Because, as we surely all know by now, “memory” is the theme of this year’s International Museum Day. City Cafe is doing it up right — all this week they’ll interview plenty of other folks about memory in Atlanta’s museums.
John and I talked about my favorite artifact in the Wren’s Nest, pictured above and below. Brer Fox escorts Brer Rabbit to jail for stealing vegetables, and Brer Rabbit drops the evidence along the way. It’s an intricate Bavarian wood carving from the early 1880s. Plus, their heads pop off to better use as a humidor for tobacco.
The piece illustrates just how revolutionary these African American folktales really were. It was the first time animals walked, talked, dressed, and sassed like humans in American literature. Uncle Remus was like Aesop 2.0.
These stories were also the first serialized narrative in children’s fiction, where the animals exist in a kind of alternate universe. There’s no beginning, middle or end to the story. Brer Rabbit was like jumping from Turner and Hooch to The Wire overnight. It’s no wonder Harris had received this gift from Bavaria about 18 months after Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings debuted.
I’ll spare you more. That’s where City Cafe’s “A Visit to the Wren’s Nest” comes in.