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My story, Part 1 (October 7, 2019)

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog
mage from page 67 of "The Samuel Wilson Co.'s seed catalogue : plant, tree and live stock annual" (1899)
mage from page 67 of "The Samuel Wilson Co.'s seed catalogue : plant, tree and live stock annual" (1899)

When CFM launched in 2008, one of our first capers was recruiting museum people into Superstruct, the Institute for the Future’s Massive Multi-player Online Forecasting game. Over the course of three months, 7000 players transported themselves to a version of the year 2019 (then ten years in the future) shaped by malicious hacking, pandemic disease, food shortages, climate refugees and struggles over energy resources like oil and coal. Through blog posts, fictional news stories, video diaries and online projects,  players envisioned how they would respond to these challenges. Now that we’ve arrived in 2019, today’s headlines echo many of the game’s premises. As part of our ongoing celebration of CFM’s 10 year anniversary, I’m republishing the personal blog I wrote as a Superstruct player. “My World 2019” is a personal diary that illustrates how I envisioned myself living in this future. In this first post, originally published on October 7, 2010, I set the stage for my story. I’ll be publishing the subsequent episodes of my first foray into future fiction every Friday on the blog, starting October 11. I invite you to read along, and encourage you to start your own “diary” of your life in 2029!

My long-term “guests” arrived today, and I am already having uneasy second thoughts about whether this is going to work. Dr. Profesor Magnifico (Flaco) Cabeza and Dra. Dolores Fuertes de Cabeza are very nice people. They are from Ecuador, both former staff from the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales (Ecuadorian Museum of Natural Sciences) in Quito. He is a mammalogist, she is a botanist. My friend John knows them through a collections care course he taught in Quito, and when they needed a place to stay in DC, he talked me and Cliff into opening up our house.

If it were just a matter of housing two nice young scientists, I bet this would work fine. But they come with children! Ok, I might as well confess right now—I am not generally fond of children. A normal person would reflexively call Evita (8), Juan Pablo (5) and Chevre (2) “adorable.” I reserve judgment—they are beautiful, and shy, and for now I am just relieved that they are quiet and well-behaved. It is difficult for a couple who has never had children to adjust to having little ones become part of the household. Cliff always said he wanted to be a dad, but I am not sure that his instincts have ever been developed! And I, evidently, have none. The cats are extremely cautious (perhaps rightly so). Only Barsook, our chow, took to them right away, nosing them in the face (they are just the right height) and offering them his paw. Juan Pablo and Chevre, however, are terrified, calling him a bear (“oso”) and hiding behind Dolores’ legs. Evita seems cautiously enthralled, and Barsook has been following her everywhere.

And the paperwork! Residency permits to allow them to stay in our house. Health certificates to document that they are ReDS-free. Affadafits to immigration and naturalization attesting to their good character and intent to return to Quito when their Smithsonian residencies are up. As I signed these last papers, I had grave reservations, since I suspect it is a lie. Why would they return to Ecuador in these circumstances? The museum is closed for the indefinite future. Even if it reopens I doubt they would have money to pay Flaco and Dolores a decent salary. The threat of ReDS is much worse down there, and the school system is falling apart. For now I have resolved to turn a blind eye to that, and do what needs to be done to secure them for the present.

I am nervously rechecking my calculations on food, trying to reassure myself that all the work that Cliff and I have done to ramp up production will add enough to commercially available food to cover five more people. By digging up the entire yard we have captured 1200 square feet for the veggie garden. I have added three more rabbit hutches in the basement. (Heaven help me if the children try to treat them as pets. Maybe, coming from Quito, they are used to distinguishing cute animals as food from cute animals as friends?) The tilapia tank is up and running again, after last month’s disaster (the basement still smells faintly of rotten fish, but that is fading). I have ordered a dozen chicks and am plotting how to shuttle them in and out of the house each day. Technically illegal, by local zoning, but Ursula gets away with it. Then again, Ursula gets away with everything. As far as I know she still has avoided ReDS testing (on ideological grounds) and has not registered the three “relatives” who have come to live with her.

I had better get to bed—up at three to check on the boys at Badger Bakery. Iphan is a dear, but he does tend to get mesmerized by the industrial mixer, and forgets to take the dough out to rise. More later.

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