Treasured Possessions

In 2016, Postdoctoral research fellow Dr Kimberley-Joy Knight and Education and Outreach Officer Gabriel Watts from The University of Sydney node launched Treasured Possessions, a project that brought together socially isolated seniors in regional New South Wales to reflect on the emotional value of their cherished objects.

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Blending Dr Knight’s CHE research on emotions and material culture with community development principles, Treasured Possessions encouraged its participants, seniors aged 65‒94, to articulate their life experiences and feelings through objects from their own lives as a way of connecting with the past and with others. The affective value invested in personally meaningful objects was also used to foster connections between community and personal heritage and to show how seniors are a valuable source of knowledge and have much to offer Australian communities.

The eight-week project incorporated talks from historians and curators, museum visits, oral histories, memoir writing, filmmaking and photography and culminated in an exhibition entitled Treasured Possessions at the Wollongong City Art Gallery as well as a catalogue and memoir book.

Sharing research on the history of emotions encouraged the participants to think about the past in new ways, and with ‘things’. Learning how emotions shape history enabled the seniors to expand their emotional literacy and explore the capacity of objects to take on affective significance. Treasured Possessions was also supported by the New South Wales Government’s Department of Family and Community Services and a number of non-profit community and heritage organisations which helped to ensure that emotions research can reach isolated and disadvantaged community members.


Kimberley Knight, The University of Sydney
Gabriel Watts, The University of Sydney


Knight, Kimberley-Joy. 'Treasured Possessions: Public Engagement with Senior Citizens'.

Blog Posts
Knight, Kimberley-Joy. 'The Treasured Possessions Exhibition', Histories of Emotions, 18 August 2016.

Catalogue and Memoir Book
Knight, Kimberley-Joy, ed. (2016). Treasured Possessions (ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions/ FACS).