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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: Frozen in Time

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on January 14, 2013 in Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic |

by columnist Madeline Karp

Welcome back to Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic, the weekly column where we discuss what’s going on outside of New England!

It is a little known fact that I spend far too much time on time-wasting websites like Jezebel, Buzzfeed and about.com.

Finally (finally!) my Internet addictions serendipitously came together with my education last week, and actually had something to do with museums! The story:

I was reading an article online about how to sneak a hook-up at your parents’ house during the holidays. (Why? Because it was there to read.) While skimming the comments, I came across this gem:

[Name Redacted]: Does anyone really in real life have a magical frozen in time bedroom at their parents house that they no longer live in?

Now, my parents no longer live at my childhood home, so my bedroom is more a combination of my current preferences with the tasteful, yet blasé beach house décor necessary to turn the room into a functional guestroom when I finally move out.

But to answer [Name Redacted]’s question: Yes! I know of a magical bedroom frozen in time! Back in 2010, The Telegraph shared this interest piece on their website: Parisian flat containing 2.1 million Euro painting lay untouched for 70 years.

Imagine! Not just a room, but a whole apartment in Paris completely frozen in time! It’s been 1930 in this space for over 70 years.

Now of course, most people were more excited about the Boldini painting found in the apartment than the apartment itself. And they should be. The work was a lost masterpiece and later sold at auction for 2.1 million (approximately $2.9 million USD). But, really, I think the most exciting detail of this story is that there was an apartment-sized time capsule just sitting in the 9th arrondissemont of Paris.

Many art and history museums work to re-create period rooms with furniture and objects laid out “as they may have been” at that time. But here we have an authentic period room ready-made! Are there similar time capsules in New York? Hong Kong? Sydney?

This is urban archaeology at its very best.

I don’t know what happened to this apartment. Sadly, a Google search yielded little information. My best guess is that the estate probably auctioned off many of the items – like the Boldini painting – and that the proceeds were given to the owner’s heirs. (Seems reasonable, right?)

But regardless of what did happen, I’m torn about what should happen to a space like this. Should such place remain privately owned, or should the heirs have turned in over to the public? And if so, then what? Conservators would probably say we should seal it off, like the Caves of Lascaux, and save it for future generations. Curators may suggest we split up the objects, sending the valuable ones to museums that focus on antique toys, artwork, or textiles from the twentieth century. As an educator, I would love to see the space preserved as is, and opened to the public as an apartment-museum – an apartmuseum!

If you encountered a space like this, what would you do? How would you use it to teach the public about the past? Would you ever consider sealing off your own living space to become a museum seventy years in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments!

To see more photos of the frozen apartment, check out these websites!

 

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