Objects in Storage

Monday the 10th was a traveling day because had an interview in Ubrique with some women who were grandchildren of victims of the Franco period. When we spoke with one of them, Ana María, she agreed that we should try to find the objects from the dig she worked on about eight years ago. The last they were seen was in 2007 at the Museo Histórico Municipal de Villamartín (The Municipal Museum of History in the town of Villamartín).

Not realizing they were closed on Mondays, we called them after 10:00 to ask if they still had the objects. They told us they were not available or on display but when we told them that we were here from the United States and that we were with a university doing research, they told us to go ahead and stop by. This has been something we have found many times through this process: the people involved with recovery of memory in Spain are extremely interested in sharing information with just about anyone who is interested in listening. When we spoke with the director of the museum upon our arrival and he told us the museum was actually not open, he said, “…but what are museums for if not to help people learn?” Though not directly related with the dig or the memory projects, he represented the sentiment I got from a lot of people: they have a story to tell and they want people to hear it. Some of them wish that students in their own country would be as interested in this history as Kate and I are, would study it the way our class did last fall.

So the interesting thing about this particular trip was that we were looking at objects that were buried with the bodies of people who were murdered by fascists under Franco…but which were entirely unlinkable to particular individuals. As such they have the ability to represent just about anyone. And without relatives to give the stories to the objects, they have to give stories to themselves.

Buttons: They could be anyone’s buttons, but they made our professor immediately think about the buttons that weren’t there. Some people were taken out of their houses so quickly they didn’t have time to grab a jacket—or were told they didn’t need one.

Vest buckles: As the women we interviewed later that day explained to us, many people were told they needed to be taken to Cádiz (the capital of the province) to make a statement. Such people returned home to put on their best clothes before going with the officers. They were buried in those clothes.

Bullet: Pretty much tells its own story—but what about when we juxtapose it with the fascist-owned gun that Carlos Perales is bringing to show us next week, a gun that killed many and more people, but that the government let him keep because it was not linked to any “crimes.”

Picture frame: The museum director kept the best object for last. The picture frame is not only an object of remembrance in the context of our research because it was found on the body of a murdered person. It was also an object of remembrance for whomever carried it. It is completely inscrutable after having been buried in the ground for so many years, and as such it could have been a portrait of any fusilado‘s loved one. It’s an object that let them know someone out there loved them, much like the objects the grandchildren keep to remind them of the ones they loved—even if they never met.


  1. jameshamarquaila says:

    Hi Megan,
    I think your research is beyond interesting! The power of material culture to give life and voice to a memory that has been suppressed and oppressed is magnificent. I can also relate to trying to connect an interpretive memory to an object that cannot be directly linked to an established historical narrative. When I was interning at Mount Vernon’s archeology department we dug near the kitchen. On numerous occasions we heard interpreters tell guests that the kitchen was Martha Washington’s domain. At the same time, however, we could not find artifacts that justified this interpretation. From the artifacts found, the archeology department tried to evaluate if the kitchen space was exclusively Martha Washington’s or was it shared/dominated by the Washington’s slave cook Hercules and his assistants. From this we tried to understand what story, or memory, the artifacts (which could not be directly linked to George, Martha, or Hercules) were trying to present to us.
    I am really excited to hear about what else you find and what kind of memories you think that the object is trying to present.
    Jamesha Gibson