CWU News

Artifacts of Identity: Ellensburg Exhibit Examines Migration through Mementos

'Things They Carried' Exhibit Objects

One of Mark Auslander’s most precious possessions is a linen his grandfather bought in Vienna in 1936.


His grandfather, a doctor in New York, had returned to his family’s village in Eastern Europe to bring his parents to the United States, said Auslander, who is director of the Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University.


“On his way back ... he bought four beautiful linens in Vienna,” one decorated with griffins, which symbolize the love of a married couple. He gave that linen to his wife, and it was passed down to Auslander’s wife a few years ago, he said.


Auslander’s grandfather returned without his parents. The entire village was later deported to concentration camps, where almost everyone died.


“That cloth was my grandfather’s dream of saving his parents,” he said.


Items such as Auslander’s linen may have little or no value to strangers, but the stories they embody are priceless for their owners. They’re irreplaceable — personal history made tangible.


A new exhibit opening Wednesday at the Museum of Culture and Environment features objects loaned by Kittitas County residents. “The Things We Carry” is set to run through March 11 but may continue into the summer, Auslander said.


“We are strongly considering extending the object exhibit through June because it looks like we may be getting extra objects,” he said. The museum put out a public call for items and their stories in September.


“The Things We Carry” takes an intimate look into the movement and migration of local families through their family’s mementos. Whether moving to another country, across the state or even a short distance, touching stories are often associated with items kept as a treasured memory.


Read the article in its entirety at the Yakima Herald-Republic.

--Published January 8, 2017