The Objects That Remain

Tainted Objects: A Conversation with Laura Levitt, Jacquelyn Ardam and Laura Levitt, LA Review of Books

For people who haven’t read the book yet, can you talk a little bit about the relationships that you make between the types of evidence that you discuss? What are the connections that you make between criminal evidence that exists in police custody and then the types of evidence that you’re interested in in museums and archives?

I’m really interested in tainted objects, objects that have been brushed by violence. I was looking particularly at the Holocaust Museum, and the conservators working there. They had to adapt the practices of conservation for objects from the concentration camps — shoes, hair, clothing — which are in many ways criminal evidence. They testify to the crimes of genocide, some more intimately than others. I am particularly interested in clothing — in Jane Mixer’s clothing, in my own clothing that was taken from my crime scene, and which I hoped was in police storage somewhere. I think these tainted objects have a lot in common, but what’s different is that the objects that are in police storage are not accessible to the public. Occasionally, criminal evidence can become available, but in most cases it is not. And so we have only our imaginations. We remember those objects but we don’t physically see them.