Tassenmuseum II: 'I don't know any of these people'

I think my fixations at the purse museum are pretty predictable to be honest; I homed in on the luggage/travel-related paraphernalia, and the borrowed exoticisms and souvenirs.  Neither of the types of (very much NOT high-end) purse that I tend to collect were presented in the collection, but the themes were there.  First of all, luggage nostalgia:

What a great display. Recently, and I guess not coincidentally, vintage luggage has become more of an interior design standby.  I have a few vintage suitcases, ones that I've accumulated over the years (two small cases of my mother's from late 50s transatlantic travel, a striped 'Rev-Robe' miniature wardrobe case that I once carted awkwardly around one Christmas, to an ex-boyfriend's dismay, and a battered suitcase with decaying leather handle that I picked up for a couple of pounds at a North London charity shop).  For a long time, they've been In-Place-Of-Furniture. That is, they can store things and look vaguely charming, but also be picked up and deposited in the next home quickly.  Even in a permanent stack they will evoke that nomadic history.  

And that is the point of old, wheel-less suitcases.  Like typewriters, that other class of cultural relics that have been streamlined out of use, their once-function still broadcasts powerfully to us, even when they sit idle.  When I try to incorporate my parents' transatlantic luggage (I'm trying to stop them chucking the surviving crude wooden trunks) and their long-disused typewriters in my current decor, it is because these are my family heirlooms.  They are not just from the family, but they continue to be important because they display life-style qualities that I find crucial to my own sense of self: writing-for-work and necessary-travel (both of the tiring but rewarding kind).  Mind, they don't half collect dust. 

But back to the Tassenmuseum, this personal nostalgia suggests to me that what we find so hypnotic about the display above is not just the design impact of a Vuitton case, but of the stories entailed in their existence.  Another interior decoration tale makes this simply clear; a recent tour around a heartily-Vintaged home featured in the NYT included a comment (part of a personal collecting philosophy that pervaded the piece) by the inhabitant/curator, Deborah Lutz:
Vintage leather suitcases, complete with brass keys and other people’s initials, are stacked above her wardrobe. “I don’t know any of these people,” she said, “but I love the idea of their stories, of the lives we might have witnessed but didn’t.”
And that is part of the real and potential further resonance of this collection.  The impact of Schiaparelli's SS Normandie clutch lies not just in the astonishing translation of a monumental ship's prow into a personal accessory, with all the surrealist wit, marketing precision and wider design shifts that entails, but in the simple caption that tells us that one was handed to every first class passenger on the maiden voyage.

A bag is often most magnetic when it is not an empty vessel, but a vehicle for a bundle of personal histories, aspirations and nostalgic obsessions.

To be continued...

thevintagetraveler  – (2:40 PM)  

I'm jealous, but you know that already. and I hope to goodness we never meet at a flea market and one of those ocean liner bags appears. One of us would NOT survive!

Vintage Voyager  – (2:46 PM)  

Ha! the ultimate prize! No chance of that, though, given how many flea markets I've made it to lately (= none).

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