Bess Paupeck has lived in Somerville for nearly 20 years. Like a lot of residents, she loves the town she calls home. And like a lot of residents, she’s witnessed the community around her quickly transforming.

"The energy around Somerville, I felt that and really fell in love with that," said Paupeck. "And then something shifted. And I do feel a loss."

This gave her an idea.

"[I thought], I know what can bring us all together," she said. "Even if we’re, sort of, people who moved to Somerville three years ago or 90 years ago, we can all talk about our lives through our things."

As a museum professional, Paupeck is in a unique position to make that happen. She won a grant from the Somerville Museum and put out a public call, asking residents to loan her a single object — something personal — and share the story behind it.

"That process of allowing people to sort of curate their lives and then present something through a story, and then an object that goes with that story, it's really magical, and it's really special," she said.

The result is Our Stories, Our Stuff, Our Somerville, an exhibition that Paupeck calls "part installation, part community living room." At least one Somervillian says Paupeck couldn’t have picked a better place to do it.

"Many of us in Somerville have a disease," said Evelyn Battinelli, a Museum trustee and lifelong Somerville resident. "We fill the cellars with a lot of junk."

Battinelli answered Paupeck’s “call for stuff” with a curious item that even she can’t explain why she’s kept since she was in her 20s: A small electric tabletop washing machine only big enough to wash a single bed sheet.

"In those days, they used to have these big Washington's Birthday sales and there were these things that were almost giveaways," she said as she showed the object, which looks like a giant pressure cooker. "I paid five cents for that, brand new."

Nearly 600 items have been lent by some 75 former and current residents, including Martha Friend, whose home itself is like a museum. She’s an artist and collector of things, from religious artifacts to dolls, blue glass to mannequin heads.

"Objects can have tremendous meaning for people, and when you hear the stories behind it, you understand why," Friend said.

Case in point — the object her daughter, now grown, lent to the exhibition: A pencil case filled with dozens of notes passed between her and her girlfriends during their years at Somerville High School.

"Now they text, but back then, they wrote notes," said Friend. "They’re all folded up in very careful little patterns, then there’s little designs and then you open them. I mean, there’s a lot of artistry that went into them. And what a fabulous thing she kept all these years."

Paupeck’s hope is that presented together, all this "stuff" will create a unique, time-lapse snapshot of the town’s long and varied history. There’s a poignant emblem of the 19th century working-class masses who once crowded the city’s homes.

"This is a dress from an 1893 Somerville wedding," said Paupeck as she unboxed a vintage, rose-colored dress. "And as you can see, it’s only the top half. But this little note inside tells us why. It’s because they had to take the bottom and make clothing out of it."

An old letterman sweater from Somerville High recalls the halcyon post-war years. Trinkets from the gritty haunts that once occupied today’s hip eateries and cocktail bars are on display, too. And speaking of cocktails...

"We have several bottles that people have found in their ceilings," said Paupeck. "By virtue of all the renovation that’s going on now in the city, people are finding a lot of bottles — like half-full — from prohibition times, when things were hidden in the ceilings."

Included with each object is a small index card, where the story behind it is shared in the owner’s handwriting.

The hope, says Paupek, is to capture that unique spirit that made her fall in love with Somerville all those years ago, "and to try and create almost like a new Somerville by combining old and new together through this very common denominator of our stuff and our stories."

Our Stories, Our Stuff, Our Somerville opens Feb. 14 at the Somerville Museum — a fitting Valentine from Paupeck to her beloved home.