But I made it!! That's not one of my best stories, though, because it doesn't involve the chaos of other people.
Q: Do you sleep inside MMoAA? Where do you stay on the road?
A: I've only slept inside the museum once, at a Love's gas station in Arizona. Though the parking lot was quite empty, I parked next to a woman and her two sons, who were fixing their broken car. I immediately recognized this as a mistake, but because my trailer backing up skills were so limited at the time, I was too embarrassed to make the attempt to reverse out of the spot and into a more secluded area in the gas station parking lot. So I spent the night parked adjacent to them, listening to the family curse at the steaming engine of their car and discuss late night snack ideas. In the morning they were gone.
I stay with a local host in each city, ideally someone who is well connected in the community and can give me a lay of the land. This is super important for getting to know an unfamiliar place quickly and for making the important interpersonal connections that make MMoAA successful.
Q: Is there a way for artists or writers to get involved?
A: There is some talk of having an artist in residence participate in MMoAA at each location in some capacity. This could mean producing work based on the artifacts and stories inside MMoAA, or who knows what else. While this program hasn't been implemented or fully developed yet, if you're an artist or writer interested in getting involved, please contact MMoAA with your ideas.
Q: Do you serve food? I would like a grilled cheese please.
A: MMoAA does not currently have a food license. However, this is a fine idea, as it would make MMoAA's financial model more sustainable. In the interim, please consider donating to MMoAA so that we don't have to sell grilled cheese (the grease is not good for the artifacts).