Conversing artifacts: an exploration into the communicative power of inanimate things [Full text]
Luciana Aenasoaie 
|Abstract: The present article argues for the evocative power of artifacts in heritage site exhibits and their ability to be recognized as active members of local culture, networks and practice, to embody and perform locality. Objects have the ability to speak, drawing on their previous social life and interactions with humans, long before they are displayed in museums. For artifacts to become socially and historically meaningful in the museum, curators have to recognize their potential to inspire conversations with and among visitors as well as the capacity of objects to seize control of story telling. Things produce and distribute knowledge, confirm and contest previously conceptualized worldviews, they speak to visitor personal experience and expectations, and give new meaning to history and heritage in changing political environments. This article argues that it is salient to account for the local nature of object life and experience; to understand that while heritage has become an international language that fosters conversations about the past in museums and historic sites, this discourse is constructed through different means locally. The restoration of the Neamţ Fortress soon after Romania’s accession to the European Union provides an excellent example of the way in which objects can index meaningful historical moments, stimulating debates about national and transnational belonging in times of political transformation. However, the Neamţ Fortress exhibit has been highly successful particularly because artifacts can be recognized as local actors in a precise and familiar network of people and practices.
Keywords: Exhibits, artifacts, history, heritage, knowledge production
 Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology and History, Museum Studies Program (MSP), University of Michigan. firstname.lastname@example.org.