So... I have this awesome friend named Jess who is skilled in many MANY areas, and is always an inspiration to me. She didn't answer the challenge (found at the link below -- "Your Homework Assignment") in a comment box, but sent me an e-mail instead. I asked if I could share it on my blog and she said, "Go right ahead." So the thoughts that follow are from the talented Jess (a true Iowan, by the way: originally from Boone, then college in Orange City, then some time in our area of Iowa, then Spencer, and now Ankeny).
Growing up I was surrounded by things from family. My mom's house is literally FILLED with family pieces! I guess I've become a lot more mindful of preserving my family history because I've seen what it's like to not have one and I know my parents and other relatives are getting older and their stories will disappear once they're no longer living. So I always make it a point to ask about the 'old days' when I'm together with my relatives. It's almost like I'm nostalgic for a time I never knew. Here are four examples of how 'ancestral artifacts' have a place in my home. (Scroll down for pictures.)
1. Unaltered everyday use: my Grandma Dorothy's 1930s Watt Ware pottery mixing bowl. The story goes that this was my (paternal) grandmother's bread bowl. Rarely a day passed that this bowl wasn't resting full of bread dough to be baked to feed my dad and his 4 siblings. I still use it (not every day) for making cookies, cakes, etc. However, the hairline crack continues to grow and one day I'll be forced to retire it.
2. Altered everyday use: my Grandma Audrey's mahogany veneer 1930s desk. Now on its 4th generation of use, I recently stripped and sanded off 80 years of paint and wear. Too rough to restore to its original condition, it's now a little bit old (original mahogany veneer) and a little bit new (grey milk paint). I hope my daughter Emma gets lots of years out of this and passes it on someday.
3. Repurposed decoration: Grandma Audrey's embroidery hoops. Mom just gave me a slew of her mom's old embroidery hoops (probably from the 60s/70s). I will NEVER do enough embroidery/needlepoint to ever need all those hoops so I kept a few and turned the others into decorative orbs.
4. Unaltered decoration: Great-Aunt Mildred's 1915 Kodak Brownie. Great-Aunt Mildred Moul (pictured below at age 35) was diagnosed as an 'epileptic' at a young age. She lived with her parents until their death, From there she lived with siblings, then at the State Hospital in Hastings, NE, (still attached to her camera is a piece of medical tape with her name and ward number for her time there), and finally a nursing home in Fairmont, NE, where she died. It's due to her and her trusty camera that the Moul family has so many family photos from that era. The camera is beyond restoration but I keep it on display as a sort of remembrance of my great-aunt 'Mert' (her family's nickname for her).
In conclusion, (trying to sound scholarly 😁) the place in one's home for 'ancestral artifacts' really comes down to a) its value to the owner and b) its current condition. This is how I have found a place in my home for pieces at different levels of value and function.