Travelling Objects is a project by Sarah Cullen for Montgomery’s Inn, a small city-run museum in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Montgomery’s Inn showcases evidence of early nineteenth century life in the region. Built in 1832 and named after its innkeeper, Thomas Montgomery, the Inn was a popular destination for travellers and for community meetings. After changing hands a number of times, and surviving plans for demolition, the Inn became the property of the City of Toronto.

This project introduces a novel way to engage with and learn about a selection of objects from the museum’s collection through letter writing. By “listening” to and imagining the stories these objects tell and acknowledging that there is not just a past, but a present and future for these objects, we animate them; they become lively. Production, exchange, ownership, and use all affect the way in which an object is understood. The meaning of an object may be transformed, manipulated and built upon throughout its history. This meaning may change as the object changes hands, is physically altered, as its usage changes, and depending on the context in which it is displayed.

Fourteen objects have been chosen, photographed, and printed as blank postcards addressed to the museum. Participants including friends of the museum, local historians, and enthusiasts near and far have written postcards from the perspective of the objects depicted on the front of the cards.

In the minds of the writers the objects have been “freed” of their current context. By taking the objects on a metaphorical journey they found alliances with other objects elsewhere, and their uses were broadened. The writers wondered what an object's life might be like in another place. Some took an object back to its place of origin - the carved wooden whimsey which went back to a tree, the sponge back to water, for example. Other objects went as far as Japan, the UK, and Italy. Some travelled together and some alone.

Over 80 postcards have made their way back to the Inn - with more on the way. They are all published here on this website and a selection have been printed as a limited edition collection.

The cinnamon bark tin is now back in the pantry, and the sponge is back in its basin, and the places they've been are in the imaginations of many.

This project has been funded by the Toronto Arts Council as part of their funding strategy Animating Historic Sites.

Sarah Cullen

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) Licence | 2021