The old wooden chest slowly disintegrates under the onslaught of years-lasting activity of the woodworm. One of the hinges of the once well-made lid is torn off, and the other hangs on a completely rusty piece of metal that reveals (only after cleaning the spider’s web on it) that it was once an iron. In an undefinable time in the past, someone placed cardboard under the lid. The cardboard was perhaps intended to protect the contents of the chest from degradation when the lid was no longer reliably serving its original purpose. However, the high humidity of the air did its thing. The mould found a breeding ground on the cardboard and this mould is now smelling and stinking characteristically and unmistakably from the entire contents of the chest. Seeing that the protective function of the cardboard is dubious, someone else tried to protect the contents of the chest with the use of a matter resembling something like a pulp. But, over the years, mice have torn that material into very tiny pieces and crumbs. They spread its fragments throughout the chest. So today, they are clinging on every object in the chest. Therefore, it is impossible to identify neither the exact type of protective material, nor whether it was inserted into the chest sooner or later than the mouldy cardboard. And under the remnants of these presumed protective means, there are (mixed with pervasive mouse excrements) yellowed papers of all ages and species, the legacy of several generations that put in the chest everything what they thought to be worthy of preservation for the future.
None of those who opened the chest to put something in, resisted the temptation to look down, often to the very bottom. But they usually did it in haste, only for a little moment, between other work. Consequently, as a result of the lack of time, discipline, attention and caution, they laid old documents next to new additions, regardless of their chronological order. Unfortunately, a significant part of papers in the chest was not dated. Thus, for future visitors, the first time the old things became the new ones, the second time the new ones were considered to be the old ones and the third time everything remained simply without chronology and out of time. Personal letters now lie next to receipts documenting the payment of fire insurance, newspaper cuttings alongside family photos and birth certificates. And here, between the death notice and the school report, the hand can touch something else than paper – what a things – a cut-off braid, a dead mouse and two baby milk teeth. That are authentic vivid archives of man, not organized into chronological and thematic series. That are archives of disjointed fragments and coincidences, a memento of the genuine past and genuine human history in which the former and the later are blurred and fuzzy categories. Such is the authentic past, as well as the present and the future that we are everyday facing.
Quoting this post (recommended format): SCHOLZ, Milan: The Chest Called History. Version 1.0. In: milanscholz.cz, published 11th January 2021, updated 24th January 2022, https://milanscholz.cz/en/the-chest-called-history/