Museu da Pessoa is Portuguese for Museum of the Person. But in English, the name does not carry to enormity of what Karen Worcman, founder and Director of Museu da Pessoa in Sao Paulo, is trying to do. The word Pessoa does not translate well into English. The closest I can see is that it means Peoples – where in English, we use this word to mean a group of people who have some commonality – a race, a specific culture, those from a specific experience. So, look again at the words Museum of the Person and see it from the Brazilian perspective. Only then will you understand why this museum gathers stories. Founded in 1991, it has inspired such museums in other countries, and corporations have used the same methods to gather the stories of its people.
When I talked with Karen Worcman, I asked her about how she brings fresh knowledge into her work. She mentioned the many books she reads (at least 3 at a time), the colleagues she speaks with from around the world, but she lit up when she spoke of her learning from the stories gathered through the museum’s work. She said, “I can’t read all of the stories, but I do some of the interviews and I read some of them. They are an enormous source into learning and thinking about how people live.”
She told of a woman from Amazonia, Maria del Lourdes. At five, she was given to an indigenous community where no one interacted with her except for the woman who gave her food. At seven, she was given to some relations where she was turned into a servant. Finally at 15, she returned to her mother. Her mother was not bad, only very poor. And when she arrived home, she began to see that everyone in the village needed to buy things, and so she began to buy and sell them to the fisherman of the village. She eventually became a mother herself and today runs a restaurant. “And she does this all with such life! I learned so much about this very resilient culture. I saw this woman and she made me think so deeply about us as women, about this kind of strength – strength in a positive way,” said Karen. She went on to say, “Within this story, you learn about the sociological, the psychological, and even the spiritual nature of the people of this story. It helps me understand Brazil.”
The Museu da Pessoa has archived thousands and thousands of stories. Imagine the knowledge hidden within them.
If you are interested in reading Maria del Lourdes’ complete story, go to http://www.museudapessoa.net/MuseuVirtual/hmdepoente/depoimentoDepoente.do?action=ver&idDepoenteHome=17919