Readers, what if out of the blue the National Museum of Australia obliged you to choose – to lend to it to display - the personal possession most dear to you?
What if the museum insisted it must be the object that best tells the story of who and what you are?
What would you choose? How would you choose?
Most of us would struggle with this daunting task, just as the 2017 ACT Australian of the Year Alan Tongue did when the museum leaned on him to choose his core object.
"I could have filled a shipping container with things!" the former rugby league star said.
Then he went on to explain how in the end he'd whittled his possible selections down to three small things that could fit into a little display case. They were a glamorously gleaming bronzed football boot, a simple white ribbon and a tiny wooden crucifix. More about these dear artefacts in a moment.
Tongue was speaking recently at the grand opening in Canberra of the National Museum’s exhibition of objects chosen by the eight inspiring Australians chosen as state and territory finalists for the prestigious 2017 Australian of the Year.
This is the third time that the National Museum and the National Australia Day Council have combined to organise this kind of show of extraordinary objects chosen by extraordinary Australians.
The thinking behind making this collection, National Museum director Dr Matthew Trinca explained, was that objects precious to us are never just mere things. Instead these objects always bristle with stories about us.
Dr Trinca challenged the distinguished guests and media folk attending the exhibition launch with the question: "What would you choose that said something about you?"
This reporter, 71, thought at once of his ancient teddy bear, 72, my lifelong companion and confidant. But then, surely I could not be so heartless as to have him (so used to having the run of the house) shut up in a display case.
A vaguely similar thought had occurred to South Australia's 2017 Australian of the Year, Kate Swaffer. She told the gathering that "my dearest objects are my husband and my children" but that of course there could be no question of putting them on display.
And so instead, the author and advocate for living fulfillingly beyond diagnoses of dementia explained, her contributed object was a wooden seagull. It is a mobile, meant to dangle in the air as if in flight. And the beautifully crafted seagull does indeed seem to somehow be soaring, even though inside its case.
Ms Swaffer explained that she'd found it in a shop in the Adelaide Hills many years ago at a time when she was grieving deeply over the death of a dementia sufferer very dear to her. She said that the lovely object (today it usually hangs in her office) helped her enormously. It was inspired by the much-beloved book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which advocates soaring like a seabird to follow your own path to truth and freedom. She says the charismatic seagull reminds her to keep going, to fly in her own direction.
For this reporter the race to be the most striking of the donated objects was a race won, literally, by a nose.
Queensland's Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, has lent the National Museum of Australia a gigantic fibreglass nose that for 20 years has decorated his office wall.
For Fairfax Media the professor obliging posed beside his awesome nose, each of its mighty nostrils the size of something an animal might burrow in a riverbank.
Professor Mackay-Sim was chosen as Queensland's Australian of the Year (at the museum ceremony he said humbly that his nomination had at first caused him "shock, and horror" as he wondered whether he was deserving enough) for his research into how nasal stem cells may be used to treat spinal cord injuries.
"I found the original nose, this huge, striking nose, when I was staying in China in 1987,” he explained. “It was my souvenir from China. It was made of plaster. I think it was used as an artists' model.
"We subsequently made this [replica] from it and it's been hanging on my wall in my office ever since. It just represents almost my whole research. I've been really interested in many aspects of humans' sense of smell and of how it changes ... and then in how we can use it for clinical purposes.
"The sensory nerves of the nose are continually regenerating from stem cells in the nose ... and we can take those cells out and grow them in a dish and put them back into spinal cords."
The professor's research is giving hope to thousands suffering spinal cord damage.
The professor's nose is unforgettably big, but size is not everything in an exhibition of this kind. The Northern Territory's Australian of the Year, indigenous leader and businesswoman Andrea Mason, has donated a tiny, silvery, sports trophy.
She explained that she was "an unusually tall child" and a very athletic one with "raw talent". She went on to be a successful athlete but this dainty little cup, won at the North Kalgoorlie Primary School Sports Day in 1972 was her very first sports trophy.
"I'm 50 this year so I've had that cup a long time," she mused.
For her the trophy reflects her parents' emphasis on participating and always striving to achieve one's personal best.
Victoria's Australian of the Year, refugee, torture and trauma rehabilitation advocate Paris Aristotle, has donated to the exhibition a labyrinthine "mind map".
It was sketched in 1987 by John Gibson AM and outlines a detailed plan for Foundation House (the Victorian Foundation for Victims of Torture), the organisation Aristotle now heads.
You could have sworn from a distance, approaching the case displaying the vital objects donated by Western Australia's Australian of the Year, the businessman, philanthropist and anti-slavery crusader Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, that one of his choices was of all things a brick. Surely not!
But lo and behold the object does really truly turn out to be a brick. But it is not just any brick. It is a brick that tells a story. It was given to him by Indian villagers who had extricated themselves from the horror of bonded labour that included brick-making.
Forrest's other object (most of the eight donors seem to have found it impossible to choose just one item) was the Book of Declarations signed in 2014 by religious leaders pledging to strive for the end of slavery.
The NSW Australian of the Year Deng Adut, once a child soldier but now a lawyer, did manage to whittle his way down to just one object. It is a beautiful first edition (so well-preserved you'd think it was published yesterday instead of in 1876) of the collected speeches of compassionate British lawyer and politician Thomas Erskine.
Erskine specialised in attempts to defend unfortunate souls, including some charged with corruption and treason. Deng Adut bought the book when he was a law student and credits the book and Erskine with helping to expand his, Adut's, vocabulary and his understanding of the law.
Tasmania's Australian of the Year Rosalie Martin, a speech pathologist working in the judicial system, has chosen as her significant items a perfume chosen for her by a Fijian woman and two golden cowrie shells. The items represent for Rosalie Martin a formative period of her life spent living in Fiji.
The ACT Australian of the Year Alan Tongue, a former Canberra Raiders player and now a youth mentor and educator, speaks movingly of his donations.
With his honest features obviously a little sculpted by a thousand onfield biffings, Tongue says his most eye-catching donation, that gorgeously gilded and bronzed football boot, was awarded to him as the 2008 Rugby League Players Association Education and Welfare Player of the Year.
This kitschy but glamorous object (even the studs are bronzed!) shares its display case with Tongue's two other far more shy and self-effacing donations. They are a white ribbon (the kind sold on White Ribbon Day) representing his sterling campaigning against domestic violence, and a tiny wooden crucifix testifying to the Christian faith he says is the pillar of his core values in life.
Tongue, explaining the importance of the boot, said that among other things it represented a football career that been deeply meaningful for him, building his character ("I always tried to be an unselfish player") and fulfilling so many dreams.
These objects will be on display at the National Museum in Canberra until mid-February 2017.
Then the exhibition goes on the road. It will go first to the Liverpool City Library in Sydney, from March to the end of May 2017. Then it sallies forth to the Newcastle Regional Museum and from there to the Melbourne Museum.