The Souvenir Museum was founded in 2009, to provide a virtual repository for travel trinkets from around the world. This interactive art exhibit encourages individuals to contribute keepsakes they have purchased or acquired while on vacation that seemed okay at the time, but perhaps just didn’t work with the décor back home. The act of relinquishing the controversial or offending objects accomplishes several things: First, donors get rid of something they don’t want any more; second, the objects are recycled (hey, isn’t that something?); and more importantly, the cultural significance of the objects is preserved for future generations.
While many of the souvenirs — such as a sumo wrestling radish and Chinese New Year underwear — fall into the “What were they thinking?” category, there are a number of items in the collection that deserve special recognition for their cultural importance. Education, about different places and people, is an important aspect of this exhibit. We can all learn something about each other based on the souvenirs we sell, and the ones we bring home in our suitcases.
IN THE BEGINNING: Like most things, the Souvenir Museum began as an idea, or rather the collision of multiple ideas. Listening to National Public Radio one day, the founder and curator of the museum heard about the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia, which houses a collection of objects that represent unrequited love. Soon after, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was struck in the face with a miniature Duomo di Napoli — a souvenir sold by street vendors near the famous cathedral. Bam! It was a hit-me-over-the-head moment for the curator, too. The website officially launched on Dec. 14, 2009.
At this time, we don’t have a physical space, but plans are in the works for traveling exhibits, and eventually the acquisition of a state-of-the-art facility to hold the ever-expanding collection.