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Meaningful materialism : collectors relationship to their objects Kremer, Roberta A. 1992

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MEANINGFUL MATERIALISM:COLLECTORS RELATIONSHIP TO THEIR OBJECTSbyROBERTA ARNOVICH KREMERB.F.A., The University of Wisconsin - Superior, 1968M.A., The University of Minnesota, 1974A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESVisual and Performing Arts in EducationCurriculum and InstructionWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAMay 1992© Roberta S. Kremer, 1992(SignatureDepartment ofThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaIn presenting thesis these in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freelyavailable for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copyingof this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or byhis or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis forfinancial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.Date ,atiO /9,fZ_ABSTRACTThe shared language, attitudes, practices and patterns of those who participate in"collecting" in the lower mainland area of British Columbia are described. Recurringthemes and patterns emerge in the analysis of data obtained through interviews withthirty collector-informants. The generalizability of collecting as a phenomenon whichexists outside of what is being collected is established. Collectors' roles as curators andthe serious and consuming aspects of collecting, including the cycles of collecting,affection and sentiment held toward collected objects, and the strategies and approachesto the process of collecting are discussed. Propositions set out by previous researchersBelk, Danet and Katriel are examined in light of the data. Implications for museumstudies and museum education specifically, are considered.iiTABLE OF CONTENTSABSTRACT ^TABLE OF CONTENTS ^  iiiLIST OF PLATES CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION ^  1The Lacunae ^  8Goals and Objectives ^  15Assertions, Assumptions and Definitions ^  18Limitations of the Study  27CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ^  32Introduction: Research and Writing on the Person-object Relationship ^ 32Research from Material Culture Study ^  34Object Attachment ^  40Collectors and Collecting Examined within Museum Studies ^ 44Studies of Collectors and Collecting in the Social Sciences  49The Popular Literature on Collecting ^  57A Selection of Literary Work on Collecting  60CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH DESIGN ^  69Introduction ^  69Propositions and Approaches to the Data ^  69The Long Interview and Questioning Strategies  72Entering the World of Collectors and Informant Selection ^  76Introducing Thirty Collectors ^  79iiiCHAPTER FOUR: COLLECTING: THEMES FROM THE DATA ^ 93Introduction ^  93Collecting and Collectors ^  94Playing the Game: Collecting the Verb ^  116Ownership, Possession and Acquisition  125Object Attachment, Affection and Sentiment  142Collectors as Curators ^  147CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS ^  173Introduction ^  173Propositions Summarized ^  173The Process Summarized  180Implications for Art and Museum Education ^  184Need for Further Research ^  191Conclusions ^  196BIBLIOGRAPHY 200ivLIST OF PLATESPlate 1: Male Collectors charted ^  90Plate 2: Male Collectors charted  91Plate 3: Female Collectors charted ^  92vCHAPTER ONEINTRODUCTIONPersonal collecting, or the systematic selection, acquisition and saving of objects,constitutes one of the deepest and most committed forms of object attachment. It iscarried out by a wide range of the population, and constitutes a personal dimensionwithin the circulation of consumer goods. The significance of individual collectors to thelarger society is well documented. Collectors are the greatest single influence on thenature and existence of museums, they indelibly affect what is in our museums, which inturn affects our cultural representations. Yet, the attitude of museums toward privatecollectors is one of deep ambivalence. While the continuous expansion of museumcollections is still dependent upon the existence of private, individual collectors, suchcollectors are also the museum's competitors.' Considering the degree of involvementthat private collectors have in the formation of museum collections and how they affectwhole markets of particular goods, it is surprising how little academic work has focusedon collectors or on personal collecting. As Halpin, a curator states; "Who are thesecollectors? They are surprisingly hidden in public discourse, except as stereotypes, andessentially understudied by academics, except in the emerging field of consumer studies"(Halpin 1991, 1).Given that in the West private collecting preceded institutional collecting, onemight think that institutional collectors (curators) learned what collecting was and how to1 See Turner (1980) for a discussion of the private art collector asmuseum competitor.1carry it out from private collectors. There is no evidence of this tutorial relationship.The contemporary museum enterprise expresses little interest in the personal collector asother than donor, and benefactor, or in personal collecting as a significant human activitycarried out by large numbers of individuals outside museums.The following research will argue that a greater understanding of the impetus anddynamics of personal collectors and the process of collecting are essential knowledge formuseum studies because this form of object attachment results in the large personalcollections which both initiate and expand our major museums and fill community andregional ones. These collections, and, therefore, the collectors who assemble them, areinfluential in creating the "meaning" of objects in larger cultural settings. If we were notcollectively and personally "attached" to these objects, they would not remain in themidst of our personal and collective lives.Within the discipline of museum studies, whose research agenda includes the fullrange of museum topics, two topics have been avoided: personal collectors and theprocess of collecting; and the emotional attachment of people to objects, or the "love" ofobjects. These two topics are deeply connected. Personal attachment, affection, passionand sentiment toward objects are the primary differentiating factors between institutionalcollecting and that of the private individual collector.When referring to object attachment, to use the term "love" immediately placesthis work in the area dealing with human "sentiment"--an area abhorred academically forits association with sentimentality. The lack of research on "serious sentiment" andaffection toward objects is part of the denial of the power of objects that permeates most2academic material culture study (See Freedberg, 1989). In museum studies, work has,for the most part, ignored or denied the existence of "sentiment" as emotionally basedobject attachment. This sentiment, along with other forms of object attachmentexpressed by collectors, is part of what the following study will attempt to examine as itseeks to understand and study collectors and the process of collecting. Collecting is aprocess whereby collectors seek, crave, desire, admire, acquire, ennoble and venerateobjects. The study's purpose is to gain a deeper understanding of this form of objectattachment within the person-object relationship and examine this relationship in light ofmuseum practice.Material culture theories have focused on exchange, barter, and trade ofcommodities, but have, for the most part, ignored sentiment held toward objects.Equally, they have ignored the "passionate", "irrational" or "personal" motivations forobject acquisition. What is "sentimental" or "personal" is often considered idiosyncraticand has, except in studies of "traditional communities", normally fallen outside ofmaterial culture study. The fact goes unrecognized that objects can have "personalvalue" which may differ from, or even contrast to, that allocated by the larger economicsphere in which people and objects circulate. Personally valued objects affect, create,and interface with cultural spheres such as museum collections. As mentioned, evenmuseum studies has been neglectful of the emotional attachment of people to objects,and of the study of personal collectors in general; yet it could be argued that curatorsrepresent the institutionalization of private collecting.Within what is termed "popular culture" the intense emotive relationship that3occurs between people and objects, though invisible within the academic social sciences,permeates both fictional literature and everyday lived practice. The following researchstudies "collectors" and "collecting" rather than one aspect or group within the collecting"culture." It focuses, therefore, not solely on the elite collector of reified objects (thoseobjects deemed most likely to find there way into the equally elite museums), but studiescollectors in general. Individual collectors of many types of objects were selected forstudy because of their relevance to the full range of museums. Included in this range arelocal, eccentric, theme, community, natural history, and art museums.This study acknowledges, however, that the majority of personal collections do notfind their way into any type of museum. Rather, most are haphazardly dispersed, thrownaway or sold. Still, it is posited that these collectors exercise and act out the sameprocess as their elite and powerful counterparts, and express the same attachment to theobjects they collect. Any study of collecting would be incomplete if it did not includethem. One can only speculate as to what kinds of collections will "make it" into themuseums of the future. Of more direct importance is the need to understand andexamine the phenomenon of collecting--its generalizability, which stands outside of whatobject is collected. The following research asserts that, as a phenomenon, collecting canbe universalized over the object category: that the process of collecting is highly similar,regardless of whether the object collected is a Ming vase or a kitchen magnet.Based on thirty British Columbian collector-informants, the following researchasserts that individuals can be, and indeed are, deeply in love with individual objects andcategories of objects. Further, it asserts that this deep attachment or sentiment is4widespread and observable in collectors, and that an understanding of either the museumenterprise or the larger relationship of people and things is incomplete without arecognition of this dimension. As the literature will indicate with the exeception offolklore, academic denial of object attachment has spanned several disciplines. It hasbeen seen as a part of psychology, where it has been viewed as both fetishistic andphobic rather than as natural or widespread.Collecting is part of a complex social and cultural agenda regarding objects. Thenature of collectors' object attachment bears a direct relationship to the larger desire tosee, cherish, save and value objects collectively, hence collectors' well-documented rolesin establishing museums and even whole disciplines, such as art history (Alsop 1981).Even the relationship between collecting and history itself has not gone unnoticed.Yefimov, a photo historian, states, "Collecting practices and history are much moreclosely related than historians would be willing to admit" (1989, 2). It has been claimedthat history as a discipline was made possible by the increased interest in collecting inthe 19th century (Turner 1982). Before an understanding of the "content" of ourcollective "collections" is possible, a much greater understanding of the motivation andvision of the personal collector is needed; for, as Halpin states, "hidden at the heart ofthe museum, concealed by the ideology of public collecting, of science, heritage, andtreasures, is the quirky and passionate private collector" (1991, 5).In many instances, a whole wing or section of a museum may be devoted to asingle individual's personal collection; yet often that individual's interaction with theprocess of collecting--the role his/her collecting experience played in the personality or5content of that collection--has been under-studied. Once the collection becomesinstitutionalized, its personal significance to its collector is often absorbed or hiddenfrom view. The "personal" is erased in order to create the collective voice. Indelibly,however, that significance remains in the museum. Major museums built upon suchprivate collections confer credibility and legitimize the values expressed by theircontributors, therefore adopting even the goals of those private collectors. Turner, ahistorian, claims that this adoption of private collectors' goals has "produced bias incollections toward the rare, unique, decorative and finely crafted. These qualities inthemselves are not at all negative but they have often been pursued to the detriment ofother collecting goals" (Turner 1982, 87).As collectors have a particularly focused, deliberate, and observable attachment,they have been able to serve as a vehicle from which to examine the cherishing of andintense attachment to objects. Their common object attachment makes them a studiablegroup, in that collecting is pursued by a sizeable section of the population and applies toa wide range of object categories and types. The informants for this study are thirtydiverse collectors, within one historic time frame, cultural milieu and geographic space.In many ways, all thirty exemplify a deep personal involvement, commitment, belief inand passion for objects. Once these collectors were interviewed, and their data recordedand thematically analyzed, insights into the domain of private collecting could beelaborated, along with a great deal of material on the phenomenon of collecting.As the study progressed, much more was revealed about the connections betweenthe process enacted with objects and collectors' unique relationships with their6collections--a relationship which was understandably inseparable from the influence ofthe collecting process. Yet the process can only be understood as dependent uponattachment to the category of object collected.The findings from the data and the process of research took the work into its owndimension, resulting in a more descriptive study of collecting and the relationshipcollecting produces with the collected objects than was my initial intention. Much wasrevealed about collectors' actions, attitudes, affections, observations, and metaphorsregarding their objects. Collecting was described as a self-cultivating, creative, andentangling enterprise.This study questions traditional approaches to consumption and possession aspurely economic activities. Consumption can be a creative act, an act of resistance, aswell as one of personal definition--a place where an object's meaning is created.Collecting, an ultimate form of appropriation and recontextualization, greatly affects thesocial life of objects. By the same token, objects and their attachment can and do haveprofound effects upon individuals' lives. With the proliferation of post-modern work inwhich hidden agendas and hegemonic motives seem to underlie all institutions, it isimportant to establish and acknowledge that materialism is more complex than wasoriginally assumed, and that objects and their promotion can have a full range of bothlife-diminishing and life-enhancing aspects. This study contributes to the understandingof how individuals use objects in their continuous struggle for self-definition, meaningand mastery in the modern and postmodern material world.7THE LACUNAEThe need for research in this areaThere is a long and rich history of human reliance upon and involvementwith objects--those concrete, tangible things we have interacted with, used in the serviceof some kind of goal or mandate, or appreciated for their very existence, theirqualities, their presence. This engagement with objects, and the belief that it cancontribute positively to human cultivation, lies behind a wide range of differingapproaches to material culture. Yet our relationship with collected objects remainsunexplained, full of contradictions and deficient of any unified theory. Miller, anarchaeologist, attributes part of the incomprehensibility of the person-object relationshipto the everyday, "natural" quality of objects. He claims that: "The very physicality of theobject which makes it appear so immediate, sensual and assimilable belies its actualnature, and that material culture is one of the most resistant forms of cultural expressionin terms of our attempts to comprehend it" (Miller 1987, 1).As has been stated, part of our lack of understanding of this area results from thelack of academic research on the person-object relationship. Negative academicattitudes towards research on "things" have contributed to this neglect; with the exceptionof folklore, where research has occurred its focus has been limited. Influenced by aparadigm which separates the mind and the body, academic work has become more andmore "theoretical", detaching it from any connection to the concrete. Or, asKouwenhoven states in regard to the lack of significant material culture studies, "we have8been so preoccupied with words that we have neglected things" (Kouwenhoven inSchereth 1982, 81). Cultural studies have been classed as being either about people(culture) or about things (material culture). Discourse dealing with ideas divorced fromphysical things is seen to be most desirable and has resulted in "a growing second classstatus for those scholars who have persisted in making material culture a primary focusfor their scholarly research and professional endeavors" (Nason 1987, 32).This disdain for research which focuses on things is coupled with a disdain for thearea of practice or everyday lived experience and also contributes to lower academicstatus for research dealing with popular culture. Currently, the distinctions; between"high" (elite) culture and "popular" (low) culture are undergoing criticism. As Shudsonand Mukerji state, "the traditional division of high and popular culture has been apolitical division rather than a defensible intellectual or aesthetic one" (Shudson &Mukerji 1991, 1). Even though these divisions are being examined within the field ofanthropology and material culture, little work has been undertaken which deals with thisdimension. McCracken states unequivocally that "Anthropologists have been as preparedas anyone to speculate on their own society, but they have been fastidiously unwilling toexamine the ethnographic details of mainstream North American life" (1989, 168). Atthe same time, it is recognized that our culture is an increasingly material one and thatconsumption is a process which can potentially be used as an instrument of social andpersonal development. McCracken states:The logic, imperatives and details of this process of self and world constructionthrough goods are enormously understudied and are only now attractingrigorous study. As the contemporary culture has made material possessions9one of its most compelling preoccupations, it is therefore doubly odd andunfortunate that the study of the use of goods in the construction of the selfand world should have suffered such prolonged neglect (McCracken 1986, 80).Another factor contributing to the neglect of a full investigation of theperson-object relationship has been the narrow focus of work on the concept of"objectification." This concept has almost exclusively been applied to the relationship ofpeople to people or to people as things rather than on the relationship of people andthings. In the early source writings on objectification, Freud, Marx and Hegel includeobjects and the environment as significant sources of "objectification," or role models;yet, those who took up the concept later have focused almost entirely on people asobjects, a distinctly non-material approach. The study of objects as significant rolemodels has been excluded. As Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton state, "Socialscientists tend to look for the understanding of human life in the internal psychicprocesses of the individual or in the patterns of relationship between people; rarely dothey consider the role of objects" (1981, 1). This exclusion reveals our discomfort in thisarea of study and is evidence of the continued academic separation of studies involvingthe physical world from those of the metaphysical realm. Objects are posed asantithetical to ideas; things and ideas, the physical and the metaphysical are set up as adichotomy. According to Kubler, "The archaeologists and the anthropologists classifythings by their uses, having first separated material and mental culture, or things andideas" (Kubler 1962, 3). In this way, objects have come to be associated with the mind-body dichotomy.10The discourse in regard to "materialism," especially in anthropology, has alsolimited the conversation regarding the role of objects in lived experience. The approachto "materialism" has focused predominantly on the area of production as the primelocation of conflicting social relations, neglecting or tending to simplify consumptionpatterns. When social archeology and material culture studies have not focused onproduction as well, they have tended to focus on qualities inherent in objects (such asstyle), or on patterns of consumption or exchange, rather than examining sentiment orthe residual, personal effects of ownership, long term or lived relationship, orengagement with objects. Even within consumer studies, marketing, whose primary focusis on aspects of our involvement with the material world, has focused on the act ofconsumption, on business as a construct, and on economic theory, rather than on a livedrelationship with the goods or on their personal meaning once acquired. Consumerstudies researchers Wallendorf and Arnould state, "For the most part, modern consumerresearch published in marketing has not examined directly the phenomenon ofattachment to objects and the meaning of object ownership (Belk 1985) despite theinterest of certain of its forebears (Veblen 1899)" (1988, 531).Academically, the field of consumer studies has been perceived as falling outsideof the social sciences, revealing a basic attitude toward consumption as the domain of anapplied science rather than of a social one. Only recently have a small group ofconsumer studies and material culture analysts such as Belk (1982), McCracken (1989)and Miller (1987) used ethnographic methodologies in an attempt to study an expandednotion of both commodity and consumption in our present material milieu.11Another factor which has influenced the investigation of people and objects hasbeen the critique of Western culture which posits "materialism" as corrupt and bad. Thisposition has pointed only to the negative consequences of increased materialism, andsuggests that the relationship of people to things is, for the most part, neurotic orfetishistic, or entirely concerned with dominance and status. This perspective has been asignificant factor limiting the definition of objects to that of commodities. Growing outof a Veblenian mode of thinking, whereby objects serve primarily as self-advertisementand as visible signs of status, this view has dominated the literature to the exclusion ofmost others. As Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton state, "The field has begun torecognize that the eventual meaning carried by consumer goods is enormously morevarious and complex than the Veblen-like insistence on status was capable ofrecognizing. It now needs to take account of the alienable, moveable, manipulablequality of meaning" (1981, x). Thomas, a material anthropologist, confirms this when hestates,What is private and idiosyncratic is normally outside the vision of the socialsciences, but it seems important to recognize that artifacts can have peculiarlypersonal value arising from some association with an individual's biography.What passes largely unrecognized in both collective scales of value and in thesystemic dynamics of transactions is that this kind of value, like the heirloomstatus of the treasures discussed by Weiner, is not a principle of exchange buta principle that is excluded by, or is incompatible with, exchange; and in thissense it can hardly be accommodated by any theory that takes value to emergeat the moment of circulation (Thomas 1991, 31).Thomas goes on to suggest that the identification of this form of value could leadto a micro-ethnography that would relate the personal to the economic. The following12research takes up that agenda by studying the neglected area of personal collectors andcollecting--a personally and culturally significant form of object attachment.As the review of literature will argue, academic work in museum studies,sociology, anthropology, psychology, art history, and consumer studies has rarely focusedon the collecting phenomenon; yet all are areas with a potential interest in the subject.Few studies have examined collecting as a process, and no study has thus far looked atthe specific relationship collectors have with their objects. Almost no empirical datacould be found concerning collectors and their characteristics. As Treas and Brannenstate, in regard to serious investigations of collecting, "Scientific investigation ofcollectors and their motivation is fragmentary, and what has been published is largelybased upon speculation" (1976, 234).As a phenomenon collecting is one of the most dynamic and far-reaching of theprocesses that transform and create the meaning of objects--perhaps the ultimate form ofrecontextualization and appropriation. It is certainly a well-recognized pastime or hobbyin contemporary North American culture, spanning age, gender, and economicboundaries. Yet, little attention has been given to it even within studies of popularculture. Given the number and percentage of people who collect or who have beencollectors, it has been estimated that one out of three people in North America havecollected something at one time in their life (O'Brien 1981). It is an activity which offersinsights into the larger person-object relationship, and to the establishment andcontinuance of museums, therefore it cannot easily be dismissed. Rather, it can beargued that a great deal more work is needed. Belk, one of the few researchers doing13work on the topic of collecting, states emphatically, "no comprehensive integrated modelof collecting exists in the social sciences" (Belk 1988, 31).This research has some degree of application beyond that of very specific kinds ofcollectors. In some ways, we all are collectors, saving and caring for special objects. Itwill be argued that while the collectors studied have centered their focus on oneparticular category of object, and present an intensified acting-out of their attachment toobjects, they represent an involvement in objects which is shared by all of us in variousdegrees in regard to our personal possessions.Collecting is an act which is not only personal but political, inasmuch as it is"concerned with what from the material world specific groups and individuals choose topreserve, value and exchange" (Clifford 1988, 221).Declaring private collectors to be central characters in both the world of art andin culture more generally, the historian Pomian, speaking of the influence of one groupof private collectors in Italy, and of the crystallization of civic loyalty and thedevelopment of patriotism which that group affected claims, "It soon becomes clear thattheir role was actually a political one, as they had a very real, albeit invisible influenceon urban life" (Pomian 1990, 2).People collect that which relates to their subjective realities, so that what theycollect helps to define who they are, just as the reified collections which find their wayinto museums are "continuous sources of data about their varying constituencies, theirobjectification of the world, and their struggle for control" (Dominguez 1988, 7).14GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF THIS RESEARCHThis study focuses primarily on collectors as a vehicle to explore the person -object relationship, especially in the area of object attachment, and therefore hopes tocontribute to the understanding of the power and role of objects as shapers of values,goals and meaning This research sets out to describe the common lived relationshipsbetween individual collectors and the objects of their collections, and to describe howthose relationships are shaped by the collecting process.This study of collectors will relate to a line of research and writing in regard topeople's relationship with objects undertaken recently by sociologists aligned with theChicago School: Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton (1981), who studied meaningfulpersonal possessions; Miller (1987), who has studied the deep role that objects play incontemporary life; Belk (1988), a researcher in consumer studies, who has been one ofthe few social scientists who has done work directly on the topic of collecting; andMcCracken (1986) who has examined object attachment and individuals' curatorialrelationship to personal objects.The present study is part of and contributes to the work currently beingundertaken on the history of museum collections. Describing this "history" Pomianstates,This is the history which is reflected in changes to the contents of collections,to their location and to the context which each category of object is given, notonly by those belonging to other categories but also by the language used todescribe them. It is reflected too in changes to the way objects are displayed,15to their public and, last of all, to the attitudes of displayers and visitors aliketo these collections (Pomian 1990, 5).The accomplishment of these goals should result in a greater understanding of theintricacy and complexity of personal collectors, and of their entangled relationship to themuseum enterprise. This study will provide needed data and analysis which can be usedcomparatively to study changes in the nature of personal collecting over time and indifferent locations.This study should draw more attention to collecting as a significant, personal, lifeenhancing involvement. An understanding of the personal, social and cultural dimensionof collecting should result in an expanded and more substantive notion of the role ofobject ownership, thereby contributing to the development of a broader definition ofmaterialism--a definition which includes the emotive and personal dimensions ofownership and, therefore, provides a broader understanding of the ways in which we useour possessions to shape our individual and collective lives.In order to accomplish the broader goals, a set of more specific goals regardingcollecting will be accomplished. They are as follows: to establish the lacunae in regardto object attachment and collecting behavior; to establish and describe how collecting isdefined within the collecting "culture"; to examine collectors' relationship to their objects;and to examine how that relationship changes over time; to explore and describecollecting in terms both of an activity and of a relationship to objects; to examine howcollectors' relationships to their objects is affected by the process, time and cycle ofcollecting; to examine how collecting and the involvement with objects (or a category of16object) have altered the content, quality, and character of the lives of collectors; todescribe a "culture" of collectors, as the shared world participated in through involvementwith the process of collecting; to demonstrate the generalizability of research on"collectors," regardless of the category of object collected; to explore and describe whateffect collecting has had on the patterns of daily experience of the collector; and todescribe collectors' perceptions of themselves as collectors. In describing a "culture" ofcollectors, interaction among them is not implied; rather, each member participatesindividually in the languages and strategies which constitute their mutually-experiencedworld.In order to meet the study's goals, a set of working propositions will be drawnfrom the existing academic literature and literary work. These propositions will form thebasis of the questioning strategy. The interview data analysis will lead to a set ofpropositions regarding collecting, which in turn will be examined against eight tentativepropositions regarding collecting set forth by Belk (1988), along with those extractedfrom Danet and Katriel (1987). By this means, the analysis will build upon what iscurrently known in regard to contemporary collecting behavior.Having established the lacuna of object attachment and collecting behavior withinthe area of material culture study I proceed with definitions of relevant terms, adiscussion of the assumptions regarding objects and the person-object relationship asutilized in this study, and an outline of the study's limitations.Chapter two surveys the relevant literature for studies pertaining to theperson-object relationship, object attachment, the role of personal possessions and the17existing studies which have examined collectors in order to extract tentative propositions.Chapter three describes the research design of this study, the proceduresemployed in the selection of informants, the development of propositions, the interviewmethodology, the questioning strategy, and the approach to data analysis. It alsointroduces the thirty collectors used as informants in this study.In chapter four this data is assembled, analyzed and examined for shared themesand patterns. Here, the tentative propositions regarding collecting are examined againstthe interview data, new propositions are developed out of the data, and tentative onesare adjusted or clarified.Chapter five contains the concluding sections which summarize and discuss thenature of collectors' object attachment, the effects of the process of collecting on thatrelationship and the curatorial relationship collectors describe toward their collection.The implications of this research for the fields of museum studies and material cultureare discussed. Finally, the need for and direction of additional research in this area isoutlined.ASSERTIONS, ASSUMPTIONS AND DEFINITIONSEmbodied in the how and why of research as well as in its content is a set ofunderlying assumptions and definitions which become part of what is asserted within theargument. The following section discusses some of the relevant assumptions under whichthis research was conducted. It contains the definitions of key terms, such as "objects,"18"person-object relationship," "collector," "collecting," "collection" and "object attachment"or "sentiment."OBJECTS AND THINGSThe literature search presented in chapter two examines research from the fieldsof museum studies, psychology, social archaeology, material culture, sociology,anthropology, philosophy and consumer studies. Drawing from such a broad range ofdisciplines raises the problem of having to adapt to widely differing terminologies.Within each discipline, such terms as "thing," "object," "possession," and "artifact" eachhave a set of connotations particular to that discipline. Generally, a field develops aparticular terminology because it suits the questions, the methodologies, and the specificfocus of that field. To utilize only that work which has used the term "object" in thesense utilized by this study would, therefore be very narrowing. From one field to thenext, identical terms rarely refer to identical entities or concepts.Differences are sometimes subtle: sometimes one concept includes the other. Inthe case of "object," for example, the term "valued object" refers to attachment, while"possession" refers to ownership and a sense of "control"; archaeology generally uses theterm "artifact," where consumer studies would use "commodity"; psychoanalytical materialgenerally uses "object" in relation to a "subject." For the sake of clarity, then, the term"object" has been used to denote the broadest encompassing category of physical entity,subsuming all other terms.19The term "object" carries with it some rather complex semantic baggage. Some ofits possible definitions are: "that which is aimed at"; "that toward which the mind isdirected in any of its given states or activities"; "a person or thing to which action,thought or feeling is directed, as 'his object of attention"; "anything visible or tangible";"a material product or substance"; "a sight, appearance or representation"; "in Englishgrammar, a noun or substantive that directly or indirectly receives the action of the verbor one that is governed by a preposition"; and "in philosophy, anything that can be knownor perceived by the mind" (Random House Dictionary, 1987, 1335).Even those definitions which are no longer tied to a concrete physical entityallude to material origins. Dominguez states, "In these other uses and senses of object,process, interaction and relationship are always indexed-implied and constitutive" (1988,4). These definitions carry with them the implication of a force or of an associatedaction in which one "thing" is acting upon the other, where there is a receiver--"the onedependent on the actor/doers for a definition of self' (Dominguez 1988, 4). In the past,the generic common term "object" has implied a neutral, concrete, static, tangible thingwith a separate "existence" from its perceiver. This implication is currently being calledinto question. An object now is seen to have a fluid and changing "social life"--anidentity and perception which is not inalienable, but which are greatly affected bycontext. (See: Thomas (1991), Appadurai (1986)).Appadurai (1986), a social historian, defines commodities as objects which areperceived as valuable. Simmel (1978) uses the term "economic objects" to make thesame distinction. Appadurai argues that commodities are "things with a particular type20of social potential," and that they are distinguishable from "products, objects, goods,artifacts, and other sorts of things--but only in certain respects and from certain points ofview" (1986, 6). Certainly, both "commodity" and "possession" can be subsumed in morethan one of the definitions of "object" listed above.Since the terminology used to describe objects is the basic material from whichperceptions of those objects are formed, one's approach to that terminology mustinfluence any interpretation of the literature. In this study the term "object" implies theobject's ability to be socialized into a wide range of inter-connected entities such as art,commodity, and possession, as opposed to a role fixed by form or material. As it isutilized in this research, the term "object" denotes a perceptual construction consisting ofa concrete physical entity around which a boundary can be drawn so as to mark it off asa unit. A shell, a rock, a butterfly--even a person--becomes an object whencontextualized as such. In this study, an object is defined perceptually and by context asmuch as by materiality.THE PERSON-OBJECT RELATIONSHIPThe elements of "person" and "objects" are discussed above. How these elementsinteract forms the basis of the person-object relationship. The literature establishes thesignificance to the self of its lived relationship with objects, asserting that our veryselfhood is first established through interactions with the material world. "Thus the21things that surround us are inseparable from who we are" (Csikszentmihalyi andRochberg-Halton 1981, 16).A relationship is considered as an alliance or affiliation between the self and anobject or group of objects. Such a connection is active or lived rather than passive. It isviewed as encircling both the self and the object into a common space rather than asbeing a condition imposed upon an object, which names the receiver and so implies aunidirectional effect. For the purpose of this study, a relationship is always one in whichwe create the object and it, in turn, creates us: a diagrammatic representation of thisanalogy would have arrows pointing simultaneously at the self and at the object. (Thisperspective is also referred to as a symbolic interactionist one). Affection, interest,ownership, attachment, and possessiveness are all evidence of a relationship existingbetween a person and an object.Philosophical and psychoanalytical notions of objectification, one aspect of theperson-object relationship has dominated the discourse. For example, along with Miller,Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton draw their orientation toward the person-objectrelationship from that literature originally put forth by Hegel and Mead. As describedby Mead, objectification theory focuses on the role modeling aspects of the objects.Where objects serve as the other,inanimate objects could serve as elements of the 'generalized other' as rolemodels. Although the intent was on persons serving as role models, the earlywork did not exclude objects from this function. It is possible for inanimateobjects, no less than for other human organisms, to form parts of thegeneralized and organized--the completely socialized other for any givenhuman individual...any thing--any object or set of objects, whether animate orinanimate, human or animal, or merely physical--towards which he acts, or22towards which he responds, socially, is an element in what for him is thegeneralized other; by taking the attitudes of which toward himself he becomesconscious of himself as an object or individual and thus develops a self orpersonality (Mead 1934, 154n).As the modeling agent or object interacts with characteristics of the object,particular traits of the person are called out. Rochberg-Halton elaborates on Mead's useof objects as role models: "In other words, objects can objectify the self. In telling uswho we are, what we do, and who and what we might become, things can act as signs ofthe self and as role models for continued cultivation" (1986, 150). A simplistic notion ofthe relationship Rochberg-Halton describes is one in which the object serves the self,acting as an assist. This view belies the degree to which objects make up the frameworkof experience, which, in turn gives direction and dimension to our existence. The notionof a relationship in which objects are but the receivers of our actions places objects in apassive role--one in which they do not determine behavior, but only reflect it.As this research defines the person-object relationship, it is dialectic, existingbetween the person and the object--not as Freud would frame it, emanating from the selfto the object. Regarding the limitations of this Freudian type of psychoanalyticperspective, Rochberg-Halton states, "there is no room for aesthetic experience, that isthe experience of the inherent qualities of things" (1986, 15). 2This research views the person-object relationship as one which can carry a worldof meanings not reducible to the dynamics of the individual psyche. Rochberg-Haltonasserts the same position: "Objects have a definite character or inherent quality that will2 Freud was a collector of Middle Eastern Figurines!23have an influence on the possessor and that is realized through the transaction of personand thing" (1986, 155). Miller also attributes power to the physical presence of theobject as well as to the self in the construction of the person-object relationship. "Theimportance of this physicality of the artifact," he writes, "derives from its ability therebyto act as a bridge, not only between the mental and physical worlds, but also moreunexpectedly, between the conscious and the unconscious" (Miller 1987, 99).COLLECTING DEFINEDAt the present time two types of collections and collectors coexist: the privatecollection and the museum collection, the private-collector and the curator-collector.The private collection is defined in this research as one built or assembled by (through)the personal judgment and discretion of an individual whose collection, due to it'spersonal nature may not be known publicly. The museum collection is defined as acollection which belongs to an institution, public or private, which is mandated to save,exhibit, collect, sort, and preserve that which is assembled. The definitions of collectingwhich follow can be applied to both contexts.First and foremost, collecting is a process of construction--the upholding of anagenda in regard to a group of objects intimately connected with acquisition. It goesbeyond the securing of things to the assembly of another entity: the collector constructsthe collection out of what remain separate pieces. The labour of collection, whichusually occurs over an extended period of time, consists of searching, selecting, and24acquiring, all of which are directed toward the assembly of the product, which is thecollection. The term "assembly" means the fitting together of parts to form a singleentity. The collection is such an entity--the result of the labour of production--not of acomponent object but of the collection as a whole. As a whole--an object itself--thecollection can possess its own discourse and critique, as well as a value which springsfrom the labour, energy, vision, and aesthetic of its collector. The collection must beformed, created and constructed. The process of collecting is, therefore, a creative one.Collecting is a process of acquiring or assembling objects for a predominantlynon-utilitarian purpose.The trucks and locomotives lined up in the railway station carry neither freightnor passengers. Nobody is slain by the swords, cannons and guns on display inthe military museum, and not one single worker or peasant uses the utensils,tools, and costumes assembled in folklore collections or museums. The sameis true of everything which ends up in this strange world where the word'usefulness' seems never to have been heard of, for to say that the objectswhich now await only the gaze of the curious were still of some use would bea gross distortion of the English language; the locks and keys no longer secureany door, the machines produce nothing and the clocks and watches arecertainly not expected to give the precise time of day (Pomian 1990, 7).The act of collecting transforms an object's meaning from one determined by use,to one "like" art, where objects are destined for some type of display or arrangement.Part of the definition of a collection is that the collected objects are physically broughttogether in what can be deemed a "display." "Collectors with more modest means haveshow cases built, boxes and albums made or else clear a space somewhere for objects tobe placed, the aim every time seemingly being the same, namely that of bringing objectstogether in order to show them to others" (Pomian 1990, 8).25The act of collecting transforms an object's meaning from one determined by use,to one determined by ownership. As Benjamin, himself a collector, points out regardingthe collector, "his existence is tied to a mysterious relationship to ownership, to arelationship to objects which does not emphasize their functional, utilitarian value--thatis, their usefulness--but studies and loves them as the scene, the stage of their fate "(1969, 60). The object is acquired to own it, to have it, to call it one's own.Collecting differs fundamentally from simply saving or hoarding in that it involvesmuch more than simple preservation or accumulation. Hoarding generally involveskeeping whatever crosses one's path, in an indiscriminant manner. Collecting is moredirectly involved with the seeking of specific objects within a designated category, therebymaking it more rule-governed and purposeful--a game with strategies. Rules might beindividually constructed or shared by complex networks of collectors all "competing" inthe same collecting game. It is a process of seeking, attaining, and ordering. Whereverit is carried out, it is an accomplishment and an act of authority.The following is a working definition of collecting, a definition which will beexamined in light of the data: Collecting is defined in this research as the purposeful actof acquisition wherein objects show evidence of variation or seriality within a certaincategory or theme; these objects are kept out of the economic circuit on a temporary orpermanent basis and are given special status or protection by the individual or institutionthat owns them. They are contained, displayed, or cloistered, so as to not becontaminated either physically or visually.26Belk (1982), Kron (1983), and Danet and Katriel (1987) all emphasize theinterrelatedness of that which is collected, and consider collectors to be more selectiveand category-oriented than accumulators or hoarders. Belk defines "to collect" as "toacquire an interrelated set of possessions" (1982, 185). The interrelatedness of thatwhich is collected is often highly subjective, though, and may or may not reflect ordepend upon categoric structure which exists elsewhere. "Every taxonomy is governed bythe logic of things being collected" (Dannefer 1980, 401). A new and creative collectingcategory may forge entirely new connections and associations.It should not be assumed that money or leisure time are prerequisites to amassingsubstantial collections, as many collectors collect objects which are not purchased, suchas plant specimens or shells. What people collect changes, but that they collect appearsat present to cut across, economic, class, age, educational and gender boundaries. Eventhough collecting can occur institutionally, or as an occupation, this research focuses onthirty personal, individual, non-professional collectors--a collector being an individualengaged in the collecting process.LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDYAll research is executed under a set of general, specific and methodologicallimitations. This research is limited by the western historical and cultural specificity ofcollecting. More specifically this particular study represents a historically particularinvestigation of collecting as it occurred in the southwestern mainland area of British27Columbia between 1989 and 1991. How the practice of collecting in this place and timerelates to collecting in other contexts is not known.The history and cross-cultural manifestations of collecting are outside the scope ofthis research, owing greatly to the lack of comparative data. Some material does exist oncollecting in Israel (Danet and Katriel 1987), the United States (Belk 1988) and Japan(Backman 1991). The data and analysis from this study may be useful for futurecross-cultural studies of collecting behavior. 3A general lack of demographic information regarding collecting also limits thisstudy. It is not known, for example, who collects what, when they collect, or over howlarge a sampling of any population collecting occurs. It is not known if there are moreurban or rural collectors or if one geographic region or gender is more prone to collect.Nor is it known if demographic factors determine what object category is chosen. Sincethe focus of this study is on what collectors have in common, the general lack ofassociated research leaves corresponding gaps in what is known on the topic.There is no way to know how the thirty collectors I studied compare to othercollectors or to what extent they are representative. Informant selection was aimed atproviding a broad sampling of the collecting culture, and as statistical analysis was notthe intention of this study, thirty was deemed an adequate number of informants. Also,recognizing that collections occur of objects not considered part of the material domain,such as quotations or experiences, this study was limited to collectors of material objectsonly.3 See concluding section on the need for research in this area.28The focus on individual collecting behavior as defined in this study can be viewedas a limitation since collecting is a process which is dynamic and occurs in a context ofwider social actions. This research isolates a particular aspect of this behavior for study:collecting behavior which operates in complex personal, social, and economic systems.The time and space available for an academic thesis necessitates a limitingfocus--research simply cannot be all-encompassing or describe all aspects of a complexactivity. For example, this research did not attempt to find people who were no longercollecting, to study the complex social collecting networks, or to interview those who dealregularly with collectors, such as family members or antique dealers, any of which topicsmight warrant a study in itself.Hoarding or accumulating were not examined and were deemed outside the scopeof this study. This study may be limited because it seeks to describe a phenomenon andculture, but does not address psychological or psychoanalytical issues relating tocollecting, such as obsessive, phobic, fetishistic or pathological attachment. Such lines ofinquiry would be beyond the scope of the author's background, intentions and applicationin museum education.This research is limited to individual collectors and explores neither institutionalcollecting nor the large, organized and varied social world of collecting. Only non-occupational collecting was studied, as a part of the leisure activity conducted outside ofthe work world of each individual. None of the informants were "professional" collectors,making a livelihood by trading or selling that which they collected. A comparison ofdata on the institutional or professional collector and the personal or amateur collector29would be useful in placing and in defining the personal collector, but is outside the scopeof this study.One limitation which doubles as a strength is this study's interdisciplinaryapproach. Each discipline tended to make a slightly different use of terms such as"object," "thing" or "commodity"--a limitation which is discussed fully in the introduction.As a museum professional, I have a vested interest in not only a fullerunderstanding of collecting and collectors but also in the promotion and appreciation ofthe collecting phenomenon. Research undertaken toward fulfilling a particular agenda--that of museum education--provides the perspective from which to view the topic. Dueto its application to museum education this study focuses only on certain aspects ofcollecting. The applicability of the research is limited to material and economicanthropology, consumer studies, museology, popular culture studies, and museumeducation.The use of only one research instrument is a further limitation, as is the varyingcommunicative inclinations of the informants: some interviews were not useful becauseinformants were inarticulate, and the interviewer's own interest or energy affectedinterviews. Collectors who volunteered to take part in the study may be unusuallyextroverted; those considering themselves "collectors" may be unusually zealous. Eventhough an attempt was made to interview collectors whose collecting had progressed todifferent stages, no comparison was attempted between collectors and non-collectors.Also, the very fact that this is an analysis of verbal data poses certain problems.Collecting is defined not directly--by collectors observed behavior--but by their personal30verbal definitions. Because interview data is privileged, there is no way to determine theaccuracy of responses. It is on the basis of faith and intuition that the cooperation andsincerity of the informants is accepted and used.The study's research method involved collecting, categorizing and analyzing datasolicited from collector informants in order to discover cultural themes. The qualitativenature of this study brings with it a set of limitations: data analysis is limited by theresearcher's subjective decisions while organizing, categorizing and sorting; dataquantities are limited to those which could be gathered during a limited period, andthemselves are limited by the facts that they are specific to time and place, and that theyare obtained only from English-speaking informants.31CHAPTER TWOREVIEW OF THE LITERATUREINTRODUCTIONRESEARCH AND WRITING ON THE PERSON-OBJECT RELATIONSHIPIn some research areas it is possible to trace tidy theoretical lineages--a processwhich provides a comforting sense of "familial" unity to a body of material. Theliterature within traditional material culture study, however, does not suggest aprogression of developed theory. When compared, for example, to linguistic study,theory regarding the person-object relationship has been relatively stagnant andunderdeveloped. In order to explore theory which might be relevant to a study ofcollectors and to broaden the discourse in regard to commodities, it is necessary to reachinto a variety of disciplines, each of which touches upon, rather than focuses on, theoriesof the person-object relationship and the meaning of personal possessions. Ironically, themost comprehensive theoretical striving on this subject has come from philosophy, adiscipline which has dealt with objects in a most un-concrete manner and only, one mightsay, in passing.The following review ranges over a wide array of disciplines, each with its ownrationale for considering individuals' relationships to the "object" world. The first twosections examine the larger field of the person-object relationship and work done onpossessions, ownership and object attachment, of which collecting is one of the richest32and most intense forms. Then the review narrows to the specific work done oncollectors and collecting.The first section outlines the work done in anthropology by Douglas, whose workcalls for an expanded notion of commodities, and in sociology by Csikszentmihalyi andRochberg-Halton, who introduce and define the concepts of terminal and instrumentalmaterialism.The second section looks at the research in psychology and consumer studieswhich deals with object attachment, possessions, and personally valued objects. Itexamines early work which shifted from a perspective on attachment to objects as aneurotic phenomenon to one from which such attachment may be viewed as normativeand contributing to development.The third, fourth, fifth and sixth sections deal specifically with collectors andcollecting. The third section deals with the perspective of museum studies toward theprivate collector. The fourth considers the work done on collectors from other areaswithin the social sciences--areas such as consumer studies and sociology, especially thework of Belk (1988), Danet and Katriel (1987), and Treas and Brannen (1976).The fifth section deals with the popular literature on collectors, which includespublications intended for collectors, collecting club newsletters and popular magazineand newspaper articles.The sixth section includes several fictional, biographical and autobiographicalliterary works which describe collectors relationships to their collections. Chatwin's Utz(1989), Nabokov's Speak Memory (1966), and Fowles's The Collector (1963), for example,33provide useful source material for constructing propositions regarding the collector-objectrelationship.RESEARCH FROM MATERIAL CULTURE STUDYIn addition to philosophy, the social sciences (including material and economicanthropology), economics, archeology, sociology, psychology and consumer studies haveall dealt in some way with the person-object relationship. In some areas, such asarchaeology and material culture, studies on the qualities of objects (such as style orform) have dominated the discourse. Little attention has been directed toward therelationship individuals have with everyday objects they own or use or toward theemotive aspects of such a relationship.In archaeology, artifactual evidence is generally considered a reflection ratherthan a determinant of behavior. Generally, its literature has focused on the "use" ofobjects (a relationship of dependence and utility), or on certain objects or technologiesas determinants of cultural or social practice (Franklin 1990; Winner 1980).Anthropology has emphasized the abstract constructs of religion, beliefs and socialorganization, rather than material objects, as strong determinants of behavior. Forexample, artifacts have been "read" as receivers of social action and ideology whosesignificance is located primarily in patterns of exchange. The anthropological focus onthe larger collective domain of objects has emphasized the role objects play as socialmarkers in group definition, the stage they set in social relations, or their role in marking34position or prestige. In material culture studies, the role of objects in self-definition hasgone mainly unnoticed, even though, as Clifford posits, "Some sort of gathering aroundthe self and the group--the assemblage of a material world, the marking off of asubjective domain which is not the other--probably is universal" (1985, 238).In economic anthropology, objects frequently have been analyzed in terms of theirroles as commodities or items of exchange, or for their place in production and laborrelations (Hyde 1983; Levi-Strauss 1979; Mauss 1967; Ragnar Johnson 1986). Morerecent work has examined the historical and political-economic uses and meanings ofobjects (Appadurai 1986; Douglas and Isherwood 1979; Mukerji 1978). Writing onideology and objects, Mukerji states,objects are carriers of ideas and, as such, often act as the social forces thatanalysts have identified with ideology-as-words. Objects can help makeautonomous forces out of ideas by remaining in the physical environment longafter their production. They can create a setting for behavior (includingintellectual activity) that simultaneously encourages people to behave in waysthat take advantage of that environment and restrains them from acting inways that the environment frustrates. Material culture is not located in thehuman mind, although it shows the stamp of its creators and is known topeople through their senses; it does not gain its autonomy through free will orthe world in which people must function (at least until it is destroyed orreplaced by other goods) and to which they must adapt their behavior. That itcan be both a physical and symbolic constraint gives material culture aparticular power over human action (Mukerji 1978, 15).Most of the current work in economic anthropology and consumer studies dealswith a particular type of relationship with objects--that which falls under the generalconstruct of "materialism." Rochberg-Halton defines that construct as,35the self centered pleasure or status prestige derived from material wealth. Itremains true that not only is some level of material existence inescapable butthat material goods can act as genuine materials for the cultivation of theirpossessors. Hence the question of materialism is not simply one of physicalthings per se, but of the purposes embedded in and derived from things(Rochberg-Halton 1986, 180).In the anthropological literature--even in the area of material culture studies--fewworks deal with personal attachment to objects, or the changes that occur in individualsover time, because of their engagement with objects, as it has not been a primaryinterest of material culture studies. The role of objects and their effect uponself-definition has been taken up within the fields of human development, psychology,sociology and consumer studies.In anthropology, Douglas and Isherwood's work stands out as relevant to myinquiry. Their work on commodities, as laid out in The World of Goods (1979),emphasizes the social aspects of an individual's consumption of goods:We can never explain demand by looking only at the physical properties ofgoods. Man needs goods for communicating with others and for making senseof what is going on around him. The two needs are but one, forcommunication can only be formed in a structured system of meanings(Douglas and Isherwood 1979, 95).Here, Douglas and Isherwood go beyond the Veblenian notion of goods as markers ofsocial status and class, to a broader sense of the role of goods in social communication.For Douglas, goods are used to "decipher our social surroundings, locate our social self,and transmit knowledge about who and what we are" (1979, 116). Even thoughDouglas's work is not primarily concerned with object attachment, she does acknowledge36the ability of goods to serve as personal markers, thereby suggesting their role inself-definition. She emphasizes the neutral quality of objects which are transformed intoa multiplicity of roles, and therefore emphasizes, as does Appadurai, the fluid social lifeof objects. "Their uses are social; they can be used as fences or bridges" (Douglas andIsherwood 1979, 12).The implication of this literature is that individuals play out dramas involvingobjects which are externally controlled or manipulated by larger cultural systems. Whatremains unclear is that, within this larger field, individuals make choices and performindividually meaningful and purposeful actions regarding consumption. By collectingobjects which are produced and marketed for collection, collectors create rarity, sharethat for which they strive, and play out a group "game" according to informal, unwrittenrules. The perception of what constitutes a prize find is shared. Growing out of theabove literature the following propositions will be examined in this study: Collectors settheir own rules within the larger rule governing domain in which goods circulate. Notonly are objects social markers, they are also storehouses for individual experiences.Collecting is an intricate and structured form of social drama and often part of a largersystem or culture. Both socially and personally, collecting serves a communicativefunction.Until recently, in economics, consumer studies, and economic anthropology, theVeblenian notion of the role of goods in conspicuous consumption has been stronglyassociated with "materialism." According to Veblen, conspicuous consumption of goodsis seen as a means to enhance status and prestige by showing that one has money to37waste. Brooks (1979) proposes that, since Veblen's time, Americans have begun to seekstatus by mocking conspicuous consumption through parody displays, such as ownershipof pop art pieces that reflect satiric wit rather than pretentious seriousness (Belk 1983,515). At the heart of this negative definition of materialism is an association withostentatious excess. The implied assumption might be stated,If things attract our attention excessively, there is not enough psychic energyleft to cultivate the interaction with the rest of the world. The danger offocusing attention exclusively on a goal of physical consumption-ormaterialism-is that one does not attend enough to the cultivation of self, to therelationship with others, or to the broader purposes that affect life(Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton 1981, 53).According to this notion of consumption, the self is part of what stands to beconsumed. In the literature that deals with materialism, there is frequently animplication of danger, of a threat to the individual which occurs when objects becomethe receptacles of attention and of emotion. Linder, an economist, voices this attitudeconcisely when he writes:The acquisition and maintenance of objects can easily fill up a person's life,until there is no time to do anything else, not even use the things that areexhausting all of the energy (Linder quoted in Csikszentmihalyi andRochberg-Halton 1981, 53).Generally, this line of criticism presupposes that the pursuit of material goods occurs atthe expense of higher goals. As Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton declare, thisposition has been the dominant one:38Those who pursue the terminal end most fervently have a goal of becoming apure individual, yet can never satisfactorily attain this goal because they arealways dependent upon other people to appreciate their individuality and givethem the status they so desperately want. In terminal materialism theobjective end remains social, serving the purpose of a competitive comparisonwith other's goods, though the foundation remains paradoxically to approachindividualism, to stand alone and to be seen standing there (1986, 181).In terminal materialism, consumption becomes an end in itself; but Csikszentmihalyi andRochberg-Halton question the belief that this can be the only outcome and dimension ofmaterialism. Their research suggests that such a view is far too simplistic.Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton do not dispute the force of this "terminal"materialism or its negative impact; however, they acknowledge another relationship withobjects which is generative or self-cultivating, and which they term "instrumentalmaterialism."Instrumental materialism involves the cultivation of objects as essential means fordiscovering and furthering goals, so that the objects become instruments used to realizethose goals with "this type of materialism there is a sense of directionality, in which aperson's goals themselves may be cultivated through transactions with the object"(Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton 1981, 231). These two types of materialism donot occupy separate domains, but exist simultaneously, and are intertwined.Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton assert that individuals can and do realizegoals in and through relationships with objects and that objects can act as instruments forthe expression and development of the self. A proposition that will be examined in thisresearch is as follows: collectors, though defined as passionate in regard to their39collecting, are, for the most part, not consumed by their objects or by the collectingprocess.OBJECT ATTACHMENTAs it relates to this research, what has been documented in the area of psychologyregarding the major work by psychologists on the person-object relationship has focusedon the critical role that objects play in self-definition, and on the intensified relationshipof people to particular things, as in object attachment. In psychology, the bulk of earlyliterature regarding the person-object relationship focused on the fetish or phobic objectand on a relationship to objects in which attachment hinders growth or blocksdevelopment. The following section outlines the limited work done in psychology andhuman development which has to any degree examined object-attachment. From thiswork, tentative propositions have been drawn regarding collectors' relationships withtheir objects.Although psychology has recognized that transactions between people and thingsconstitute an important aspect of the human condition, the field has never formallyacknowledged the normative, constructive, or cultivating role of objects. Discussingpsychology's interest in material culture, Grauman stated, "psychology, at least inasmuchas it is the study of human behavior, has been and still is oblivious of the world ofthings" (1974, 390). He went on to suggest that, "the ubiquity and importance of thingsin our daily activities is depreciated and largely overlooked in psychology" (391).40In terms of self-definition, Goffman (1961) and Carroll (1968) have bothdocumented how the removal of the personal objects of institutionalized and mentallyretarded individuals results in the stripping of identity. In Carroll's work, suchdeprivation resulted in the patient attempting to reverse the stripping process bycollecting treasured junk objects from the normal world and saving discarded materialsof others.4 The loss of objects in fires, for example, is seen as a personal tragedy and aviolation of the self beyond the economic loss, and often results in a diminished sense ofself (Belk 1987). It is the emotional investment these objects represent which makesthem irreplaceable and invaluable. The following proposition grows out of thisliterature: Collections represent a large emotional investment; therefore collectors bothfear and are diminished by the break up or loss of their collections.According to Hsu, research from other cultures provides comparable illustrationsof the fundamental attachment between people and objects (Hsu 1985). Wallendorf andArnould state that, "although the meaning of self differs cross-culturally and varies in itslink with individualism, the fact that these conceptions of self are expressed to somedegree through objects seems to be universal" (1988, 532).In psychology, the literature on object attachment, special possessions, or theemotional significance of valued objects derives mainly from the pioneering work ofWinnicott, who first observed and described well-adjusted children's attachment topossessions (1953). The object, often a doll or blanket, came to be known as the"transference object." Rather than viewing the child's attachment to the object as4 See al so Thompson 1979.41neurotic or pathological, Winnicott viewed it as benign and useful to development. OnWinnicott's work, Meyer writes, "Winnicott saw special possessions as serving a crucialsoothing function, and facilitating growth during the earliest phase of development"(1985, 560). Building on Winnicott's formulation that a child's attachment to a firstspecial possession facilitates and is supportive of personal growth, Metcalf and Spitz(1978) have described the earliest special objects as "psychic organizers" or signifiers ofcertain essential developmental processes, such as memory, creativity and imagination.Tolpin's work describes the role of object attachment in self-actualization. Byimbuing an object with soothing qualities, a person eliminates the need for a secondperson to assist in that process (1971). The majority of the "object attachment" literaturehas focused on the moment of earliest object attachment, often viewed synonymouslywith the "substitute" object assumed to be the breast. Tolpin establishes the fading ofthe attachment to teddy bears and blankets as occurring around age six to ten, assuminglater object attachment to be pathological, relating to fetishistic attachment. Little workhas been done on a non-pathological or normative view of adult attachment, althoughone theorist, Vlosky (1979), found that adults considered well-functioning do in factreport significant emotional attachment to special possessions.A few theorists, such as Kahne (1967), Halpern (1968), Csikszentmihalyi andRochberg-Halton (1981), have written on emotional attachment to special possessions.Focusing on the meaning that individuals associate with special possessions,Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton establish that attachment to such possessionsoccurs throughout the life span. "It is apparent that attachment to special possessions42occurs at all ages, although the possessions themselves and their importance is of coursedifferent for an adult, an adolescent or a child" (Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton1981).In phenomenological and ethnographic studies, Meyers (1985) and McCracken(1986) examined attachment to special objects at various ages. Meyers reports anemotionally rich and intense nature of the attachment.It was obvious that such possessions are not static memorabilia, that they donot merely catch a moment for nostalgic reflection; at the time of theirgreatest importance, such emotionally significant possessions appear to reflectand influence the individual's growth, in a dynamic process (Meyers 1985,562).For Meyers, object attachment is a dynamic process involving interaction between theindividual and the object. She places it in "the third area of experience," which includesfantasy, creativity, play and imagination--those qualities which make us both unique andfully human (1985, 562).Sentiment remains more elusive and discredited than the wider concept ofobject-attachment of which it is an aspect. It is discredited even in it's definition, whichis often posited as a cast of mind, a position or an orientation--in this case towardobjects--which is "colored by" emotions. I wish to elevate the very notion of sentimenttoward objects, by defining it as judgment informed by emotions. Sentiment can be acomplex subjective judgment based on feelings or affection, or a complex emotional andcognitive response to the object. Sentiment remains one of the powerful responses to43objects and is usually associated with an investment. One direct result of sentiment is aprivileged status toward objects.STUDIES OF COLLECTORS AND COLLECTINGEXAMINED WITHIN MUSEUM STUDIESMuseum studies has not, as previously mentioned, "studied" the private collectoror researched contemporary collecting practices; however, a wide literature has recentlyemerged concerning the history of museums and the role that private collectors played intheir establishment. Dealing predominantly with the influential, powerful, or wealthyEuropean collectors and collections and the establishment of early private and publicmuseums. This is a very specific history of the personal collector; restricted to the elite,prestigious collector of reified objects. Pomian, who has written extensively on early elitecollections, describes the collectors as, "those who occupied center stage" (1990, 217).Alsop's (1981) study of private art collectors and their role in the establishment of thefield of art history builds an impressive case for crediting collectors with theestablishment of art markets, art dealers and the field of art history.The increased interest in early collecting patterns has resulted in the introductionby Oxford University Press of a journal on the subject which followed a majorpublication on the history of collecting (Impey and MacGregor 1985). Thesepublications, however, focus on institutional collecting and private collectors whose44collections became associated with early western museums Commenting on the renewedinterest in early collections Haskell states,The reappraisal of the subject (collecting) that has taken place during the lastdecade or so has been stimulated first by the willingness to study collectionswith respect to their values in their own times rather than to those thatprevailed later. In this respect the history of collecting has followed theexample of historical writing in many other fields (Haskell 1992, 27).Despite this increased interest, these histories have rarely focused on howparticular collections are shaped by the individual collector's vision and personality or oncollections that were made but did not impact upon the development of museums.Contributing to this literature is Pomian's study of private collectors in Paris andVenice from 1500 to 1800, in which he establishes the historically particular context ofcollecting and therefore also of the changing nature of what is collected, who collectsand why collecting occurs (Pomian 1990). For example, "between 1700 and 1720, 39percent of Parisian collectors took an interest in medals, either to the exclusion ofeverything else or else in conjunction with pictures, prints and assorted curios" (Pomian1990, 121). Pomian describes how new objects and previously discarded ones emerge onthe collecting scene, like Thompson's (1979), rubbish theory. Collectors play a significantrole in this process, often acting as the first catalyst for the revaluing of categories ofobjects. In this way, collectors serve to give objects new meaning, often by calling forthan aesthetic dimension, thereby turning the discarded into a new symbol--taking it upand presenting it in a new context.45By necessity, the individual collector is included in any history of museums Aparallel exists between the history of the individual collector and the construction anddevelopment of museums Most accounts trace the history of Western collecting fromthe wunderkammer, an early form of personal collection which contained what appearnow to be disparate things such as instruments, fossils, ethnographic and art objects--things made by the hand of man or God. The collecting project of the wunderkammerwas one of presenting a unified, wondrous universality. These collections were verymuch personal collections and stood to increase the stature of the collector as someonewith the wealth and worldliness to create such a collection. Travel was often an essentialand costly aspect of forming such a collection. These collections for the most part wereonly accessible to friends or other elites.The existence of community or eccentric museums attests to the existence of awide range of collectors, but their history is less documented. A few scattered accountsof the eccentric collections of non-wealthy Europeans attest to the existence of a widerrange of collectors at the time, but little is known of the collecting habits of this range ofthe population. It would have to be assumed that the only way a collector becomesknown is by the end-fate of their collection. Those not possessing a place in theacademic history "remain in the wings because of the modesty and thus invisibility oftheir collections" (Pomian 1990, 217). Save for a diary or journal the record of thecollecting of many is lost with the dispersal of the collection. Therefore the gap in termsof history from the elite, early European collector to the beginnings of collecting amonga wide range of the population has not been reconstructed. The history of collecting46must bridge class, geographic, cultural and historic differences to construct histories thatrun from the European wunderkammer to present day hockey cards.It is important to note that the literature from within the museum on the privatecollector differs over time and its nature is defined by what kind of museum the writingis coming out of, and what type of collection is being written about. A superiority of theinstitutional collector over the private collector is a matter of discipline and of historicaltime. The attitude of art museums toward art collectors, for example, differs greatlyfrom that of archaeologists toward archaeology collectors or natural history museumstoward collectors of natural history objects. Typically, more "equality" is afforded theprivate natural history collector by that field than the private ethnographic collector byanthropology curators. For example, in the directory of natural science collections ofEngland published in 1986 (Brewer and Davis 1986) all collections, private andinstitutional, are listed with biographical notes on each collector. Many directories ofmuseum "collections" exist within these specific kinds of collections, and special holdingsof museums throughout the world are listed; but the individual collector--often the singlesource of many of these collections--generally is not listed. Who has amassed thesecollections prior to the museum is not determinable from these directories.There has been and continues to exist within the museum literature a genre ofwriting which generally accompanies the transference of personally collected material tothe collective museum context. This literature focuses almost exclusively on the occasionof the gift, the donation of the private collection, the dedication of the wing or the"resurrection" of a seed collection on the anniversary of the museum's founding. An47article in El Palacio Magazine, in which an interviewer questions collector AlexanderGirard about his folk art collection at the time of the opening of the Museum of FolkArt in Sante Fe, New Mexico is typical of the twenty such articles I gathered. Girard'scollection of 106,000 pieces of folk art formed the seed collection and impetus for theestablishment of the museum. The article recounts how Girard's collecting began andprogressed, and speaks of his passion and appreciation both for particular objects and forfolk art in general. Phrases such as "mastermind," and "driving force" are used todescribe Girard's collecting (El Palacio 1982).A flourish of attention at the time of the donation occurs in the form of essaysand catalogues which focus on the "accomplishments" of the particular private collector.Distinction is publicly bestowed, the quality of the collection is praised; but rarely is anobjective appraisal of the contents done at this time. Most of the writing, even in thisgenre, is devoted to the objects themselves rather than the collecting habits or history ofthe collector. On one such donation occasion, the curator stated, "The unity of thecollection is temporary, and will be extinguished in October, 1991, when the pieces aresubmerged in MOA's African research collection (it can, of course be reconstructed fromthe museum's records)" (Halpin 1991, 1). This literature reflects the tension that existsbetween the present day collecting institution and the private collector. The aestheticvalue, its need within the larger collection (to fill out a collection) or its research "use"rather than the "uselessness" of the private collection is purposely called out. What oftenremains is the name of the collector as a identifying label, as with the "Katharine WhiteCollection" or the "Koerner Collection." These become associated because they are the48descriptors museums use in their discourse regarding the body of work; but thecollector's "voice" is not heard again, it does not appear on label texts. Not only is thecollection "subsumed," but the institution, often in the curator's voice, now speaks for theobjects.The meaning of a collection shifts almost imperceptibly as it loses its singleowner--an owner who does not need to justify to anyone the object's value or existence.In this transference can be seen one of the primary differences between the privatecollector and the curator-collector; which is continuity. Museums usually representpermanence where private collections have an end, and are most often dispersed afterthe death of the collector. In order to insure that the collection will stay together, thecollector must "place" the collection, although, in actuality, what the collector places,unless he/she can arrange otherwise is not "the collection", but the objects. The personalcollection is sacrificed--it is no longer an entity, a visual whole.STUDIES OF COLLECTORS AND COLLECTING IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCESGiven the estimate that one out of three North Americans collects something(O'Brien 1981), it is astounding that so little serious academic work on the process ofcollecting or on collectors' relationship to their objects has been done in sociology andconsumer studies. Although the collecting phenomenon is an extremely visible, intenselyinvolving form of leisure activity and a significant form of consumption, only recentlyhave researchers in consumer studies begun to examine it. As Trees and Brannen state,49"Collecting is a growing activity and represents a significant new market, but littleresearch has been conducted on the demographics of this market or on the factors whichmotivate people to collect things" (1976, 234).Most existing studies of the collecting process examine only one component, suchas "acquisition" or obsessiveness, or focus on only one type of collector, such as the coin,stamp or car collector. Literature which crosses over the object category of what iscollected to deal with "collecting" in general is rare. Only two studies located lookdirectly at collectors relationship to their objects, and cross over a range of what iscollected. Generally, a great deal more importance is attributed to the type of objectcollected than to either the process itself or the collector-object relationship. Myresearch suggests that collecting is a powerful human process that has generalizablecharacteristics regardless of the type of object collected.The two types of collecting which have the richest literature are those of art(Alsop 1981) and antiques. Generally, the more the object category is reified, the morehas been written about collecting that object. Even at that, though, no study could befound of who collects what, of when and where they collect, or of gender or agedifferences among collectors.The few studies undertaken thus far have been from theoretical perspectives anddisciplines as disparate as child development, consumer studies and sociology. Thosereviewed above serve to frame the present study; those which follow bear a more directconnection, and warrant a fuller commentary.50The growing interest in the sociology of leisure and popular culture studies hasspurred several significant works on collecting, of which Dannefer's study of vintage carcollectors is one. As a preface to that study, Dannefer explains how the world of oldcars becomes a field for sociological study: "By examining one such world, the world ofold cars, I consider how such objects come to be regarded as meaningful, how they serveto organize activity into a social world with its own internal logic" (Dannefer 1980, 392).His study included forty interviews and several hundred hours of participant observationat formal and informal gatherings of old-car enthusiasts and collectors. From hisresearch, he hoped to glean some understanding of the passionate nature of old carcollecting, which he describes as "a genuine and intense subjective attraction," whereinoccurs an almost religious veneration of the object. Dannefer finds that, among thecollectors he has studied, "affection and fascination for the collected material seem to bethe necessary and sufficient conditions, but the opportunity for self-expressionunhampered by the constraints of others is an added appeal of this activity" (Dannefer1980, 401). Here collecting is framed as an activity which is both creative andexpressive, with each collector placing the mark of his or her special interests on thecollecting activity. Dannefer claims that there is no rational explanation for this activity--that collecting occurs for the sake of collecting and serves no objective purpose; and yetthe objects provide an important subjective sense of certainty and order (Berger andLuckmann 1966, 199, 208). Perhaps most fundamentally, they are there: "their physicalpresence is unambiguous, fully plausible, tangible, testable, and continually reinforced.51Furthermore, its physicality is obdurate, independent of the enthusiast. It isunderstandable, definable and classifiable" (Dannefer, 409).Holbrook, an active consumer studies researcher, studied his own collecting ofJazz records, in what he describes as "an extreme form of introspective participantobservation" (1987, 144). He describes collectors of a shared object category asbelonging to a sub-culture and suggests that "deeply involved consumption may play acrucial role in shaping one's own sense of identity" (p. 145). In regard to his owncollecting activities, as he describes his consumption and devotion to his collection, heestablishes a principle of "deep involvement." He suggests that, "at very high levels andwith enduring involvement over time, (collecting) may be viewed at its peak as productenthusiasm shared by product enthusiasts such as car buffs, wine connoisseurs, or avidvideo garners" (p. 145). With the kind of enduring interest Holbrook describes, a majoremphasis falls on the product itself and the inherent satisfaction its usage and possessionprovides. To Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, this intrinsically motivatedsatisfaction is the very essence of leisure or play (1975). Further, in accordance withCsikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, Holbrook's description of his relationship withhis collection suggests the following proposition: collections and their display to the selfand others help to develop a self-image that lies at the core of one's personal identity.Men and women make order in their selves (ie. retrieve their identity) by firstcreating and then interacting with the material world. The nature of thattransaction will determine, to a great extent, the kind of person that emerges.Thus the things that surround us are inseparable from who we are(Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, 1981, 16).52Holbrook draws a similar conclusion through his implication that, without certainspecial objects, (chief among which are his records) even his house would not serve as aspecial place for the self: "Certain objects come alive for me, they make our house ahome" (148). This suggests the following proposition: that individuals' self-images aresignificantly connected to their personal possessions. Collections are among collectors'most meaningful possessions.Pearman, Schnabel and Tomeh (1983) interviewed antique collectors andmerchants from three states, using "an accidental convenience sample" (55). Using suchindicators as changes in the reasons for collecting, persistence in collecting, progressionor development in terms of the item collected, and the amount of money invested in acollection, they attempted to examine the effects of time upon the collecting process.They concluded that antique collecting is a form of social behavior surrounded by socialconstructions, and that collecting activities fit classifications both of work and of play.This unique placement as "serious play" will be discussed later as an important aspect ofthe collecting process.Because Pearman, Schnabel and Tomeh limited themselves to studying only onetype of collector, it is difficult to say to what extent their findings apply to collectors ingeneral. They found that the antique collectors they interviewed searched for newsources over time but that these sources did not necessarily reflect a trend towardgreater formalization. They concluded that more research was needed to determinewhether or not a clear pattern of increased formalization or rationalization occurs, butsuggested that the motivation of fun and pleasure persists over time.53Danet and Katriel (1986) (education and family studies) conducted a study ofcollectors in Israel. They were the first researchers to focus directly on a positive aspectof the collecting process. Referring partially to the acquisition of objects "for their ownsake" (1986, 8)--for their metaphysical rather than physical use--they define collecting as"a form of aesthetic behavior" (1986, 2).Danet and Katriel interviewed children and adults who collected a variety ofobjects. Their study took place over a two-year period, examining the meaningindividuals ascribe to their collecting and the satisfactions this activity provides. Theyfocused on differences in collecting behavior over the life span. Their researchinstrument was a fixed questionnaire, which they administered to fifty adults and thirtychildren. The research attempted to look sociologically at whether "types" of collectorsexisted, and if so, along what dimensions they might be classified. They asserted that,first and foremost, collection was, "a process, a commitment to an agenda" (Danet andKatriel, 8).In the analysis of their data, Danet and Katriel identify two types of collectors,which they term Type A and Type B, called, respectively, the Bureaucrats and theConnoisseurs. Bureaucrats stress relational strategies, thus investing in systematicity wellbeyond the initial steps of choosing a meta-category and following the principle that notwo collected objects should be alike. In contrast, the Connoisseurs base their collectingchoices predominantly on aesthetic principles: they are eclectic, placing their emphasison the qualities of the individual object (Danet and Katriel, 26). Even though Danetand Katriel's results are not stated in their study in terms of propositions, their findings54and their categorization of these two collector types will be examined in light of myresearch data.In 1986, Belk set out with a group of consumer studies associates on the"Consumer Behavior Odyssey," a project which involved traveling across America in avan observing everyday consumer behavior. Over a six week period, at swap meets, fleamarkets, shopping malls, and street corners, the researchers interviewed everyday peopleon a wide range of consumer studies topics. One topic to surface during this fieldexperience was collecting. The odyssey was a reaction to consumer studies' generally"narrow and isolated view" of consumer behavior--a view which fixates on the purchaseact or motivation, to the exclusion of the longer term effects of acquisitive behavior.The group encountered an intense involvement of popular culture in collecting,collectors' networks, and collecting activities, to the point that Belk observes, "possessingand collecting are two prominent alternative goals that transcend the acts of purchasingand consuming" (1982, 185).By interviewing and interacting with collectors, Belk developed a set of eighttentative propositions regarding collecting. Listed below are a list of these separatepropositions, each of which I will discuss more fully in Chapter Four in terms of my owndata.1. Collections seldom begin purposefully.2. Addiction and compulsive aspects pervade collecting.3. Collecting legitimizes acquisition as art or science.4. Profane to sacred conversions occur when an item enters a collection.555. Collections serve as extensions of the self.6. Collections tend toward specialization.7. Post-mortem distribution problems are significant to collectors and their families8. There is a simultaneous desire for and fear of completing a collection.As a study of collecting, Belk's work focuses upon the "acquisitive aspects ofcollecting", and is, by his own admission, only tentative: "The focus on collecting behaviorin this project was not sustained enough to allow a complete development and testing ofa theory of collecting based solely on these data" (Belk, 75). It is significant that some ofBelk's propositions contradicted the existing collecting literature. For example accordingto Belk's work, collecting is only partially defined by compulsive or addictive behaviors,tending to a much greater extent to be directed, disciplined, and connected toself-definition and goals.In a marketing study, Trees and Brannen (1976), examined collecting behavior interms of the growing collector market. They hoped to uncover some of the reasonsbehind the increasing interest in collecting and collectibles. Their research findings werebased on a questionnaire placed in a "collecting publication". Their research report doesnot include a full description of the nature or type of this publication. By contactingtheir collectors through one publication, they produced a survey of a particular "type" ofcollector rather than a sampling of the full range of collectors, many of whom collectidiosyncratic object categories. Without additional data, it is impossible to know howsuch a group relates to the larger collecting culture.56The works of Belk and of Danet and Katriel share many of the basic assumptionsfrom which this study proceeds, and bear most directly upon the structure and goals ofthis research. The propositions extracted from this body of literature were useful indeveloping questioning strategies and provide the starting point for analysis of theinterview data.THE POPULAR LITERATURE ON COLLECTINGThis section characterizes the vast, generally unscholarly, yet revealing popularliterature, which appears in newspapers, popular journals, collectors' newsletters andbooks on "collecting." More relate to the antiques trade than any other object category;but the sheer volume of material available attests to collecting's strong social element.The same material comments indirectly upon collectors' relationship to their objects, andmust be considered part of the literature on collecting. It falls into distinct categories:material written for the non-collector; writing which tells "how and what to collect";profiles and memoirs of particularly accomplished collectors (or famous people whocollect); and human interest stories of obsessive or eccentric collectors. There is also aliterature "within" the collecting world--articles which are mainly human interest storiesor "insider" stories and are aimed at collectors of the same objects. Representative ofthis insider literature is the magazine, 'The Inside Collector" which is published ninetimes a year and is devoted solely to collectibles. These publications often "feed" the57collector with stories of serendipitous finds or tremendous bargains or describe thecontents of a collector's collection.The story, "Another Collection Lost" (Country Life, October 1987, 188), about the"Lincolnshire Hoard," typifies the public interest in collectors. It concerns an individualwho collected two million objects, including, "almost every invention and device incommon use in the area of Nottinghamshire between 1800 and 1960." The collectioncontained, for example, the entire contents of a blacksmith shop. The story tells how,unable to house or manage the collection any longer, the owner was forced to sell it atauction. Poignantly, the article calls the man's collecting his "life's work."Human interest stories such as "Another Collection Lost" appear regularly, oftenhighlighting the excessiveness of the collector or the uniqueness of that which iscollected. Such literature reinforces the connection between individuality, eccentricityand collecting.Belk's computer analysis of this popular literature's terminology reveals its focus.His "Collecting Reference Concordance" lists key words by which the popular articles areindexed, as well as giving the number of times key terms occur within the articles. Belk'sanalysis reveals that popular collecting literature clusters around particular behavioraltraits of collectors. In descending order of frequency, the most commonly-occurringterms in the studied material were: instincts (22); mania (22); competition (19); prestige(18); legitimization (17); motives (15); hoarding (15); knowledge (14); possession (14);nostalgia (14); classification (13); security (13); disposition (12); and inheritance (12).58Collectors who appear in the popular journals usually have an "impressive"number of items, or exemplify a "hot" collecting item. Typical of these is an articletitled: "Glove Passion is out of Hand," about a collector of baseball gloves (Western News,November 9, 1988). Such articles often use an unusual collection as a symbol ofindividualism and eccentricity, disregarding the fact that such collectors sometimesbelong to large networks of collectors of similar objects. Another of this category ofarticle is: "King of the Lunch Box Collectors" which tells of a collector whose smallapartment houses 1500 lunch boxes (Shaper 1989, 14). When famous local people ornational or international celebrities collect, their collecting habits attract particularattention: articles which describe Burt Reynolds' frog collecting or Bill Cosby's artcollection or Andy Warhol's collection of cookie jars are also part of this genre ofcollecting literature.Many stories emphasize the economic aspect of collecting--the often astronomicalappreciation in value of collected items. The following article, about a postage stampcollection, exemplifies such a focus: "On Friday Wall Street announced it will issue 3.9million shares for two more collections of South Arabian stamps valued at $386 millionretail. No tonnage figures were provided at this time" (Vancouver Sun, April, 1990).Although an extensive search of material of this type was beyond the scope of thisreview, such material has great potential for analysis in its own right, especially in termsof the commodity aspect of collecting (collecting as an economic strategy), or publicreaction to collectors and collections.59Books such as Munsey's Illustrated Guide to the Collectibles of Coca Cola (1972)and H.D. and F.L. McCallum's The Wire that Fenced the West (1965), a history of barbedwire, are examples of "how-and-what-to-collect" collecting literature. Each includes ahistory of the thing collected and maps out the full terrain of possible acquisitions.Alsop claims that "the invariable presence of a history of the things collected is easy toexplain. In some cases, the history has actually generated the collectors category" (1981,103). In others the collectors' category has generated the history. Both cases occur inthe publications such as Post Card Collectors' Bulletin of Vancouver, British Columbia.Antique shop book shelves are lined with volumes on collectibles such as dolls,stamps, coins--any category of item having its own collecting "group." These volumes arecommodity-oriented, but again emphasize the shared nature of one type of collecting.Many of their authors are collectors who have become experts through their owncollecting experiences. This suggests the following proposition: Collectors possessspecialized knowledge in regard to their category of objects, often becoming experts inthat area.A SELECTION OF LITERARY WORK ON COLLECTINGFor the sake of formulating propositions, this research includes an examination offictional literary representations of collectors and their relationship with their objects.From a post-modern standpoint, one may approach social constructs as constructed text;conversely, a semiotic analysis of how fictional literature represents collectors and60collecting provides valuable insight into the larger system of meaning in which collectionsoccur, and provides a model for the textual analysis of ethnographic data. Since literaryconstructs usually present a view of human behavior as socially constructed andmeaningful, they become a very useful model in understanding cultural constructs.Especially useful in understanding the cultural meaning of collecting was Stewart's essay"On Longing-Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection"(1984). In it, Stewart analyses the use of the collection in literature as a metaphor forthe objectification of desire, or of a narrative of the self. For Stewart, the collector doesnot just possess the object but also controls its signification--what the object means.Therefore, collecting is perceived as intimately connected to control.The following literature review treats biography, autobiography and fictionalaccounts as three separate literary categories. In each case this literature allows theethnographer to observe the actions of the collector. Autobiography serves as a form oflong interview, in which the collector dictates both direction and content; biography givesthe non-collector's view of the collector's behavior; and the novel or short story showscollecting as an analogy for other forms of construction.As collecting behavior over time is extremely difficult to observe directly, thisliterature was useful in developing initial propositions. The majority of propositions usedin this study's analysis of data arose from the material in this section.In his autobiography, Speak Memory (1969) poet and author Vladimir Nabokovdescribes in detail, his relationship to the objects of his own collection. Born into theRussian aristocracy in 1899, Nabokov developed an early "passion" for collecting61butterflies: "From the age of seven, everything I felt in connection with a rectangle offramed sunlight was dominated by a single passion. If my first glance of the morning wasfor the sun, my first thought was for the butterflies it would engender" (Nabokov 1969,119). Nabokov's belief that the actual butterfly which initiated his collection eluded hisnet, to become the object, for forty years, of "a desire...that was one of the most intense Ihave ever experienced" (Nabokov 1969, 120) suggests that collecting often begins with awithheld or lost object.Shortly after beginning to collect, Nabokov's appetite for knowledge regardingbutterflies led him to devour scientific journals and natural history atlases, suggesting thesecondary proposition that involvement with that object leads to the acquiring not only ofmore objects but of knowledge and expertise in regard to that object category. Theprocess of collecting as an involvement can last over a lifetime.A bout of pneumonia and a confinement to bed wiped out a previous passion fornumbers; yet, as Nabokov relates, his interest in the butterfly survived. "My motheraccumulated a library and a museum around my bed, and the longing to describe a newspecies completely replaced that of discovering a prime number" (Nabokov 1969, 123).A long-term goal orientation is clearly present at age eight, and continues untiladulthood, when this goal of naming a butterfly species is finally realized. Thussuggesting the following proposition: Collecting is highly goal-oriented, with goalssometimes stretching over a lifetime, sometimes becoming central life themes.The aesthetic dimension of Nabokov's collecting is apparent in his description ofhis fascination with butterflies: "The mysteries of mimicry have a special attraction for62me. Its phenomenon showed an artistic perfection usually associated with man wroughtthings I discovered in nature the non-utilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were aform of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception" (1969,124-125). The object of collection was for Nabokov his prime aesthetic object, suggestingthe following proposition: For collectors, the objects of their collection are their primeaesthetic objects.Nabokov reveals an ambivalent relationship to his passion for collecting: hereveres his butterflies; yet he also hunts them. He credits collecting with theaccumulation of many happy memories, yet describes it as an "obsession" and terms otherbutterfly collectors "fellow sufferers": Collectors express ambivalence toward both theprocess of collecting and their objects. In an extremely positive vein, he states, "Fewthings indeed that I have known in the way of emotion or appetite, ambition orachievement, that could surpass in richness and strength the excitement of entomologicalexploration" (1969, 126). The "exploration" of which he writes is not limited to the actualcollecting process, but includes virtually all interaction with the objects of his collection;and the intense excitement with which he associates that interaction reinforces furthercollecting: involvement with the object is the catalyst for the collecting process.Throughout Speak Memory, Nabokov acknowledges that self-cultivation results directlyfrom his passionate attachment to butterflies and the resulting collecting: collecting andthe attachment to the collected objects has a positive self-cultivating effect upon thecollector.63In Unpacking My Library (1969), Benjamin sets out to describe his relationship tohis objects of collection: "What I am really concerned with is giving you some insightinto the relationship of a book collector to his possessions, into collecting rather than acollection" (60). Benjamin attaches importance to the process which brings his books tohim, and also to the role he plays in their history. As he describes this role, he "does notemphasize their functional, utilitarian value--that is their usefulness--but studies and lovesthem as the scene, the stage, of their fate" (1969, 60). Collectors express shared concernsabout time and history. For Benjamin, the collected object's potential to capture,contain and release individual histories matter much more than the aesthetic dimensiondescribed by Nabokov. "For a true collector the whole background of an item adds up toa magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of his object" (Benjamin 1969, 60).This work suggests the following proposition: that collected objects act as "souvenirs"valued for their ability to release narratives.Benjamin views an object's acquisition as its "rebirth"--a process of renewal aimedat restoration of the old world: "To renew the old world--that is the collector's deepestdesire when he is driven to acquire new things" (1969, 61).Similarities and differences exist between fictional stories of collectors andcollectors' autobiographies. Generally, fiction writers emphasize the obsessive andpassionate nature of the collector--his/her longing and drive to acquire, his/her enviableknowledge of the object and its history. The majority of fictional collectors arepathologically disturbed, lonely, or eccentric individuals who sublimate humaninvolvement to object attachment. Fowles' novel The Collector (1963), in which a64disturbed butterfly collector kidnaps an attractive young woman and claims her as aspecimen, epitomizes the pathological collector. Balzac's Cousin Pons, which Stewart(1984) points out was originally titled Le Parasite, is about a lonely old man who uses hisart collection to compensate for the lack of love in his life. Williams' play The GlassMenagerie features a young woman who is unable to cope with the external world, and sotakes refuge in a protected internal world, symbolized by her collection of tiny glassfigures. In these examples the objects of collection serve as personal metaphors, asself-descriptors and as sublimations which consume or dominate the collector.In these fictional accounts, as well as in the autobiographical material, the start ofthe collection is often symbolically linked to a significant early life event. In the novelUtz, by Chatwin, after Utz's father dies, his grandmother consoles him by giving him aporcelain figurine he has once admired. The story revolves around his subsequentobsession with collecting similar objects. "He had found his vocation: he would devotehis life to collecting--rescuing as he came to call it--the porcelains of the Meissen factory"(Chatwin 1989, 19). His relationship to the objects he collected is clearly described: "Anobject in a museum case, he wrote, must suffer the denatured existence of an animal inthe zoo. In any museum the object dies--of suffocation and the public gaze- -whereasprivate ownership confers on the owner the right and the need to touch" (Chatwin 1989,20). Collecting allows the collector to "possess" the object, to fully absorb or take theobject "in". This is an intimate relationship, one in which each party enlivens the other'sexistence--where the two entities merge, one becoming a part of the other. When Utz'sfriend suggests that they flee to the west, he points to his collection and says, "I cannot65leave them" (Chatwin 1989, 25); later, he declares, "The collection held me prisoner.And of course it has ruined my life" (Chatwin 1989, 90). As mentioned above, bothfictional and autobiographical literature describe ambivalent feelings held by collectorstoward their collections.The Czech writer Capek has written two short stories focusing on the collectingprocess and the collector-object relationship. "The Stamp Collector" (1962) commentsdirectly upon collectors and life goals, self-identity and object attachment, and suggeststhat an affinity occurs between collectors collecting the same category of object. Thestory concerns two young boys whose friendship springs from a shared passion forcollecting stamps, and explores how one boy's loss of his collection affects his life.Assuming that his comrade has stolen it (his father has lovingly packed it away becausehe feels his son is spending too much time attending it), he loses both his dreams oftravel associated with the objects and his trust in people. Only near middle age does hediscover the "put aside" parcel which contains his boyhood collection. He describes hisfeeling of betrayal at the loss of his collection: "Because of that I had wasted mychildhood...because of that I never became attached to anyone. Because of that the verysight of a postage stamp always made me feel annoyed and disgusted" (206). As hebegins to handle his re-found collection, he says:I felt as if ice were thawing inside me: I went through the collectionstamp by stamp; they were all there, Lombardy, Cuba, Siam,Hanover, Nicaragua, the Philippines, all the places which I hadwanted to go and which I shall never see. On each of these stampsthere was a scrap of something which might have been and neverwas (206).66Here Capek has identified the collection as a symbol of the collector's dreams andplans. The physical collecting of each stamp has been the rehearsal of goal attainment.The loss of the collection for the young boy represents a loss of self, suggesting that, forcollectors, collections and their accumulation serve as rehearsals for life goals. Thecharacter states, "I realized that it had been an artificial and impersonal life, which didnot belong to me, and that my proper life had never come into existence" (206). At theend of the story the man starts collecting stamps again, recapturing, if not his lost life, atleast the lost symbol of his dreams.Capek's second story on the collector-object relationship is "The Troubles of aCarpet Fancier." The protagonist is a Persian carpet collector/connoisseur who covets aparticular rare and unusual specimen. The object is not for sale, though, which disturbsand challenges the collector. The body of the story consists of his attempts not only tosecure the carpet but to do so at a low price. He says, "You know, a collector looksupon it as an affair of honor to pick up a rarity for a song" (138). This particularcollector concerns himself chiefly with the sport of acquisition, a sport he likens to "staghunting" (138). The language of collecting is masculine, that of the sport of hunting,searching and winning, of conquest, part of the collecting game is the sport of capturingthe object, of securing the "trophy".He is determined to get the carpet cheaply and then he would "present it to themuseum, because that is the only place for a thing of that sort. Only there'd have to bea label on it with an inscription: Presented by Dr. Vitasek [the collector]" (138). Vitasekreveals his dreams of recognition, of fame for having identified, recognized and acquired67such a desirable "trophy." This suggests that for some collectors distinction is desiredand is achieved through the public association of his/her name with the admired object;it is based in part on a recognition of the vision involved in finding, recognizing andacquiring. Vitasek reveals his usurping of an ownership that transcends or evenout-weighs the position of the maker (or culture of origin).So consuming is his desire that he seriously considers killing a watch dog andstealing the rug. The story ends when the collector realizes, to his humiliation andshame that his obsession with procuring the rug has debased his values and behavior.The story describes the potential in collecting for goals to move beyond self-cultivationto become consuming and therefore self-destructive.68CHAPTER THREERESEARCH DESIGNINTRODUCTIONThe following sections outline this study's research approach, which can bedescribed as descriptive and qualitative. The first section outlines the development of aset of tentative propositions, and describes their use in guiding interviews and later inanalyzing data. The second section describes informant selection criteria and theextended open-ended interview used as this study's primary research instrument. 5This approach allows the researcher to identify, isolate and define categories as researchprogresses and data suggests new themes. A wide range of assertions, somecontradictory, guided the interviews. The open-ended format allowed the researcher touse later interviews to pursue propositions and hunches arising from earlier ones.This research is qualitative. It is designed not to test for generalizability, but todiscover broad cultural categories, beliefs and assumptions, thereby providing a basisupon which to develop an understanding of how collectors experience their collectingworld. A limited number of informants may therefore be sufficient.PROPOSITIONS AND APPROACHES TO THE DATASince so little serious academic work has been done on the topic of collecting, a5 See Glasser and Straus in McCracken (p. 16) for a description ofthis approach.69variety of sources are used in the development of guiding propositions. As noted in theprevious chapter, searches of a number of key sources yielded a set of tentativepropositional statements. The first key source category encompassed writings aboutpersonal possessions and the person-object relationship, including collectors' biographiesand autobiographies. This type of account enabled the researcher to "observe" collectingbehavior, attitudes and thoughts over a span of time, and served much the same functionas interview data. Observations derived from the literature provided a relatively fixedpoint against which to plot a course of questioning. Writings in material culturesuggested different approaches to person-object relationships. Assertions surfaced in therelated research, many of which invited comparison with collector's responses. Many ofthe same assertions surfaced again in the data analysis, along with others from theresearch alone. Further propositional statements originated in a pilot study in whichfour collectors were interviewed.Included in the set of tentative propositions are several set out by Belk , Danetand Katriel, the only social scientists to attempt to develop a more comprehensive modelof collecting behavior. Belk's propositions had particular importance in establishing thisstudy's initial momentum. He admits, though, that "the focus on collecting behavior inthis project was not sustained enough to allow a complete development and testing of atheory of collecting" (1988, 78). This study questions, clarifies, and builds upon Belk'sassertions.In this study, which follows McCracken's methodology (1989), the long interviewwas used as a tool "to get into the mental world of the individual, to glimpse at the70categories and logic by which he or she sees the world" (1989, 9). Each collector in thegroup describes a particular image of the experience and culture of collecting; by viewingthose images together, I hoped to discover whether some commonality or generalizabilityexist among collectors.An important intention of the research process is to allow the collectors to revealthe criteria according to which they--as opposed to antique dealers or observers--definecollecting or collectors. This said, I must emphasize that, while I share many of thecollectors' characteristics, and while this research certainly lacks the supposeddetachment of work done outside of one's geographic, temporal or linguistic experience,I am not, nor have I been an avid or serious collector; the language and experience ofthe collector is not my own. For this reason, I had to resist the assumption that ourexperiences were the same--just as, at a fundamental level, it was crucial to recognizethat my cultural assumptions regarding collecting were intrinsic both to my questions andto my analysis of the resulting data. I therefore analyzed my data with the premise inmind that all speech acts are jointly constructed. As no vehicle exists to extract theethnographer's cultural experience from ethnographic work, any reading of my analysismust assume this joint construction.As the interview approach lacked the structure of a questionnaire, the resultantdata was somewhat chaotic. I began the analysis by listing the propositions generated bythe interviews, along with those generated by literature, then reading the interview data.After a number of readings, order began to emerge in the form of categories andpatterns.71THE LONG INTERVIEW, QUESTIONING STRATEGIESAND INTERVIEW SAMPLERather than following a predetermined process, data collection and analysisproceeded in an intuitive and opportunistic manner. Later interviews differed fromearlier ones. Although tentative propositions directed the questioning approach andorganization other questions grew out of the dynamics and content of the interviews.After transcribing and assembling all of the interview data, I began to sift it for newpropositions, patterns and recurring cultural themes. Sometimes an informant's commentsuggested an assertion for which substantiating information was unavailable because thetopic never recurred during the course of the study. Since such assertions require thesupport of more data from future interviews, they will belong to a set of propositions.A review of the data turned up a set of propositions, an examination of whichrevealed themes or clusters of related statements. Such themes and clusters regardingcollecting and the person-object relationship provided the basis of the formalpropositions, which in turn, shaped the concluding sections. Where two propositionswere contradictory, the data was used to find support for one over the other.By its very nature, collecting is a phenomenon which cannot adequately be studiedthrough participant observation. The extended interview was the most appropriateresearch method. Even though a collector may participate continuously in somecomponent of the collecting process (which may include simply "keeping an eye out" foreligible objects), the observable act of acquisition may only occur once in a year or in ten72years. In addition, the presence of an observer would disrupt and distort the nature andcharacter of the collecting process. As a supplement to the interview data, swap meets,hobby shows and flea markets provided an opportunity to observe collectors in actionand to gather support material.The long interview, as set forth by McCracken (1988), facilitates the gathering ofinformation without repeated, prolonged or intimate involvement in the life of theinformant. It is "a sharply focused, rapid, highly intensive interview that seeks todiminish indeterminacy and redundancy that attends more unstructured researchprocesses" (McCracken 1988, 7). This study used long interviews of subjects whoidentified themselves as collectors to capture their shared descriptions and definitions,and to isolate cultural categories. All thirty of this study's interviews took place during aone year period between the spring of 1989 and the spring of 1990. One interviewinvolved a couple; all others involved only one subject and the investigator. All but twoof the interviews took place in the location of the collection--most often the collector'shome or business. Most of the informants were interviewed on two separate occasions,with the interval varying from two days to several weeks time.The following description of a questioning strategy is intended to give the readeran idea of the structure, content and anatomy of the interview. Even though the formatchosen was open-ended, tentative propositions drawn from the literature and the pilotstudy aided the development of a questioning strategy. Each tentative proposition wasexamined and a set of questions drafted to enable respondents to support or refute thatproposition. For example, a tentative proposition states, "Collectors both fear and are73diminished by the loss of their collection." From that proposition I asked a range ofquestions, such as, "What is the best and worst scenario in regard to your collection?" or,"Can you describe your feelings if your collection was lost or destroyed." The questionswere asked in a variety of ways to see how different descriptions would trigger differentresponses or descriptors.Categories of questions were broad enough to allow new categories to emerge.The first, "How Collecting Begins," examined family and childhood influences, earliestcollecting, childhood collecting, and the first object collected. For each interview a seriesof questions was developed to illuminate each category.The following questions formed the base repertoire of the interview questions,with others coming into the interview because of informant responses: "When did youbegin collecting? How did your collecting begin? Do you remember how your collectionstarted? What is the earliest memory you have of collecting? How did you know youwere collecting? What started you collecting? Tell me the story of yourself as acollector from beginning to the projected end. Do you recall the first object youcollected? Tell me how the first object was acquired. A series of this type might branchto one of the following: "Did anyone in your family collect? Did you know any collectorswhen you were a child? Do you remember being attached to objects as a child? Whatwere they?"Under another category, such as that dealing with the definition of collecting andcollecting as a process, the interviewer posed one or more of the following inquiries:"What is collecting? When did you realize you were collecting? When did you begin to74think of yourself as a collector? Do you consider yourself a collector? What kind ofcollector are you? Are collectors different than others who don't collect? How are theydifferent? How are you different because you collect? Why do you collect? What doesbeing a collector mean? What is the best part about being a collector? The worst part?How would you characterize collecting? Is collecting good? How long have youcollected? Describe that time period and your collecting. Was it consistent? How did itchange over time? How many objects do you have? Describe the number at variouspoints over the years. What determines what you select? Why do you collect what youcollect? Would you like to collect anything else? How would you title your collection?Where do you keep your collection? Is that your choice? Tell me about the display ofthe collection. Tell me about this object. Are there categories within the collection?Can you name them? Tell me about how you group them. Could you select three orfour to tell me about. Why did you select those?"To allow the responses to trigger subsequent questions no exact script was used.Also, to avoid influencing or prejudicing responses, I asked only secondary questionswhen the collector's initial response suggested them. For example, if I asked, "Tell meabout collecting," and the collector responded by listing or describing the components ofcollecting (finding, acquiring, displaying, cataloging), I would ask what percentage of timeeach represented, then pursue some questions about each.Some of the interviews turned out to be more personal in nature, reflecting theconcerns, interests and notions of the collector. The collector's point in the cycle ofcollecting (to which the study will discuss) influenced interview content considerably.75For example, because Lou was at the end of the collecting process, she was much morereflective than the other collector-informants in regard to collecting and much moreconcerned about the fate or disposition of the collection. A rigid script or a formalquestionnaire would have missed this specificity.A sheet with "potential" questions was taken to each interview to assure that some"distance' would be covered. Because of time constraints, I was unable to ask theinformants all of the questions from every category, which would have resulted ininterviews ten or more hours long.ENTERING THE WORLD OF COLLECTORS AND INFORMANT SELECTIONCollectors are everywhere and nowhere in particular. They cannot be found bylooking in the yellow pages of telephone directories; yet they are not difficult to find.Because they appeal to the imagination, they often appear in human interest stories innewspapers and magazines. And when people meet collectors, they tend to rememberthem. For the purpose of this study, however, it was necessary to do more than simplyfind them. Further, I wanted to locate collectors who considered themselves collectors,as opposed to those upon whom I or others had imposed that classification. Thefollowing section describes my strategies in finding, identifying and connecting withcollectors willing to participate in this study.I located collectors and publicized my interest in interviewing them through thefollowing strategies: by appearing on two radio talk-shows during which I asked collectors76to contact me; by posting notices at swap meets, garage sales, hobby shows, flea markets,and antique shops; by placing newspaper advertisements; by subscribing to specificcollecting club newsletters; and by attending collectors' club meetings.Most of my publicity sources were at the intersection of the public and privatespheres of collecting. My over-all intention was to gather as diverse a list of collectorsfrom which I could draw a sample of collector-informants.I wanted to reach idiosyncratic collectors as well as collectors who belonged tolarger social collecting networks or organized systems. My two radio interviews,broadcast over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reached a moreidiosyncratic class of collector, than did notices in antique or second-hand shops. Theprogram consisted of an interview regarding my research, my interest in collectors andmy specific goals. I discussed the literary work and what little research had been doneon collecting, and told listeners where collectors could contact me if they were interestedin being part of the study. My second appearance occurred after I was well into theinterview process. It consisted of a brief introduction to my research and then aninvitation to collectors to call in for on-air interviews. Several collectors called in fromthe central and lower mainland area of British Columbia.I had myself placed on the mailing list of three collectors' clubs and attendedmeetings of the following: the Postcard Collectors Club of Vancouver, the Lottery TicketCollectors of North America, and the Minoru Spoon Club, all of Vancouver. Notices intheir newsletters brought additional informants into the pool, as did word-of-mouthamong club members.77I posted notices at a major Vancouver flea market and in antique and junk shopsthroughout Vancouver, including the Abottsford and Steveston areas, and placed thefollowing announcement in the Courier and Western News: 'Anthropologist doing researchon collectors wishes to locate and interview collectors of all types. If you collect anythingand are willing to donate a few hours to be confidentially interviewed please contact RKremer, c/o Visual & Performing Arts in Education, 2125 Main Mall, UBC, or call222-0151."The selection of thirty collector-informants was based on a partial randomselection from the larger pool, knowing only what they collected, their gender,approximate age and proximity to the geographic area. This informant-group representsas diverse a range as possible of ages, gender, and of objects collected. By selecting toachieve a range of object categories, a socio-economic range was also selected, as itturned out that collectors clearly select their objects of collection within their economicmeans. Because I did not want the data to be influenced by one type of collected object,no two collectors collecting the same object form were used as informants. The selectionof a higher proportion of males was due to the selection pool having a ratio of two malesto one female.After the interviews were transcribed from tape to computer text, the samequestion as answered by the different informants was able to be generated and printedout together. For example, a question such as, how did your collection begin, or didanyone else in your family collect, were each given a "bookmark" and then the responses78from all the informants were generated into separate documents to be analyzed. As wellas collating responses, language use and stance of the responses were also examined.INTRODUCING THIRTY COLLECTORSAll of those interviewed considered themselves to be or to have been "collectors":the activity and its associations had become part of their identities. The term "collector"had become something that they "were" rather than something that they "did".The amount of biographical information was based on material extracted from theinterviews, and so varied from one informant to the next. During the course of theinterviews, I asked all informants to describe themselves and to give some briefbackground. Inquiries such as, "Did anyone else in your family collect?" sometimesbrought descriptions of their families' interests and lifestyles.As a group, the collectors seemed to share a great willingness and desire to talkabout their collections. Only one showed evidence of a reclusive personality. The restled highly social lives and enjoyed a high level of what I would term "vitality." Theprocess of collecting is by its nature active. Despite the age, gender, educational andeconomic differences, almost every member of this group appeared vital and energetic.The following is a brief introduction to the thirty collectors interviewed in thisstudy. To allow an overview of each collector and to facilitate comparisons of data agraph is included following the descriptions.79When I first interviewed Harry, who is in his mid-seventies, he had been collecting"exotic travel souvenirs" for 32 years. He is married with no children, and has recentlyretired from running his own rental business. Harry keeps the majority of his collectionin his store which is attached to his home. Elaborately displayed, it covers virtually everyinch of his storefront, office and home. It consists of hundreds of travel souvenirs he hasacquired during his past thirty-two yearly vacations. In addition to collecting theseobjects, Harry has curated them by labelling and mounting them. During the course ofthis research, he has even opened his collection to the public, calling it 'The Museum ofExotic & Interesting Objects." As that name implies, rather than building a collection ofa particular form of object, Harry collects according to a theme: his objects all fall underthe category of inexpensive readily available tourist souvenirs, and vary from bugs topostcards.Butch, in his mid-forties, collects company hats. He owns and operates his ownchainsaw sales and repair shop, where most of his collection is displayed. The hats,which he has been collecting for nine years, numbers over a thousand, and are the onlything he has ever collected. They are very specific to the baseball hat type with companyinsignias on them.Robert is in his sixties, is married with grown children, and has recently retiredfrom a long and varied banking career. He collects postcards, Medalta pottery, and bankparaphernalia all of which he houses in his basement recreation room area. Thebackground material he offered is as follows: "I was born in Saskatchewan and went toschool in Saskatchewan. Came to British Columbia. I started with the Royal Bank; I80worked with them for 37 years. I worked only in B.C. I opened branches in theProvince. I ended up in senior administration. I took early retirement from that andheaded up a trust company for 5 or 6 years. Just finished with that so now I can spendmore time with my collecting" (Robert, 1). To that end, Robert recently developed acomputer program for classifying and cross--referencing his thousands of postcards. Hehas several collections going at one time, most of which he has been building for anumber of years. Others, such as one of Okanagan Fruit Labels, have been liquidated orgiven away. Robert may be characterized as a serial collector.Randy, unmarried in his late thirties, earns his living as a musician. He sums uphis background: "Born in Nova Scotia, raised in British Columbia since I was five. Triedto leave B.C. many times. Went to High School, public school, went to a music collegein Victoria and specialized in musicology in New York. Also took training in anotherfield, in massage therapy in Ontario, in Toronto many years ago. That was an attempt togain employment and that didn't work. I sort of reached the peak of that field. Ibecame president of the association of B.C. and was the co-founder of the first holistichealth center in Canada and there was not much market for it at that time. It was justnew. Kept at that for about five years and then I decided if I was going to put all thatenergy into something I'd put it into my music" (Randy, 1). For Randy, who had gonethrough many changes, his collecting remained one of the constants in his life. He hascollected rare and ethnic musical instruments for eighteen years. His collection numbersover five hundred instruments.81L.M. married with three children is an elementary school teacher. He has beencollecting Inuit prints for more than twenty-five years. In the last ten years his wife hasbeen actively collecting with him. He began collecting while a college student, aftertaking a printmaking class. Most of his collection was acquired when the prices for Inuitprints were quite low. Recently, collecting books and related materials has replaced thecollecting of prints. The collection is displayed throughout his and his wife's home andnumbers over one hundred prints and drawings.J.P. is a linguist, in his mid-forties. With collections of stamps, books, eggbeaters,canning jars, and even languages, his collecting is both multiple and serial in nature.Having collected for most of his life, he considers himself a "born" collector, and hasencouraged his wife and children to collect.Unmarried, in his mid-forties, G.S. grew up on a farm in the prairies. He is abotanist with advanced degrees. An avid outdoor enthusiast, G.S. started collectingbutterflies when he was fifteen and attending high school. He has been collecting eversince, for over thirty years. He had collected stamps as a child and considers himself a"born collector."Ed, male in his mid-fifties, is presently divorced and living with one of his adultsons. He works part time as a clerk. He says of his background, "From NorthernOntario, been out here 12 years" (Ed, 1). He is presently passionate about his lotteryticket collection, of which he has been acknowledged as having the finest in BritishColumbia and perhaps in Canada. He serves as a consultant to the B.C. LotteryArchives. He previously collected other items but without the commitment or82enthusiasm of this present collection. "Well I used to be into antiques a lot. I've been acollector, I think, it's got to be a good 20 or 25 years. I collected bottles, the sodapopsfrom the 19th century, old Coca Cola bottles" (Ed, 1). His collection of over a hundredthousand tickets nearly fills one room of his apartment.Chris, aged forty-two, married, with children, grew up in England, where heattended art school before coming to Canada a few years ago. He now owns a smalladvertising company where he displays his collection of over fifty antique globes, whichhe has collected for the past four years.Noah, in his mid-thirties, was raised in Vancouver and lives with his parents. Hedid not reveal any job or occupation; reluctant to talk about his background, hedescribed himself as "a loner." He has collected a sequence of object classifications sincehe was ten: comic books, Avon bottles, and now Japanese Dolls. His present collectionstarted about seven years ago.Norm, in his late fifties, works in extension development at a major University.He has been a school teacher for eight years, where he coached basketball. He hascollected a variety of items, and can be described as both a serial and a multiplecollector. His collecting, which began in childhood, has stopped and restarted severaltimes. Presently he is at the end of his walking stick collecting, but still actively collectswooden-shafted golf clubs and old sports and children's books. His vintage children'sbook collection numbers over 2000, most of which are selected for the nature and qualityof their illustrations.83Gary, in his mid-thirties did not begin collecting until about four years ago, butgrew up with a father who he describes as having a "massive collection of plates." Garycollects antique cheese dishes which are displayed in the family meat market business.Presently at the peak of his collecting he has acquired over a hundred items often taking"collecting" vacations, in which the purpose is to find and acquire more dishes.Bob P., in his mid-forties, was born and raised in New Zealand. Bob collectstribal art--mostly Oceanic, Maori, and New Guinean. He began collecting on one of hisvisits home, shortly after emigrating to Canada. Presently teaching law at a majorCanadian university, Bob's collecting has sparked his interest in legal interpretationsregarding moveable cultural properties.Alan, in his late forties, has collected outdoor metal advertising signs for the pasttwenty years. He sees himself as a "passive" collector because most of the objects hecollects come to him. The signs "decorate" the walls of the surplus furniture store heowns, and this visibility continually brings him more. He began collecting shortly afteropening the business. He keeps some of his oldest and rarest signs at home.Justin, aged nine, has been collecting, according to his parents, "since he wasborn." He presently has sizeable collections of bones, rocks, shells, foreign money, bottlecaps, and marbles. Neither of his parents collects, nor does his older sister. His parentsdescribe their son's collecting: "As soon as Justin gets one of something, he wants toknow if there are others, how many, where can he get them. If he sees a second itemthat is like one he has, he wants to get it to be with his other one. He is a borncollector" (Justin, 1).84Donald, mid-forties makes his living as a music teacher. He collects in manyareas, presently his most active is of antique chinese coins.Ken, in his early thirties, grew up in a military family which relocated often andhad many opportunities to travel. He began collecting model airplanes as a child,phased them out as a teenager, then began collecting them again in his mid-twenties.He assembles the models himself. Currently, work and family constraints leave littletime for building, so he is amassing a large collection of kits to build later. Ken hascollected both robots and model airplanes for over fifteen years.Ron L., who describes himself as a "born collector", had an "impressive" comicbook collection before entering elementary school. He believes that collection, whichlater gave way to books and magazines, contributed strongly to his decision to become anillustrator. After receiving a model of the Pilsbury Dough-Boy as a gag wedding gift,Ron and his wife began to collect 1950's advertising and animation objects. Thiscollection, which is still growing after twenty years, centers on collectibles includingDisney objects and "collectible" ceramics. Ron and Sandra have no children. Theirhouse decor highlights the hundreds of items in their collection, each of which iscarefully cared for and displayed. These two are the only couple in this study who showequal involvement in collecting and similar levels of enthusiasm for their object category.P.M. who offered very little of his background presently collects photographs offisherman and their catch--a collection which grew out of an earlier collection of loggingand general historic photographs of British Columbia.85Steve, who works as an accountant and in real estate and is an avid baseball fan.He has collected used baseball gloves for almost twenty years. He claims his positivememories of playing the game as a young boy are the catalyst for his collecting.Pat is in her mid-thirties. Married with two daughters, she works for theCanadian Immigration office. She says of her background, "I was born and raised onCape Breton Island, on the East Coast of Canada. I went to High School there and touniversity in Ontario at the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa. Igraduated in '77 and then started working for the Federal Government and was placedout here in Mission. I am from a poor family but I have always liked collecting thingssince I was a child" (Pat, 1). "I guess I started collecting bottles when I was about six orseven. Then went to matchboxes at about nine." She has been collecting matchboxes offand on since age nine, nearly thirty six years.Mary is Pat's eleven-year-old daughter. After my interview with her mother, shetold me she was also a collector and offered herself as an informant. She has collectedstamps and miniatures for the past three years. When I asked her to describe hercollecting and to comment on how she began, she said, "Well, a while ago when I waseight or nine. Like I kind of, when I go into shops I see little miniatures in there reallycute and all that....Then I started collecting them when I went into stores and I'd seesomething that I thought was kind of neat and different I'd just see if I could get it"(Mary, 1).Jean, a recently-retired secretary, has collected decorated eggs and collectiblespoons for over twenty years. She says of herself, "I was born in Hamilton, Ontario and86then when I was quite young we moved to Toronto, so that's where I grew up. I came toVancouver in 1960, so that's 29 years ago. Loved it and here I am still. I was a singleparent--bought my first house in 1962 when women couldn't buy houses; then I movedhere [to her present house] in 1968. Which was the best move I ever made, financially,and now I am retired after working 48 years as a secretary. I've always been a volunteertype of person; very involved in Girl Guides in Toronto and I still volunteer, always willas long as I can" (Jean, 1).Lou is 34 years old, has recently married and has no children. She has collectedwith the theme of strawberries since a young child. Lou describes her life as follows:"Born in Toronto, Ontario and my mom was teaching and then I got shifted down to aplace called Sarnia, on the South western tip of Ontario, so that's where I more or lessgrew up. A really wonderful family life, my mom is a writer and my dad was a jazzmusician. I've been a disc jockey, real estate, sales, my first job was modeling when Iwas young and stupid and from there into fashion, this is when I was 16, 17 years old.Then I loved traveling, and love the service industry. When I first came to Vancouver Iworked as a hostess in Gastown and as soon as I had enough funds to take another trip Iwas gone. I lived to travel" (Lou, 2).Trudy, is a graphic designer and photographer in her early thirties. She says shecollects "everything," but her main collection is of a particular style and brand of tomatoceramics produced in Japan for western consumption, which she has collected actively forfifteen years. Trudy was born in India and came to Vancouver when she was two.When she was twelve she spent a year at school in France, and has continued to travel as87much as possible. She describes her childhood household as a place where there werealways very nice things. She has a strong visual interest in objects and art which sheattributes to her childhood influences.Fran, formerly from the French part of Canada, had never collected anything untilshe married a collector and moved out west a few years ago. She decided to collectitems with mushrooms on them when her husband was collecting bottles, thereforemaking more meaningful to her their visits to flea markets and garage sales. Now hercollecting has taken on its own momentum.Maureen, in her mid-forties, began collecting about ten years ago, shortly afterstarting her career as a travel agent. This occupation afforded her the opportunity totravel to Africa, where she began her collection of small elephant sculptures and itemswith elephant images. The elephant theme has become a kind of personal logo,associated with her identity: the image of an elephant occurs on her stationary andbusiness cards--even her answering machine message has an elephant trumpeting on it.Sara, in her late twenties, started to collect fans and sculptures three years ago,after the onset of multiple sclerosis began to confine her increasingly to her home. Hersculptures are mainly modern figures and bird forms.Ruth is in her late fifties. Her first collection was of bracelet charms because ofher involvement with a weight-loss club which gave charms for goals achieved. Thatcollection lasted between six and seven years. After charms, Ruth began collecting bells,her collection of which is still active after twenty years and includes over three hundred88objects. Her collection includes old working bells, antique bells and bells from manydifferent countries.89Name andOccupationPresentCollectionHow Long Type ofCollectorPlace in theCollectingCycleHarry, mid 70sretiredtravelsouvenirs32 years form/focus endButch, mid 40schainsaw salesand servicecompany hats 9 years form/focus winding downRobert, mid60s retiredbankerpresently post-cards andmedaltapottery20 years serial/multiplepeak/sustainingRandy, mid30s musicianrare and exoticmusicalinstruments18 years form/focus peak/sustainingL.M., mid 40selementaryschool teacherInuit prints 25 years form/focus end/windingdownJ.P.Linguisteggbeaters,books, stampslifetime,collected sincechildhoodserial/multipleform/avidwinding down,sustainedG.S., early 40'sbotanistbutterfiles,stamps30 years,collected sincechildhoodserial,form/focusendEd, mid 50'spart-time clerklottery tickets 25 yearscollecting, 4years thiscategoryserial peakChris, early40's, ownadvertisingagencyantique globes 4 years form/focus sustainedNoah, early40's, notpresentlyemployedJapanese dollsand kimonos7 years thiscategoryserial peak in thiscategoryPlate 1: Male Collectors charted90Name andOccupationPresentCollectionHow Long Type ofCollectorPlace in theCollectingCycleNorm, early60'sWalking stickschildren's books15 years serial/multiple windingdownGary, mid 30's antique cheesedishes4 years or so form/focus peakBob, mid 40'slawyerpre-columbianart15 years form/focus peaksustainedAlan, late 40'sruns surplusoutletmetal outdoorsigns20 years multiple/serialsustainedJustin, aged 9 marbles, rocks,shells, foreignmoney5 years multiple/serialbeginningDonald, early40's, archivistchinese coins 20 years form, focus sustainingKen, early 30'scomputeranimationmodel airplanesand robots15 years bothcollectionsform/focusbranchingsustainingRon, mid 40'sillustratorDisney & 50'smemorabilia,comics,advertisinglifetime20 yrs thisfocusmultiple/serialpeaksustainingP.M. photographs 12 years form focus,branchingsustainedSteve,accountantbaseball gloves 18 years form/focus sustainedwindingdownPlate 2: Male Collectors charted91Name andOccupationPresentCollectionHow Long Type ofCollectorPlace in theCollectingCyclePat, mid 40sCanadianImmigrationmatchbooksand teapotslifetime, 36yearsform/focusmultiplesustainingMary, 11 miniatures 3 years form/focus early phase,beginningJean, mid 60sretiredsecretarydecorated eggsand collectiblespoons20 years multiple sustainingLou, mid 30sart studentstrawberrythemecollected sincechildhoodtheme endTrudy, mid 30sphotographertomatoceramics15 years form/focus sustaining,toward endFrannot employedmushroomtheme4 years theme peakMaureentravel agentelephanttheme10 years theme toward end,windingdownSaracommunityworkersculpture andfans4 years multiple just startingto collectRuth, late 50's bells 20 years form/focusserialsustained,past peakSandra, wife ofRon50'scollectables20 years Multiple/theme sustainedpeakPlate 3: Female Collectors charted92CHAPTER FOURCOLLECTING: SELECTED THEMES FROM THE DATAINTRODUCTIONThe following sections explicate the emerging themes and patterns identifiedwithin the data, and examine the responses of the collector informants to propositionsregarding collecting drawn from the literature review. Not all possible themes aredeveloped. For example, much material was gathered on the social and interactiveaspects of collecting--material which could have formed a section in itself. The themesexplicated in the following sections all have relevance to collectors' object attachment, totheir "sentiment" toward objects, or to the field of museum studies in general.The first section describes the informants' perceptions of themselves as collectors:it defines collecting from within the collecting culture and describes the cycles within theprocess of collecting--the ebbs and flow of the process. It also describes how collectingbegins, progresses and ends, and categorizes and defines "types" of collectors. Sectiontwo focuses on collecting as a verb, on what is implied in "to collect". It describes howcollectors play and approach the game of collecting. Section three focuses on aspects ofpossession and ownership relevant to collecting, and section four on objectattachment--the relationship collectors have with their objects--and the affectionexpressed by collectors toward their objects. Section five examines collectors as curators,with attention to the many ways in which private collectors approach, act out and talkabout their curatorial relationship to their objects.93The topics within these sections, are not separate or discrete, but intertwined.Many quotations and comments could have been placed under more than one heading,with the headings interconnected in many complex ways. Due to the linear nature ofwriting, though, the difficulty in presenting all of the interconnectedness among thethemes and areas necessitates that the reader carry some of the strands from one areainto another.COLLECTING AND COLLECTORSBecause the process of collecting is particularly relevant to the relationshipcollectors have with their objects, this study will begin by examining how and whypersonal collecting starts and how it develops or changes over time. Next, it will discusscollectors' definitions of collecting, and their perceptions of themselves as collectors."Types" of collectors are also identified and discussed.HOW COLLECTING BEGINSFor the thirty collectors studied here, collecting began in many ways. Four begancollecting as children, and their collecting has been continuous and uninterrupted sincechildhood. The topic of children as collectors as a specific focus is outside of the scopeof this study, but it would be difficult to discuss the beginning of collecting withoutdealing with children's collections. Two of this study's informants are children.94The four who began collecting as children refer to themselves as "born collectors,"because they see no space between their collecting activities as children and their presentcollecting. G.S. is typical of this born collector when he says,I can't tell you the earliest, but I certainly collected as a child. I mean I thinkwhen I was large enough to crawl around and do anything I probably startedcollecting either butterflies or bugs or something...I guess it started when I wasvery young. I can't really remember the first thing I ever collected, but it wasprobably a butterfly or a beetle (G.S., 1).In the case of G.S., even the object category (butterflies) has carried on fromchildhood. This long term focus, although by no means the rule, did occur in two of thefour who have collected since childhood; in the others the object category changed overtime. Later in the interview, G.S. places the start of his "serious" collecting at age 15. "Italso started out as a 4-H project as a kid on the farm" (G.S., 1). He may state this notso much because the project was a second start, but because it was the place ofconscious, purposeful collecting which he perceives as "serious collecting." Chris says, "Iguess I collected stamps as a kid, but not in a serious way" (Chris, 6). As with G.S.,Chris may associate adult collecting with a deeper, more passionate, or more disciplinedinvolvement with collecting. The data suggests the following proposition: for somecollectors, adult collecting grows directly out of childhood collecting practices and that itis not uncommon for collectors to continue collecting the same object from childhood on.Collections sometimes "happen" with collectors who do not initially set out tocreate a collection; for others, an urge to collect can begin or be triggered at any time,sometimes beginning with what Belk calls an accidental start (1988, 75). Belk's first95proposition (Proposition No.1, the only one which deals with the beginnings ofcollecting), states that collections seldom begin purposefully. Specifically, his datasuggests that collections of a particular item often begin by accident. He suggests that"many collections are discovered by their creators long after the materials have beengathered" (Belk 1988, 75). In this study, though, only two collectors note accidentalbeginnings, while an equal number recall making conscious decisions to collect. Whenasked if they started out to collect a common category, those who have begunaccidentally say it's something that has just grown. For some collectors, a consciousinclination toward collecting is evident. Trudy states, "About fifteen years ago, I startedoff. I saw some in a store on West Fourth, and I bought a couple of teapots and somecreamers—just a small core of stuff--and then just added to it over the years" (Trudy,1).Later, she says, "It just evolved, because I had the core of them" (Trudy, 3). It is difficultto say when actual collecting begins: it may begin with the subsequent purchases that setthe collecting process in motion, rather than with an initial purchase. The pleasure andattachment the initial items engender after they are purchased may promote theacquisition of related items.For many collectors, collecting can begin by accident, often through a meaningfulfirst experience or significant object experience. Fascination with or attachment to asingle item within the category is by far the largest single catalyst for beginning tocollect. Jean's collection is a good example of one begun by a catalyst: "My eggcollection began with my son painting me an egg at Easter time and then the next yearhe painted me another one. And then a little girl, a friend of his, painted me one, and it96started from that. I just happened upon ones I liked. I didn't set out to have an eggcollection" (Jean, 1). When asked when she realized she was collecting, she replied,Well when I had five or six I guess" (Jean, 1). Gary warmly describes the first cheesedish which came into his collection, "One day a guy came in and had one of these cheeseplates and dad bought it. That was the first one in the whole collection, and I guess thatone has the most meaning. The design on the cover of that dish has hand paintedpheasants" (Gary, 1).Topical (theme) collecting constitutes a significant type of collecting. The typicalcollector collects everything to do with a topic or theme. Often, particularly in the caseof male collectors, the collection's theme will relate directly to his or her occupation.Chris who collects advertising memorabilia, works as a graphic designer; Robert, whocollects banking objects had a long career in banking; and Butch who collects companyhats services a variety of companies. Interests in categories such as sports, events,historic events, periods or images, also tended to spark collections. Norm describes thecatalyst for his first collection of anything to do with World War II airplanes:Because my brother joined up and I was so jealous, he's ten years older thanme, so I decided to collect everything I could and used to go on the streetsand collect airplane cards out of the cigarette things [packages] and then Icollected from Britain a magazine called Airplane Spotter. I still have fifty ofthem (Norm, 1).Topical concentration is a common approach to collecting and is sometimes lessobject centered, that is, the collector is often less concerned with aesthetics or one formof object, collecting instead all material related to the topic or image. The theme97collector can combine theme collecting with an aesthetic dimension, selecting only thosethings within the theme which he or she sees as neat or attractive, rather than all thingsfalling under that category. Topical collectors comprise the largest category evidentamong the female collectors, including such themes as strawberries (Lou) or mushrooms(Fran). For some theme collectors their objects serve as props with the involvementbeing the category. The sheer number of items they collect suggests an attempt tocapture the "idea" or essence of their object--a search for the quintessential image orrepresentation which will allow them to capture or satisfy their desire for it, and perhapssomehow to "explain" their fascination. Theme collectors exhibit and express more"fixation" on the subject than on their objects; but it would be wrong to assume that thetheme collector is only "using" the objects to get at the image or topic and does not alsohave a strong attraction and attachment to the objects themselves. The theme collectorsinterviewed for this study exhibited a powerful attachment toward their objects becauseof their fascination with the image or topic. Without the physical manifestations there isno image. The objects are not merely on hand to illustrate the theme, but actually havebecome synonymous with it.For other collectors, becoming strongly connected to one object from a categoryserves as a catalyst to collect that category. Noah's description of getting "hooked" on hisobject category is quite typical: "Well I bought one in a flea market and then got hookedon it. I just looked at the material and the clothes and the expression on the face andstarted buying more and more and more" (Noah, 1).98A small number of collectors make conscious decisions to collect. Three of thethirty collectors made what can be considered conscious decisions to collect. Whatappears as a cool or detached decision, though, often conceals an already strong orgrowing attachment for the object category. After this conscious decision, many become"hooked" on the object category. One of the most avid of the collector informantsattributes his beginning with the category he presently collects to a conscious decision.Well, my head told me - stamps is too complicated for new collectors, a lot ofthem are different colors or preparations and this is bad enough. He [father]told me one time, just feel the tickets, they are made by British-AmericanBanco Co. They are water marked, they are money paper and they arebeautiful. I just got hooked on them. I mean I'm nuts about them. It was aconscious decision. I said I am going to collect these and everybody aroundme thought I was crazy (Ed, 3).For Chris, already a collector of advertising memorabilia, seeing a magazinephoto of a collection of globes sparked his collection of them. Asked how his presentcollection began, he says; "That started when I saw a magazine. I can't remember thename of the magazine--it was a home and garden type of magazine. Someone had acollection of globes in a hallway. I thought the color was great, they fascinated me"(Chris, 1). Later, seeing and buying a globe in an auction was Chris's first acquisitionand the catalyst for starting his present collection. The idea of collecting was already inplace; the magazine image generated what was to become the next category. Sometimesthe idea to collect something comes before the object selection, sometimes after, andsometimes the two present themselves simultaneously.99Initially it is the affection, the desire for the object that is the catalyst for theprocess. Later, the process can exert almost an equal pull. Collecting is not a processthat can be detached from the relationship the collector has with his or her category ofobject. Often a single desired object becomes the precursor of the category. All of thecollectors interviewed express a belief that an object or object category definitely broughtthem to collecting, and that they could not make themselves collect something they hadno feeling for or interest in.The process of collecting is inexorably linked to the collector's own interest,attachment and affection toward the object. Pat describes her first inclination to collectas starting with an interest in one object. She states, 'The very first bottle I collectedwas blue glass and I think I found it in a garbage dump or something. Then I startedlooking at flavoring bottles in my mother's cupboard and asked her to start giving themto me when she was finished" (Pat, 1). Pat has continued collecting since childhood,moving on to collect matchbooks.Two of the collectors studied spoke of collecting itself as only a part of a largerinterest and not the focus. L.M., for example, said, "I think the whole interest was widerthan collecting. The collecting is part of being interested. The collecting isn't really thefirst thing, the interest is in art" (LM, 3). This clearly shows the importance of the objectcategory and the wider interest that sometimes generates collecting. There may be, forexample, sports enthusiasts who act out their interest in sports by collecting, and are alsoinvolved with a range of other activities such as attending events, playing, coaching, andso on. As a collector of Inuit and Eskimo prints, L.M. appears to be this type of100collector: in addition to collecting Inuit Art, he reads about it and goes to galleries, bothactivities which he did before he began collecting. He presently collects books on thesubject, which developed concurrently with his collecting.Collecting runs a cycle with the greatest quantity being collected early, peaks,then slows down, stops, or becomes more selective. Collectors are often most aggressiveearly in the collecting process. This may be attributed to an early desire to form acollection/entity. As Butch states about his hats, "I've got over a thousand really withthe ones I've got at home," says Butch. "Got most of them in one year or two when Ifirst started" (Butch, 2). Whether collecting occurs over six months or thirty years asimilar pattern emerged over the course of the interviews. Early in the cycle, the desireto "build the collection"--the urge to get a collection in place as an entity is much moreof a driving force than later in the cycle. Initially, then, a large number of items aregathered, most often within the first year, then there is a tapering-off in terms ofnumbers and then either a consistent pattern of acquisition or a falling off accompaniedby a greater discrimination and or specialization. 6More than half of the collectors in this study, speak of a "peak" in their collecting.G.S. describes his: "My peak was between my Bachelor of Science degree and myMasters. I had five years that I worked and I was really most interested then and I'dmove to a new area; so anytime you move, anything natural, of course, is slightlydifferent. So, I collected a lot more then than I ever had" (G.S., 2). He collected half ofhis over five thousand butterflies during that five year period. During another smaller6^See Chapter 5, p. 188 for a discussion of the development ofconnoisseurship.101peak, he remembers, "I came here to do my Ph.D. and so...because it was a new area, Iwas doing field work in botany at the time and it was, just everything was new, so therewas another smaller peak. Probably I got another quarter of the collection after I movedhere" (G.S., 2). During this first quarter of collecting period, G.S. gathered roughly threequarters of his collection.The tendency of collectors to build their collections very quickly early in thecollecting cycle can be partially attributed to the fact that, early in the process, they areless discriminating, and partially to availability factors. When I asked Chris if he was stillactively collecting globes, he said, "Not really, no. Because it seems to me now, everytime I see one, I virtually have it. I don't collect the modern ones. The older ones--tofind one I haven't got. It's pretty hard because I have scouted all over this area" (Chris,2). Randy further describes the cycles of availability: "The first year I had only aboutthirty instruments and then it was very slow some years. I would gain another thirtyinstruments and some years only one or two. It was very, very slow". (Randy, 2).Some collections stop because the category is exhausted: the collector "famishes"the object category, yet doesn't satisfy the desire for the objects. Asked if he still activelycollects; Robert responded, "see, once you get to a point in any collection it gets harderto get because you've got it all, or most of the easy stuff. Then you go on to somethingelse that will satisfy your collecting instincts" (Robert, 5).Collectors often refine their object categories, with a branching effect: they beginto specialize or collect subcategories of their objects. "Once you get 800 pieces it's hardto get something different. You can get into shapes--that's the beginning--then you get102into color shades, different kinds of designs, then the different kinds of paint that theyused on the designs" (Robert, 5). Robert, has collected many categories of objects, andis currently most involved in his collection of 15,000 postcards. He began by collectingCanadian postcard images, "then graduated from that to specifically one Canadian artist,Edward Goodall" (Robert, 6). It is telling that Robert uses the term "graduated" therebysuggesting an upward progression as he becomes more discriminating or focused. Suchspecialization is generally admired within the collecting culture.The majority of the collectors in the study talked of a peak and then a decline.The decline sometimes signaled the end of their collecting within a given category.There may even be a saturation point where the collection is "finished" for the collector.When asked if he still collected avidly, G.S. replied,It's definitely peaked and waned to the point where I'm considering getting ridof my butterfly collection because I have five thousand and some, I reallyhaven't done anything on them in years, or not much. Like last year Iprobably collected ten butterflies. So I am interested from a naturaliststandpoint but I'm not doing anything with it and I think it's a valuablescientific collection--it's all labelled and documented. It's crazy for me to haveit all at home and not be using it. So, I am actually giving it to the Museumin Victoria, or donating it for tax purposes (G.S., 2).Even by collecting only ten items in a year, G.S. is still "a collector;" but hisattitude that he is not "doing anything with" his collection signals that he is at the end ofcollecting. Even for the born or lifelong collector, periods occur when they are betweenobjects. Almost always they describe such periods negatively, as a "dry" or "empty"period.103Some collectors liquidate their collections on a regular basis; others stop andbegin collecting again in the same object category. Both Robert and Pat amassed wholecollections, gave them away, then later began "from scratch" to collect the same category.Yes, I have collected them all through my life, thrown them out, wholecollections out, and started from scratch, giving them away, giving parts ofthem away, giving some of them away. Then I would see some again and Iwould feel pretty sad and sentimental so I would just start again and promisemyself it would be only one bottle and before you know it, you have a dozen(Pat, 2).This process of beginning again may relate to what Belk describes as closure orthe finishing of the collection--something which is sought only abstractly, and whoseactual attainment is not truly desired or satisfying. Beginning to collect again may stemfrom the collector's realization of how much collecting contributed to his/her life; or, itmay relate to the addictive quality inherent in the process. "[Despite] The fact that I amgetting rid of my butterflies, I probably will start again and collect a few but I don't thinkI'll collect as many as I did" (G.S., 6).Collecting occurs over time. By definition, collectors collect their objects overtime, either individually or in small numbers, rather than purchasing many objects oracquiring existing collections. Simply acquiring an existing collection does not make onea collector--a distinction which arises partly out of one's motivation to acquire, and theprocess enacted. Only one collector, Chris, mentioned enjoying going to an antique malland coming home with three or four globes. Most acquired their objects one by one.The time dimension varies greatly among collectors, but by far the majority of thethirty interviewed have collected for over periods measured not in weeks or months, but104in years. The process most often occurs over a significant portion of the life span. Likepieces of furniture carried from one home to the next, a collection's longevity may addan element of continuity to lives where there are other changes. Unlike furniture,though, a collection represents both a set of familiar objects and a recurring activity.With some categories, great time lapses occur between purchases, yet the collector canstill be actively collecting, as long as he/she is on the alert for an object. Collectors talkabout collecting taking on a momentum of its own, getting out of hand, seeminglygrowing on its own because of continued small additions. Often, when they realize howmany objects, they regard their perseverance with surprise.Collecting and involvement with a collection may continue over the majority ofthe lifespan, often from childhood to old age. The long time span claimed by well overhalf of the thirty collectors suggests that collecting represents a deeper involvement thancan be attributed to most activities regarded as hobbies. 'This has been going on -- myson is twenty-eight years of age and he was probably eight [when I started collecting] Sotwenty years I've been collecting these" (Jean, 1). It is not an exaggeration, then, whensome collectors' call collecting their life's work.' Sometimes even the initial childhoodobject category is carried over the lifespan. Randy, well into his thirties, has collectedthe same category for over eighteen years. Ed states, "I've been a collector--I think it'sgot to be a good 20 or 25 years" (Ed, 1). Ed's lottery ticket collection began in 1970 andhis enthusiasm has grown alongside it. Trudy has been collecting tomato crockery forfifteen years. These time spans are typical.7^See "Another Collection Lost", 1987, Country Life, October.105It is common for collectors to have multiple collections or to go on to collectother objects they become interested in. Once they have experienced collecting,collectors often say it seems natural to collect whatever they become interested in:collecting becomes a process they apply to other objects or object categories, possiblybecause they find they have learned skills and strategies they can apply to other kinds ofobjects. They develop a formula for playing the collecting game.Among collectors who have changed or added to their original object category, Ihave identified three types: multiple collectors; serial collectors; and serial-multiplecollectors. Half of the collectors interviewed in this study were actively involved in morethan one collection, although, for most, one collection remained primary. Thesecollectors I have categorized as multiple collectors. Pat, an example of a multiplecollector collected matchbooks and teapots. Robert collected bank memorabilia andMedalta Pottery, but was mainly engaged with his postcard collection, specializingincreasingly in the works of a particular artist. This branching effect is common, withcollectors becoming more specialized over time. Even Ed, who was passionatelyinvolved with lottery tickets, had begun to collect related paraphernalia. I was surprisedby the number of collectors whom I initially associated with one item, but who, whenasked what they collected, listed two and sometimes three categories.Noah is typical of the serial collector who only focuses on one object at a time;"Oh, I'm collecting Japanese dolls and kimonos, for about seven years. Before that Icollected Avon bottles. Oh, that lasted about five years. I was into comic books, that106was about ten years" (Noah, 1). Here the collector collects avidly one category until acatalyst occurs for the object category to change.The serial-multiple collector, both changes object categories and has more thanone collection going at one time. Among other things, J.P. (who was one of only twocollectors of the thirty with more than four active collections) collected eggbeaters,stamps, canning jars, buttons, baskets, and a particular series of paperback books.Previously, he had collected Bibles written in different languages. Norm (who was theother) collected old golf items, canes, art, and children's and old sporting books. As achild he collected World War I aviation material.Collectors posit notions of both a "true" and a "born" collector. One categoryprojected from within the collecting culture is that of the "avid", or "born" collector. Thiscategory generally connotes a combination of longevity as a collector and a very seriousor enthusiastic approach to collecting. Sometimes the term or its equivalent also implieshigh levels of skill, passion, enthusiasm and commitment. Collectors suggest that thereare those who take up collecting as a hobby, a minor involvement, and those who "are"collectors "by nature" and must always collect something. When I asked Ed, whoidentified himself as a born collector, if he could remember a time when he didn't collectanything his immediate response was, "No. No. Always." (Ed, 1). The born collectorprojects an image of a person " living to collect", as opposed to the collector who collectsmerely because he/she chooses to become involved with an object category or topic.Asked if he could imagine not being a collector, G.S. responded, "No. I couldn't, I haveto collect. I'm a born collector. I can't imagine not collecting anything. If I was an107invalid and couldn't get out in the field then I would go back to the stamps orsomething" (G.S., 6).Born collectors may be more process--oriented than object--oriented, yetattachment to and interest in their object category remains a significant focus. They feelthat they like or are attracted to "things." Of the thirty subjects interviewed for thisstudy, four identified themselves as born collectors. This notion of the existence of theborn collector is also projected by those collectors interviewed who did not placethemselves in this category but considered themselves hobbyists rather than "real"collectors. This perception, which appears to be accurate, is applied by a variety ofcollectors to those few who have collected since childhood, and have often collectedmany different categories of objects. Someone who has come late to collecting but has a"talent" and passion for it is described as an "avid" collector. The "true," avid, or borncollector is the object of considerable admiration in the collecting culture.One important aspect of collecting is that it is a self-imposed and self-initiatedbehavior. Both the decision to collect and the object category grow out of theindividual's personality, interests, motivations and experiences. Collecting is thereforeself-directed. None of the collectors interviewed believe they have been talked intocollecting, or that collecting has been cultivated or taught them by parents or teachers,and no one has told them what to collect; nor are the majority connected to families inwhich their are collectors. Only Chris whose brother collects decanters, Ed, whose fathercollected stamps, Pat, Mary (Pat's daughter) and Gary whose father collected plates,have immediate family members who collect. Of that number only Ed and Gary108attributed their collecting to the influence of their collector fathers. Ed describes hismemories when asked if are were other collectors in his family: "No, just my father, aslong as I can remember, he was a coin and stamp collector. When he died, he left us 60albums of stamps" (Ed., 1). There was no indication of an inherited aspect to collecting,or that collecting "runs" in families. Mary, Pat's daughter, was aware of her mother'scollecting but describes other children's collections as her motivation to collect. "I knewlots of my friends had collections and I never had one, so I thought that maybe it wouldbe nice to start a collection on miniatures because they are kind of neat" (Mary, 1).Collecting is an individual, highly personal involvement. Because collecting andthe choice of objects are very self-determined and personal, collectors feel that only theirown collection reflects their life-experiences and tastes. For this reason, members of thisgroup typically are not museum-goers, and are generally only interested in others'collections if they share their object category. Norm sums up such an attitude with hisresponse when asked to name the most interesting collection he has ever seen. Hereplies: "mine" (Norm, 9).Because collecting is so individual and self-selected it is performed independentlyof siblings or even life-long spouses. Some collectors feel that their mates tolerate theircollecting but do not share an interest in the objects even through they have lived withthem over a long time period.The wife of L.M., who collects Inuit prints, is an exception. With an attitude of"why fight him, I'll join him," she has developed an interest in L.M.'s object category and109collected with him for the past ten years. She describes her first realization that she wasmarried to a collector:We lived in an apartment for the first five years we were married. Myhusband was in the University for three, so money was quite short. We weresaving for a house. The day finally came when we were able to put a downpayment down on a little first house and we were in the real estate office. Hewas asking about our assets and liabilities. We had no liabilities at that pointand my husband said, 'well we have several thousand dollars worth of art.' Iknew what we had on our apartment walls and I didn't think it added up buthe's a very honest and truthful person, so I just didn't say anything the wholetime. But when we came out of the office I said, 'How could it add up to thatmuch?' And he said: 'I have a little confession'. We went back to theapartment and under our bed he had a little collection; and along with hisstudent work he also had a little folder of Eskimo prints that all added up.That's the first time that I realized I was married to a collector (L.M., 1).Several informants feel that their collecting activities are encouraged, some thatthey are discouraged. Some know other collectors whose collections they rememberhave captured their interest or admiration; but no obvious connection to significantcollectors in their past appears to have influenced their collecting. When asked ifanyone else in their family collects, the most common response is an unequivocal, "no,just me" (Noah, 1). Only Fran, who was not brought up with her family, found out laterthat just about everyone in her family collects. "I left when I was fairly young, but mymom did, everybody collected something...this is my brother who collects mugs, which Ididn't know...I just found out actually. One collects candles and the other one bells.They all collect things." (Fran, 6).When asked if they would try to influence their children to collect, most say theywould. Chris says, "I think it's an interesting pastime. My son has recently started to110collect hockey cards. He buys hundreds to find one he hasn't got" (Chris, 6). Ed activelyencourages young people to begin lottery ticket collections, believing it is the stampcollecting of the future. "I'd like to see these kids. It's what I do a lot. There's this guyin the states, and he's a cub scout leader, he's got 36 kids, now I'm sending tickets tothose kids and they're into it" (Ed, 1). He feels that collecting of any kind was good forkids. Another typical response is, "I have children and they're not a bit interested. Theyhaven't got the instincts at all. Neither has anyone in my family" (Robert, 12).This concept of "instincts" is a curious one, one which arises in many collectors'descriptions of their "feel" for their object category, or of their hunting prowess. Theyspeak of their "instinct" in terms of a real primal sense, applied to the "sniffing out" ofobjects. Alternatively, but in the same context, they may speak of a "talent" forcollecting. Some of their discourse suggests the existence of a "predisposition" tocollecting among some individuals, one which may lie dormant until a particular objector experience triggers it. Robert states, "I got interested because I had the collectinginstincts" (Robert, 2). Trudy says, "I'm just an ace at scouting junk stores" (Trudy, 4).Section two presents a more complete discussion of this "instinct" in terms of the sport ofcollecting.Collecting can sometimes begins with a lost or withheld object, a propositionsuggested by the fictional literature was not supported by the data in this study. Thewithheld object is a common literary device whereby collecting becomes a symbolic questfor that object or what it represents; but this does not appear to be the case withcollector-informants based in this study. Having few possessions or having many111possessions both show only a minor effect upon the collecting drive. No clear patternsimilar to that which stimulates hoarding appeared for collectors. Some collectors, suchas Pat, who began collecting as a child, suggest that the resistance she met to collectingmay have contributed to her lifelong collecting pattern. She describes that resistance: "Ihad a shelf and then two shelves in my bedroom and I just kept collecting them and mymother kept throwing them out. I just kept adding and she kept depleting" (Pat, 1). Pathas chosen to re-enact this drama on her own, by disposing of whole collections, thenstarting over. No other informants mentioned resistance of this kind.Fran says she made a casual, conscious decision to collect things with mushroomson them for her kitchen: "My mother had a soup bowl, a ceramic one made out of amushroom, which I wanted, but she went and hid it on me, so I couldn't get that. Butthat started before I started my collection. So I guess it was already telling me thingsbefore I started" (Fran, 7). She makes the connection herself between the withheldobject and her choice of collecting category. Fran is the only informant who attributesthe start of her collecting to a conscious joint decision made with her husband to eachbegin collections of their own object category but to collect together.For the collector, one defining characteristic of collecting is that the utility aspectof the collected object is not an issue. Collectors gather a number of items for whichutility can no longer be considered a reasonable justification. Very few of the collectorinformants use their objects, and none claim utility as a justification for owning them.Only one of the collectors, the collector of musical instruments (who knew how to playall of the instruments in his collection), used the objects of his collection on a regular112basis. This caused him to question whether he was a "true" collector. "I still don'tconsider myself in some senses fully a collector, in that I'm....my sense is that a collectoris a person that will collect the stuff but not necessarily use it, it's not functional. I makea differentiation there in that still the majority of this is functional and I use it foreducational purposes" (Randy, 7). Pat, who collects teapots and matchbooks, uses one ofher many teapots for tea on different occasions.Most of the collectors comment on the "uselessness" or extraneous nature of thenumber of their objects. "It's almost embarrassing if I said I have 200 coffee mugs withstrawberries on them. I have to have bus tours to use them" (Lou, 6). Several of thecollectors say, they realized they were collecting only when they noticed that they hadgathered more objects than they could use--that they had, in effect, already built acollection. Often one of the first pieces of information volunteered after the collectingcategory is the number of objects in the collection. Ironically, this number is almostalways a "ball park" figure rather than a meticulous count; it is rare to find collectorswho know exactly the number of objects in their collection. This may be due to the ever- changing numbers involved, or it could indicate that collectors tend to attach greaterimportance to a general sense of quantity than to knowing the exact number. Yet theyoften measure their success or accomplishment in terms of the size of their collections.Fran, for example, states, "When I started I couldn't find anything in mushrooms andbelieve me, I came a long way. I have a lot of them" (Fran, 4). Fran obviously equatesacquiring "a lot of them" with "coming a long way. The size of her collection has becomethe measure of her accomplishment.113Collectors select categories where significant numbers will be attainable. For thecollectors involved in this study, having a few objects is not satisfying; in fact no numberis really seen as "enough." The object category determines what number is "significant"to its collector. Sometimes, the collector justifies his/her desire for a lot of items asRandy does here:There are many days when I just walk in the room feeling very stressed orupset by something and I just go from one instrument to another, and I willplay probably over a hundred instruments in that one day and I'm verysatisfied at the end of that day. So, sure I could do that with one hundred, butthere's a lot more freedom in having four hundred. If I had five thousand, itmight take me a long time to walk through that room (Randy, 11).Collecting is significantly different from hoarding. None of the informants appearto have hoarding tendencies: their homes are no more "overloaded" with miscellaneousobjects than one would expect of any group. Hoarding is generally linked to earlymaterial deprivation, as in the case of people who have grown up during the depression,or those who have lost everything in a fire. Chris clearly states his notion of thedifference between a hoarder and a collector: "Hoarders just hoard stuff. Collectors arevery discriminating about what they keep and throw away a lot of junk" (Chris, 7).Although two informants came from what they described as poor or deprived childhoods,no pattern emerged in these terms among the thirty collectors. Only one of thecollectors, Pat, considers herself a "saver", yet she distinguishes herself from a hoarder:"Well, a hoarder, I think, is maybe more utilitarian or into thinking well, someday,somewhere, someone will need what I have. I think a collector is more into the114aesthetic" (Pat, 11). Pat again makes the non-utility aspect a criterion for being acollector.Collecting ends when the collector no longer feels engaged in either the processor the object category. Belk's proposition number seven states that post-mortemdistribution problems are significant to collectors and their families. Collectors buildtheir collections through a slow process of addition, creating a whole which is thecollection. To break up the collection is therefore the direct antithesis of the collector'sdemonstrated goals. For many, their creation of a collection is analogous to organicgrowth: "You could compare it (the collection) to a plant that grows and continues togrow and if it should die on you and then if you lost your collection, you'd want toreplace it. You still have a feeling for it" (Pat, 13). Because this study focuses onindividuals presently collecting, it contains little information as to the final fate of theinformants' collections. It does, however, record each collector's wishes regarding thedisposition of his/her collection.By far the majority of the collectors share the ideal of their collection going to aplace like a museum--a place where it will be shown, where they will be identified withit. The collector's primary interest is in keeping the collection together, preserving notonly the individual objects but the collection as an entity, as a vision.I'd like to see some of it go into a public collection and I'd like to see the kidsget a little of it. I don't feel strongly that it all needs to stay together but I'dlike some of it to. It would be really nice for some of the Eskimo and theInuit to stay together as a collection--even if it became part of a largercollection. I'd like to see that (L.M., 3).115As can be seen in Lou's response to a question regarding the worst part ofcollecting; the disposition of the collection becomes a problem for the collector:What in the hell am I going to do with them? It's a burden, I can't take thiswith me and it seems like, you can only collect so much. It's become aburden. Even now I'm thinking, what is this? It's out of my control now. Thething that worries me, for the heart, is what is this for? Do I go through nowand just take my very favorites and get rid of the rest? How do you stop itonce it's in place? It's frightening almost (Lou, 11).PLAYING THE GAME: COLLECTING THE VERBCollecting is an action executed by collectors, who commonly describe it in termsof hunting, as a sport, or as a game. The following section describes this aspect ofcollecting, an aspect strongly connected to the process of seeking, finding, identifying andultimately "capturing" objects for a collection. Collectors describe the process ofcollecting using implicitly masculine metaphors of sport, hunting, or a game. They usesuch terms such as "searching," "stalking," and "winning," and describe the object as aform of "prey" or a "goal" in a game. In Stewart's analysis the labour of the consumer is"a labour of total magic...thus in contrast to the souvenir, the collection presents ametaphor of production not as the earned but as the captured" (Stewart 1984, 165).Defining collecting, the language used by collectors is one of urges, passions,strategies, coups, alliances, luck, scoring, searching, hunting, stalking and winning.Finding and acquiring is perceived as winning the event; putting together a "fine" orsuperior collection is winning the game--a game in which collectors either set their own116rules and play solitarily or one in which they compete against one another. The fun andthe addiction of collecting are attributed to this game or sport aspect of collecting.Collectors actively seek their objects. They are active consumers, plottingstrategies for finding and securing objects they collect. Two collectors describe theirstrategies:[I locate my objects] through newspapers--ads in newspapers. I've placed adsas well as answering ads, going through junk stores. Being a composer and aconcert artist I get a lot of media attention, so people will contact me. I havepretty much collected the majority of things that were freely circulating, seemsto be a certain percentage or a certain amount of things are moving aroundsomehow that you can get. Because there was a period that I could go andsee instruments all over the place. Now there's none to be found. I knowevery place that you would ever find an instrument, in any possible manner,they're just not there now (Randy, 2).The first thing I do when I go to a conference is go to the Salvation Army. Isit in the hotel room and write down where the thrift stores are and I try tofind someone who can tell me where they are or take me around (Norm, 5).Of the many terms that are used by collectors in regard to their instinct or talentfor the sport of collecting most can be reduced to a concept of shrewdness. As Wisemanstates about the collectors world:These artifacts enter the lower echelons of the antiques trade, the little-studiedworld of the junk shop, garage sale, and flea market, where objects on theirway down the spiral of value sit on the shelf next to those on their way up. Inthis lusty world, you're on your own; there are no tastemakers or critics, onlythe dictates of taste and shrewdness (Wiseman 1987).Shrewdness, an adjective once synonymous with doggedness and maliciousness,has come to signify an envied quality associated with quick wit and keen vision,117especially in practical matters. For the collector, shrewdness describes a perceptive,discerning aspect relating to finding and acquiring.Collectors project a notion of talent, skill, or instincts for their game. This issimilar to what the garage sale patron feels when he or she recognizes the object ofquality or the expensive brand-name item that they can purchase for less than it's worthbecause the seller doesn't know its value. For many collectors, winning at the gameinvolves getting an object at a lower price than it is worth. This shrewdness has to dowith a one-upmanship or beating the system: "it's the search, we all love treasures,something for nothing, ah, we all love bargains. I don't care if it's five cents less. Mostpeople play the game and it's half the fun" (Norm, 8).The collector does not portray this shrewdness as though it were at anyone else'sexpense, but simply as his/her advantage: he/she deserves a good deal because he/sheknows the object's worth and feels passionately about it. The collector's expertknowledge gives his/her an edge in playing and winning the game. Without an "eye"(specialized knowledge), shrewdness cannot be "activated." This translates intocleverness in finding, identifying, and acquiring, which together provide both sport andnarrative.In many ways the narrative of acquisition released by the souvenir aspect of thecollection is self-congratulatory or self-promoting, self-stroking, even regarding gifts.Sometimes the narrative emphasizes the fate aspect (the collector was meant to have theobject) or the ironic or symbolic aspect of the find. These aspects help make collecting118meaningful as well as fun. As Belk states, "Only continual acquisition reinforces thesense of mastery and prowess" (1988, 31). As one collector relates,To buy something that you really like and pay very little - for sure. That's partof the game. I'll give you a couple of examples. I bought a little Inuit printfor $75.00. Then I had things evaluated. I went to the dealer and thatseventy-five dollar print ended up being worth a couple thousand bucks andthe dealer told me she hated me and that was kind of neat (L.M., 2).It is important to emphasize that the collector does not acquire expert knowledge,then begin collecting. The knowledge is acquired along with or after collecting hasbegun--collecting serving as a catalyst to learn about the objects and to participate morefully in the challenge, game or sport of collecting.One aspect of expert knowledge is the knowledge of the specifics of a category'sseriality. Faberge' Eggs, for example, are famous because only a certain number weremade in each category. Collectors of each category would know that number. Thisknowledge of the possible range within a category enhances the game for the collectorfar more than the prospect of seeking out the unknown.I think there is an excitement about knowing that something exists, it's thesame sort of excitement as finding an arrowhead. You know it is there, butyou don't know where it is, and you find it and pick it up and that's veryexciting...you can't explain it, if there's a series, like pottery and there are somany pieces you want to get it all. If Goodall did, I don't know how many hedid, if he did four hundred, I'd like to get them all (Robert, 5).G.S., who collected butterflies, also mentioned an aspect of filling in a figurative bingocard. He suggests that butterfly collectors instantly know if they have found a commonor a rare species:119Well, I guess, as most collectors do, I was always trying to find, get everyspecies that occurs in any one area. And the goal of a North Americanbutterfly collector is that you could theoretically collect every butterfly inNorth America. There are a few that are extinct now and a few that are veryrare, but it would be a possible goal. There is only five hundred species, itisn't a huge number. You have to travel to every state and every province toget them, so it's just amassed from that (G.S., 3).Notice that G.S. uses the phrase "you could theoretically collect every butterfly,"when he is referring to a representative sample. Here, as Stewart has suggested, thecollection "banishes repetition and achieves authority" (Stewart 1984, 152): the objectexemplifies the category. Symbolically, the infinite world becomes finite, able to beknown, circled, contained, owned and captured. The result is usually a closely-ordered,hierarchical world, where one seeks to fill in empty spaces. But only a certain number ofobjects exist to fill those spaces, the game necessarily involves an element of percentages.Collectors playing this kind of game therefore seek to beat the odds.Part of what creates the value of the object and the sport of collecting is theobject's resistance to acquisition. The rare and the unusual are both recognized anddiscovered. Collectors create their own rarity (scarcity) as this establishes resistance andcontributes to the challenge of the game. This resistance cannot be separated from thevalue placed on the object. As Simmel suggests: "We call those things valuable thatresist our desire to possess them" (1978, 67). Specific rules set up by the collector,availability and seriality all contribute to this resistance.Categories within the collection or rules regarding acquisition enhance the game.J.P. states, "I collect canning jars from before the days of screw-ones (the Mason screwon cap), before 1868. One day I found one with a misspelling and I started collecting120canning jars that had misspellings. I haven't found many" (J.P., 3). Ed describes theserare finds as his favorite items: "Then you get into the stuff that I really treasure, stufflike this. Here's one that came off the press without the bonus. Mistakes, it's like thecoins and stamps. Because of their rarity" (Ed, 4).Since material objects have always served to objectify our sense of personal orcollective histories, there is an intimate connection between almost all collecting andtime (the past). Miller comments on this connection: "The historical associations of theobject of art noted by Benjamin (1973) pertain almost inevitably to any object which canbe said to have passed through the hands of the ancestors, and are often a pivot aroundwhich social identity is constructed" (Miller 1987, 124). If this is also true of personalidentity, it has particular bearing on the study of collecting, since, in many categoriescollectors seek to attain the oldest pieces. This can be accounted for by their connectionwith the past (or distance of any kind) and also with rarity, since, in many categories theolder the object, the greater it's rarity.It appears that most collectors set their own rules within the larger rule-governing domain in which goods circulate and are not consumed either by the processor by the objects. Rather than being simply addictive and obsessive, collecting is highlydirected, goal-oriented, and disciplined. Many of the collectors interviewed set andabided by their own criteria for the objects they collected. This included establishingclear limits as to the amount they were willing to spend. Many of the collectorsbemoaned the fact that there were objects they wanted but which they considered tooexpensive.121Some I pass by. I look first of all to see if the price is out of my price range.If it doesn't fit in my budget...the price would be whether it is out of thepicture or not. If it's really expensive. There is this line of really beautiful,expensive dishes. I have one piece that was a gift. No. I never buy them. Ifmoney was no object, then I'd have the whole set because it's beautiful (Lou,9).Collectors seem to have a sense of the range in which they can collect. Randydescribes his limitations: "I kept my eyes peeled and was buying anything. At that time Ihad very little money so I would only buy things that were more or less than thirty-fivedollars, anything. I saw many beautiful instruments that were high priced. I just couldn'tafford them. Typical is Randy's declaration, " If I have funds for it, I will not buy aninstrument if it's ten times the price it should be, no matter what the rarity is. It'sagainst my principles " (Randy, 5).Norm, who had collected many objects over most of his life, was "between"collections. After being sure there was a source for the object he made a consciouschoice as to what he was going to collect: "I said to myself two very important things--inexpensive and there is no one that I know that collects walking sticks" (Norm,3). Thisdefines his game and sets up specific criteria. Randy describes his personal criteria, therules of his collecting "game"--one worth playing for him--along with his larger "mission"to save instruments from extinction:I collect specifically musical instruments from around the world. I try to limitthe collection, to instruments that are not popular Western instruments andeven more specifically try and collect instruments that are in danger ofdisappearing. The more unusual the instrument is, the smaller locality ofconstruct, then I'm interested in it, just so it's considered rare in any sense(Randy, 2).122Randy's collecting is a personal game rather than one in which he participates accordingto someone else's rules, even though his rules interface with the large spheres withinwhich his objects circulate. This is a different game from that played by the baseballcard or stamp collector.Belk's proposition number two states: Addiction and compulsive aspects pervadecollecting. Belk states: "Both our interviews and others' examinations of collectingsuggested that collecting is addictive. As with other addictions, the object of theaddiction is relatively unimportant; it could be almost anything and acts only as the focusof release from other fears or feelings" (Belk, 76). My findings do not support Belk'sproposition. Collecting does exhibit some addiction-like behaviors as well as compulsiveand obsessive traits, but that label in itself presents an incomplete picture. For example,as collecting progresses, the collector usually becomes more and more selective. Thecollectors in this study collect within their means, and have selected categories well-matched to their economic means. None describe his/her collecting as out of control.In fact, their collecting appears highly rule-governed and disciplined, which to somedegree contradicts the addictive and compulsive label. For the most part my interviewstook place in homes or offices, none of which showed signs of hoarding or uncontrolledcollecting.However, collectors do use the language of addiction and obsession to describetheir intense involvement. "Almost like a religious fervor, like you went to church everySunday...I don't know, it is an obsession" (Pat, 13). "It's a disease, well, just like any123disease you're afflicted with it, you can't get rid of it, there's no cure. You have theobsession" (Robert, 8). "It is kind of an obsession and if you're not careful you canspend more money than you should on it, you could spend more time than you should onit. You can get the time out of proportion to the other things that are important in yourlife" (Robert, 9). "I think collecting is like an urge or a fever and you're just empty andyou have to have something" (Pat, 2). "These cheese plates have sure gotten me going.It's kind of like an obsession now" (Gary, 2).Clearly, collectors are hooked on collecting. In spite of the fact that manycollectors mention that spouses resent the time and resources spent on collecting, it hasnot, for the most part, had a negative effect upon other aspects of their lives. Almost allof the collectors expressed restraint in terms of objects that "were out of my price range,"and most set goals and categories that were within their economic means. None mentiondebts or financial problems due to collecting; in fact, many refer to self-imposedrestraints in terms of what they "would" and "could" purchase.Rather than controlling the lives of the collectors, collecting seems to structurethem. They seem to organize their movements to maximize the possibility of finding andacquiring that which they collect, and are self-regulating in terms of price limit andcategory sought, even though they express anxiety or discomfort over these limitations.Ed, who collects lottery tickets, says the worst part of collecting is "not having a certainticket--especially if you have a series. It bothers me. Then if I find out I can get a holdof it, then I'm O.K. The longing, the anxiety, I guess. When I have them, then I settledown. But they have to be in mint condition" (Ed, 6).124Belk bases his analysis of this addictive behavior on the language used bycollectors. This may be more an analogy for the activity, than a literal description of it;or, as Ed says, "Oh yeah, it's an addiction. It's a healthy addiction, because there is noend to it" (Ed, 10). Here, collectors reveal that they consider their "addiction" a positiveone, which is reinforced by the larger society. Even while they use the language ofaddiction and obsession, they also emphasize the "joy" and fun of collecting and thepositive aspects of it, which they assert are more significant than the negative. Thisconflict forms part of the ambivalence collectors express toward their collection andcollecting.ONWERSHIP, POSSESSION AND ACQUISITION"... or inside him there are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it thatfrom a collector - and I mean a real collector, a collector as he ought to be -ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to an object"(Benjamin 1969, 67).Collecting is inseparable from ownership, acquisition and possessiveness. The actof acquisition may be defined as the intention or action which establishes a proprietaryrelationship with tangible or intangible things. It is the desire to attach the pronoun"mine" to certain objects, to take possession of and claim the object as one's own. Toacquire something is to assume the role of owner with all its legal, emotional and socialimplications. Acquisitiveness is the desire to possess the object and includes the act ofmaking it one's own, possessiveness is not letting it go once acquired. Such acts changeboth the object and the person, each assuming meaning from the other. Collection125through acquisition represents the recontextualization of the object with a collapse of itsoriginal use value. Through collection, then, even specimens from the natural world,such as shells or rocks, are transformed into commodities. Collection transforms theobject into a commodity through acquisition. Appadurai states, "This enhancement ofvalue through the diversion of commodities from their customary circuits underlies theplunder of enemy valuables in warfare, the purchase and display of 'primitive' utilitarianobjects, the framing of found objects, the making of a collection of any sort" (1986, 28).The acquisition of objects is a defining characteristic of collecting. For thecollector, the particular context of acquisition and the act of taking possession is ofparticular significance.Well--so you may say--after exploring all these byways we should finally reachthe wide highway of book acquisition, namely, the purchase of books. This isindeed a wide highway, but not a comfortable one. The purchasing done by abook collector has very little in common with that done in a bookshop by astudent getting a textbook, a man of the world buying a present for his lady, ora businessman intending to while away his next train journey. I have made mymost memorable purchases on trips, as a transient. Property and possessionbelong to the tactical instinct; their experience teaches them that when theycapture a strange city, the smallest antique shop can be a fortress, the mostremote stationery store a key position" (Benjamin 1969, 63).There is for the collector a prerequisite of ownership as opposed to rental or loan.Collectors exhibit evidence of possessiveness in regard to their collections.Possessiveness is an attachment to one's possessions--"the inclination and tendency toretain control or ownership of one's possessions" (Belk, 1983, 514). "Having something126means to be in a relationship to it, a relationship mediated by all those experiences thathave conditioned the possessor and the thing possessed, and that forms the mediumbetween person and thing" (Rochberg-Halton 1986, 169).Possession rituals occur to formalize the incorporation of a new object into thecollection. This is the ritual claiming of possession which is different from merelypossessing.As McCracken asserts, "This claiming process is not a simple assertion ofterritoriality through ownership. It is the desire to claim the symbolic properties that canonly be bestowed by the larger world of goods" (1986, 79). For the collector, objects ofcollection are personal possessions, those which are singled out and are identified withthe self. "The term possession means both the relationship of ownership and the thingowned" (Rochberg-Halton 1986, 172). To use the term in a third sense, as meaning thecondition of "being possessed" suggests the ambivalence inherent in the concept.Consumer culture is surely a culture of consumption--the passion to possess everything.In this sense, possession is connected to control.But ownership and possession may extend beyond acquisition to symbolicabsorption. As Noble, writing on doll and toy collecting, states: "Possessiveness, a lessworthy factor, cannot be ignored in these lofty musings, but it becomes less base whenwe realize that by possessing the intriguing object, we hope to encompass it- - to take itto ourselves" (1987, 14). Rochberg-Halton asserts that even for Marx the possession ofthings was not to be viewed as "one-sided gratification, not merely in the service ofpossessing, of having, but as the appropriation of the total essence in its wholeness, that127is the full realization of the inherent qualities of the thing or relation" (1986, 213).Collectors project a sense of personal ownership and possessiveness over theirobjects as opposed to joint, family, or collective ownership. Collectors feel compelled toown the desired object in order to receive the full "power" or effect of the object.Collections are highly personal possessions endowed by the collector with specialmeaning. Ownership allows for constant access, personal identification and intimacy withobjects. Alongside ownership, it is a culture-bound historical concept central to adiscussion of collecting. When collectors are asked what it means that their collectionsbelong to them, the most frequently-mentioned factor is the right to control who touchesit or uses it and the right to have it to look at all the time. Part of the privilege ofownership manifests itself in the collectors' unconditional access to their objects. Fransays, "I was putting them away and then I thought, why not have it out. So now it is outeverywhere. I get to see it all the time. If it's out I get to see it all the time. If it'spacked away, you don't see it. You forget what you have" (Fran, 5). Most express thedesire to have their collections visible, but they rarely specify that their collections shouldalso be visible to others. Like Fran, they want their collections on display forthemselves. The special privilege associated with ownership, the ability to control whathappens to the object, can be seen in Randy's statement:In this box, which as you see is totally closed, a case that is very expensive, ismy glass harmonica, which is the one I was telling you about from the turn ofthe century. And that's very valuable. It is very beautiful, no one touches thatinstrument but me. No one can put their hands on it. I'm the only personallowed to handle it (Randy, 8).128Collectors have a need to own or possess the object to have a full appreciation ofit. For collectors the ownership and its resultant access make possible some activitywhich the collector finds enjoyable or meaningful. Certainly objects which have beenkept over long time spans would be embedded deeper in the psyche of the individualwhere ownership over time goes beyond a custodial relationship. Some collectorsinterviewed say that, because they care about an object they should possess it, a statewhich would allow them to care for, protect and preserve it.Some collectors connect possession so strongly with ownership that they assumethe latter necessarily to follow the former. When I asked Robert if it was the finding orthe "getting" that was the most exciting, he replied, 'They're the same aren't they?"(Robert,9). Indeed, for many categories of collected objects such as matchbooks orbutterflies, the two are virtually inseparable.Even the aesthetic response is not detached from the desire for ownership andpossession. The connection between ownership and intense appreciation or admirationof particular objects has not been fully explored, but is usually associated negatively withjealousy and possessiveness rather than with a natural inclination toward those thingswhich give us pleasure. For the collector, ownership becomes the assurance that thepleasurable experience of looking will be readily available. As Danto, an art critic statesregarding ownership of art works:... the history of taste and the history of acquisitiveness run pretty muchtogether, and men are pleased enough to claim ownership of the beauties ofthe world. Indeed, attempting to possess may be one form of aestheticresponse, as laughter is of the sense of humor (1981, 98).129When asked how he feels about seeing another collection of the item he collects,Noah responds, "Oh I appreciate them. I ask if they are for sale" (Noah, 3).Fundamental to owning an object are both the condition of appreciating it (Furby1978), and the sense that ownership of it represents accomplishment. Collections areextensions of the individual and help define individuality. As Henry James (1890) states,"It is clear that between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine, the line isdifficult to draw. We feel and act about certain things that are ours very much as wefeel and act about ourselves" (James in Furby 1978, 318).You cannot talk about or interview collectors for very long without confrontingdesire, the motive which inspires most human consumption. How and to what degreethis desire is expressed are culturally specific. Collectors often express their desire as a"need" or 'longing" for the object, one which fuels their search and prompts theiracquisition. A collection can neither be built nor sustained without the continuousrepetition of the cycle of desire and fulfilment. To be a collector, then, one must bewilling to live in a state of desiring over long periods of time: I want, therefore I am.This all depends upon how much energy can be amassed and channelled into the serviceof desire.Desire must be considered a significant prerequisite to possession, ownership and"sentiment" toward the collected object. It is part of collectors' attachment to the objectsof their collection, and can be described as a deep affection, even a love for the objects,but is also expressed in terms of a belief in them.130Writing on collecting, Stewart applied the term "longing" to the collector's desirefor objects, and connected it to the "social disease of nostalgia" ( Stewart 1984, ix). Forme to use the term longing for the collecting drive places the focus of the collection onthe past. I feel this implication is misguided and posit instead that collecting is alsoabout the present and future. It is about the future because that is where the next objectis to be found. The process is always projected ahead, even though it incorporates thepast in its narratives. Always present is that which the collector hopes to find: thecollection and the potential to increase it exists in the present life of the collector. As agoal-oriented process, collecting looks toward a desired, attainable future state. Longingsuggests a distant past, something that was once experienced which is now missed. Forcollectors, there is no single lost object, but the continuous potential to find a desiredobject, and also the promise or potential to attain it.Collectors express a sense of desire for those pinnacle objects they long toacquire, those that represent winning. Many collectors, continually hope to make the"find of all finds": "My dream, what I dream about. Finding an old trunk full of them.Olympics and the first lottery tickets-and the first lottery tickets that Mayor BabeauReole brought out in the seventies. He had a two dollar and fifty cent one. He's theone that started this " (Ed, 5). Collectors anticipate the pleasure associated with theacquisition of those objects which are sought: there is an attachment and yearning:A Faberge', that would be completely... oh no. I could tell you something thatwould be within my pocketbook is a plique-a-jour. It's like a stained glass, ithas borders of metal within the glass, poured in between. I just love those. Iwould love to own one and one of these days I am going to. Oh I would just131be overjoyed. I really would be delighted if I found one. Oh I would talkabout it for weeks. Oh yeah I would be so delighted (Jean, 4).Collectors establish a relationship not only with the collected objects but also withthose not yet acquired. The period of time collectors feel the acquisition of this covetedobject would satisfy them is surprising, though. Most indicate a relatively short period,and none say, a particular item would satisfy their desire to collect altogether. "Make myday for sure, oh yeah, I'd talk about it a while. It would wear off but it would make myweek" (Ed, 5). This is after Ed describes his dream of finding a trunk full of vintage,lottery tickets in mint condition! Trudy desires a cookie jar in the tomato pattern ofceramics she collects. Asked how long it would please her if she acquired it she answers,"It would make my month, my six months, but not my year" (Trudy, 6).Affinity, animosity and ambivalence may occur between collectors of the samecategory of object. "When I find someone else that collects what I collect, I feeldiminished. When I found out someone else had eggbeaters I really felt diminished. Ididn't want to see them. Somehow I thought I was the only one" (J.P.,3). Chris respondsin a similar way: "I thought I was one of the only individuals that collect them, until Ipicked up on that designer magazine" (Chris, 7). Trudy expresses a "real comraderie" foranother tomato ceramic collector she has met, even though he has an item she covets(Trudy, 5).Collecting provides a different ground or means of achieving status--one that cancompensate for economic disadvantages. Among collectors, neither education, wealth,nor profession determines superiority. Collectors use their collections to equalize social132relations or to compete. Ed, who collects lottery tickets, claims that when collectorsmeet their relative status, or the status they share as collectors overrides all otherindicators of prestige. If the collector is the best collector, they will find respect andstatus no matter what their income or background. "You're on the same level. I've metpeople like this fellow, he is a doctor of science. I work part-time and drive a truck tomake some money to live. But when we meet, we are on the same level" (Ed, 7).Gifts form a significant portion of many collectors' collections. The acquisitionprocess is significant and must be considered in any discussion of the meaning ofownership and possession. For collectors, how they acquire their objects is an importantconsideration. "I prefer to collect it myself because half the fun is being out of doors.Just getting a box of dried butterflies in the mail is not terribly exciting to me" (G.S.,3).Taking the quest away takes away the gratification of the fulfilled quest. Thepercentages received as gift, even though small, are frequently mentioned by collectors asa source of ambivalence. Depending on the nature and type of collection and thecollector's aesthetic, the affection the giver demonstrates by the gift may balance the lossof quest and personal selection. For some, gifts are problematic because they feelnothing for the given object even though it is within their collecting category. Giftsremove the quest, the hunt, even the narrative. Asked to describe how he feels uponreceiving his collected object as a gift Norm said, "Not as good as when I find it. Mywife has given me canes for Christmas and one was Sir Henry Waters'. It's wonderful,it's one I use in my lectures. Wildebeest horn. It's a gorgeous cane but I didn't get asexcited about that Christmas present as I should have. I never admitted it. But I kept133wondering why" (Norm, 9). Despite knowing this, after the thirty interviews, I had toresist an urge I too experienced to acquire objects in the informants' collecting categories--objects I saw and thought they would like--as gifts. With the Inuit and tribal collector,the cost of the objects eliminates gifts.This problem arises often enough to suggest that collectors desire not only to addto their collections, but to act out a particular (personal) vision or aesthetic. Themethod of acquisition therefore appears to alter the meaning conferred by ownershipand possession. Any gift carries an association of affection and caring as well as variousother implications regarding interpersonal relationships.8 But collectors express differingresponses toward gifts of their collected objects. Many resent that others are doing theselecting, so that, even though gifts contribute significantly to many collections, objectsreceived as gifts may have less meaning for the collector than those the collectorpersonally acquires. Attitudes toward gifts seem to fall into two distinct orientations, onein which the gift compromises the collector's aesthetic, therefore presenting a problemfor the collector; and, second, one in which the collector promotes the identification withthe object category and welcomes gifts. In the second case, aesthetic considerations areoften not as strong a part of the collecting category. For example, Pat, who collectsmatchbooks, considers gifts a symbol of affection. The associated objects provide avehicle for anyone who wishes to express affection. The strawberry lady suggests that theconnection is so strong that her friends can't see a strawberry or anything with8^A more comprehensive discussion of gift giving is out of thescope of this study, see Mauss (1924) or Hyde (1983).134strawberries on it without thinking about her. As a result, people's desire to please heroften takes the form of strawberry-related gifts.Donations and gifts can also reinforce a certain inertia to collecting. Such giftsmay rob the collector of some control over the size of the collection. Gifts can cause thenumbers of collected items to get out of hand, with items the collector is not particularlyfond of. In Lou's case, gifts have continued to come in long after she has ceasedcollecting.A collector's notion of value is not of immediate value. The value is in theentity, not in the individual object, or in what it might be worth in the future. None ofthe collector informants used in this study said they were collecting for monetary gain,even in the future, though many believed that their collections would be worth somethinglater. Most insisted that collecting had little or nothing to do with investment for them."Sometimes I've paid as much as 30 or 40 dollars for a camera. But it never seemed likemuch money, I never think of them as how much they're worth. It strikes me asperfectly normal that someone would want to store these away after I'm done collectingthem. But I don't see them as valuable" (J.P., 2). The collectors interviewed showedvery little interest in converting their collections into commodities; their interest was inkeeping the objects. Only two mentioned or discussed the investment aspect of theircollection. Most were not interested in turning their collection over for profit. Theirhighest goal was to build the best possible collection with the long-term goal to see theircollection displayed in something like or in an actual museum, not for them to be worthmillions.135Ownership connects to time, to the ability to carry the object over an indefinite orself-controlled time frame. Ownership serves as a protection for the attachment. "If Iwent to another country I could play them there but--the instruments are part of myexpression of my creative self and I find that sometimes certain instruments definitelyhave a voice for a certain part of me. Nice to be able to have this voice here and beable to express it" (Randy, 7). "Even if it means nothing to anyone else, to me it ispretty or nice, attractive. I want to see it time and time again" (Pat, 11). "There are anumber of instruments here on loan, except it is very painful when they leave. In somesense I prefer to own them because then I know what's going to happen to their future.I'm assured of how they will be taken care of and that they can be properly restored ifthey need it or maintained" (Randy, 7).The act of collecting and its objects serve memory, thereby creating a strongrelationship between the collector and the collected objects. Collections are intimatelyconnected to "recollection", a calling back to mind, a gathering again of that which hasbeen scattered, and therefore represent a symbolic recovery or unification. They alsoserve memory in their ability to release a narrative, thereby acting as a souvenir. Amesdescribes this function of the object to release a narrative: "A Northwest Coast Indianartist once described museum collections as stored up information waiting to be released.When the elders see the objects, he said, their memories are stimulated and theyremember the past" (Ames, 1983, 100). Those privileged in this way with objects aregenerally the makers or those with a long history of use or involvement. Collectors usethe point of acquisition as life experience markers. The collection therefore records the136collector's movement through time and marks growth through the increase in the size ofthe collection. The physical growth of the collection may serve as evidence of personalgrowth of the collector: collectors can measure progress and achievement through sheernumbers. As Fran remarked looking at her collection, "I came a long way" (Fran, 4).As the particular context of acquisition is of special significance to the collector,the narrative most often released in regard to the collected objects is the narrative ofacquisition. The narrative released by a collected object is different from that releasedby other souvenirs. The souvenir's narrative relates to the "authentic" experience, eventor place of travel. In collection, the object's authenticity is a given: it is the narrative ofacquisition or the story of the purchase which is most often released by the collectedobject, validating the right of ownership and serving as the authentic experience.Consumption therefore is meaningful for the collector in a way very different from thatof buying a shirt or groceries.There are a lot of things I can go back to among probably 4500 of the 5000(butterflies). You can show me this insect and look at the label and it takesme back to that day in July in Florida or wherever. It's wonderful to read ona label, Longboat Key, April 23, 1964 or something and I can visualize what itlooks like. I can see the gravel, I can see the coral on the beach. Thesebutterflies flying through the swamps in Southern Florida. It's wonderful to beable to do that....I often look through and just read the labels on things on mybutterfly collection and that takes me back to all these places (G.S., 12).Garage sale, North Carolina, Raleigh, when I was on sabbatical. See I wroteit in here where I got it (Norm, 11).Collectors often acquire objects for their collections specifically for souveniraspects, and commonly collect on trips.137"The most fun one that I got, when I was traveling across the U.S., when I wasin Virginia City, Nevada. In the middle of nowhere. I went in an old store,it's a double bowl piece, a piece I'd never seen before. That was pretty wild"(Trudy, 4)."It's almost a hunter-gatherer thing. I tend to get a lot of pleasure out ofacquiring things on a trip in a way that I don't get when it's brought to me orif I stumble onto it in a shop where I live. One a trip it's a grand tour aspect--I came back to New Zealand with Pre-columbian material from the Americas--they were also momentos as much as anything thought out" (Bob, 3)."I guess I enjoy the sense that when I go away on a big trip, say to Europe orsomewhere else, that I don't know what I might find. It's provided a sort ofstructure to traveling. I tend to go to Europe when the auctions are on on"(Bob, 5).Collectors project or take on a sense of ownership over the objects whichtranscends the maker or culture of origin; therefore, collecting is very much about thepower of the possessor. Collectors project a sense of personal ownership over theirobjects, as opposed to joint, family or collective ownership. Collectors must own theirobjects as opposed to renting them or having them on loan. When asked how collectorswould feel if they had a desired addition to their collection on loan rather than owningit, a common response was that they would not take it, or want it, if they couldn't own it."I don't see any point in it, "or "it would only make me three quarters happy, not onehundred percent" (Trudy, 5). Collectors view ownership as one of the goals of collecting.Collectors do not feel that they just find or seek objects, they project a notion offate or destiny in that object coming to them. Stewart describes part of the "fate" of thecollection:We go to the souvenir, but the collection comes to us. The collection says thatthe world is given; we are inheritors, not producers, of value here. We "luck"138into the collection; it might attach itself to particular scenes of acquisition, butthe integrity of those scenes is subsumed to the transcendent and a historicalcontext of the collection itself (1984, 165).As Randy suggests, collectors feel that as much as they seek out and find theobject, the objects also come to them: "I figure at some point I will get thatinstrument--if it is deemed I will get it" (Randy, 5). As Stewart suggests, "The souvenirmagically transports us to the scene of origin, but the collection is magically transportedto the scene of acquisition, it's proper destination" (Stewart 1984, 165). Collectorssubstantiate this notion of their ownership being the "destiny" of that object. Often thenarrative of acquisition is one which encompasses the acquisition of the object as part ofit's destiny, and places the collector as a key player in the social and economic drama ofthat particular object.Collectors not only possess strategies and skills for finding their objects butdescribe an intuition in knowing where they are "hiding." This intuition suggests a "fate"or aspect of destiny in the object coming to them. Randy recounts this intuitive"finding":I arrived at Expo and within, oh three weeks, I had already bought about fourof these instruments. People would come over to where I was staying and seethese instruments and say; Where did you get these? I told them and they'dsay, we've been here for three months and haven't seen anything like this--musicians who were really into this stuff. So obviously I had the sense ofwhere to go. There's almost a sixth sense sometimes. In Australia, it was verymuch like that. I would walk down a street. I could feel if I went that way,there is probably a store over there. I could buy an instrument in. Sureenough there would be. I've been driving down the highway on tour manytimes, driving through a small town, passing by a junk store, just hit the brakeshard, back up into the junk store, buy an instrument. Just walking, walk to thecorner where it is, pick it up. Give the guy thirty dollars, put it in the car and139drive off again without even thinking about what it was that I was doing. I justknew it was there. I could feel it. I bought it and there it was and off I'd go.It would take five minutes (Randy, 10).This intuition connects to an enhanced awareness of the objects. The collectingprocess triggers or cultivates an observational sensitivity to the collected object's form orimage. As Lou states, "I've been with people--it amazes them, that I will pass by, andyou know how, two seconds you walk by a store, I'll say there is a strawberry in there.They'll say, How did you see that? I think the color again. If it's red and green I pick itup. But yeah I see them. The same thing if I am near a second-hand store" (Lou, 9).Often the narrative presents the collector as worthy or deserving often because oftheir knowledge or respect for the object:I found another instrument in an ad in the back of a music magazine that wassix months old. I answered the ad. I was the only person to call and it was aninstrument that dates back to the turn of the century, made of glass. It's abeautiful instrument, definitely a collectors' item, even for a non-musician, andthe woman sold it to me at a phenomenally low price because she was gettingold, no one in her family wanted it. She loved the instrument so much shewanted to pass it on to somebody that respected it. So now it's one of mymain instruments (Randy, 3).Ames states of early anthropological collecting that "what was important was toselect objects that would stimulate admiration and wonder and which would reflect uponthe daring exploits, special knowledge, or privileged status of the collector" (96). Thepersonal collection generates similar responses, the type of object collected determinesthe quality or qualities reflected. For example, special knowledge is often the source ofstatus:140A friend of mine called me up and said, There's an instrument in thenewspaper described as a bamboo percussion instrument and they want a lotof money for it. I thought maybe you'd be interested. I went to visit thesepeople, answered the ad. They had an instrument known as an onkalong,which is actually becoming more popular now here in North America. It's thatbig set of rattles, five feet long, six feet high or five feet high, six feet long. It'sa very rare instrument, a full set. They wanted a very small amount of moneyfor it, and I was the only person who walked in and knew what it was. Theyhad one other person who had answered the ad who was a drummer and hedidn't know what it was. I walked in and I knew what it was. I named it andthey said, "Well the other guy has first choice, but we are going to give it toyou because you know what it is. So that was great" (Randy, 3).Many stories, narratives told by collectors are of their prowess in identifying orexploits in acquiring.Last summer I was out collecting with three friends who are all botanists butone of them was a student taking an entomology course so we were walkingalong on this mountain trail near Chilliwack somewhere and this littlewasp-like thing flew by which anybody else would have said, Oh, it's a littlebee or something, and it's actually a moth that mimics wasps. And it was themoth, so I said get it, that's something wonderful and rare. So she did andnow has it for her collection....One of the rarest things I ever caught, I caughtwith my fingers. You know butterfly collectors are always running around withnets but I didn't have a net and it was sitting on the mud and I just picked itup with my fingers and it turned out to be an extremely rare thing, one of therarest Eastern North American Butterflies (G.S., 4).Simply having this butterfly or purchasing it does not provide a narrative which isrewarding to the collector. Having a story which points to fate, prowess or shrewdness issignificant in the pleasure derived from acquisition and to the quality or affect of thenarrative.141Collecting can be separated from consumerism. Purchase may not be the onlyfactor in the behavior. For many collectors, not buying the objects is part of theself-imposed game rule.Well, a guy would come in and see them and then give me his hat to hang upor I would trade them or ask them. I decided not to buy any. No, I've neverbought one. Just like a month ago I saw a hat in the back seat of a carparked out there right by the shop. When the guy came back I asked himabout the hat and showed him the hats and he said he'd sell it to me. I saidno thanks, then he just gave it to me to hang up. What's the point if you aregoing to buy them. It's no fun then. Anybody can do that (Butch, 1).Other collectors, such as Pat, who collects matchbooks, and G.S., who collectsbutterflies, have chosen object categories in which purchase is not an issue.As stated earlier, buying an existing collection eliminates the game of collectingand does not substitute for the collecting process. Still, collectors do occasionally buyexisting collections to add to theirs.OBJECT ATTACHMENT, AFFECTION AND SENTIMENT:COLLECTORS RELATIONSHIP TO THEIR OBJECTSCollectors describe two inseparable yet distinguishable relationships with theirobjects: one involves the association of the collected objects and the pleasure of theprocess of collecting; the other concerns collectors' attraction or love of the collectingcategory or of the objects collected. Without an attachment to and a desire for theirobject categories collectors would not collect. This primary focus on the object is evident142even in collectors reactions to being interviewed. By far the majority of the collectorsinterviewed wanted me to show particular interest in their objects, rather than incollecting in general. Some even expressed frustration that I was not specificallyinterested in being shown their collection. Several insisted that I come back and spendmore time "with the collection." They were neither narcissistic nor self-centred. Theywere more interested in discussing "their objects" than either the collecting process orthemselves. "You know that for a collector to talk about his collection, they love to talkabout their collection. Absolutely, you know that" (Norm, 9). Like proud parents,collectors want to make the observer a believer, to show what they see in the objects,and to have you share in the world of that object. They are excellent tour guides,extolling the merits of this piece and that, pointing out similarities and differences.The affection and fascination collectors express towards their objects of collectionare proportional to the phase of collecting they are in. Collectors express joy, pleasureand fun in regard to the collecting process and their collected objects. For them, thesimple experience of viewing their collections is pleasurable, and they commonly expressemotions or feelings toward individual objects and toward the object category. It maysound trite or dramatic, but in the language of collectors, they "love" their objects.The intensity of collectors' language regarding their objects is strongest near the"peak" of collecting--a peak which may last years. Expressions of affection take manyforms. Asked what she thinks she has in common with collectors of different categories,Pat replies, "I think the fever is the same and the affection for the collection, which iskind of crazy, but there is an affection for collections. I think that is the same" (Pat, 18).143Alongside what collectors describe as "passion" and the "love" of their collectedobjects they also express a more subtle emotion--that of sentiment toward the collectedobjects. This is generally expressed in familial tones. Regarding his doll collection Noahstates, "I don't really want to part with any of them as I would miss them" (Noah, 5).This language implies a long association, an intimate relationship, rather than whatconsumer studies calls "product enthusiasm". Sentiment is expressed in a way thatsuggests that the objects have been internalized to become part of the collector's life.My enthusiasm for a collector's object category generated a much more intimateconnection than interest in other aspects of his/her life. Amongst collectors, intimacycan exist because of the enthusiasm and involvement in the same category:The girl from the states, her car was broken into and all her tickets werestolen and everything else. I called her up on the phone and I said, 'If there isanything you need--you're welcome to it.'I'd just give it to her. Because tomeet somebody who loves to collect the same thing that you are collecting,you go out of your way for them--you have to (Ed, 8).The collectors interviewed comment upon the intimacy they feel with those whoshare their aesthetic, and upon the connection that a shared aesthetic forges betweenthem. As a primary connection between people, the dimension of a shared aesthetic hasnot been fully explored. For many collectors, though, it appears to cross over age,gender and economic boundaries.For other collectors, the opposite is true: they felt diminished or threatened byfinding out there were others collecting in their categories. Several expressed outrightanimosity toward others collecting in the same category. The distinction here may be144between the social collector, who collects as part of a larger collecting network, and theidiosyncratic collector, who sets out to collect something no one else has, thereby usingthe collection as a statement of his/her individuality.Collectors express and demonstrate an intensely ambivalent relationship with theircollections. "We can't take it with us and what do we do with it? I'm not saying it isabsurd, but it has hit me. What am I doing? It's become a burden. I really don't wantto part with them. I couldn't use all of these in a lifetime. I think that part has hit me(Lou, 6). When asked if she has ever been tempted to start any other collection, Loureplies "Never. In fact what I've been tempted to do is to understand how I got this farin this and where do you call it quits" (Lou, 8).When other people come over and get such a kick out of going over them andthat I have a story for each and every single berry that's the only time that Ican truly say, 'Gee, I love this.' But then other times I think what am I goingto do with all of these strawberries and that is the truth (Lou, 10).The process of collection creates a personal relationship between the collector and theobject; even mass-produced objects develop singularity. The collector already feels aspecial relationship or connection to his/her entire target category. Inclusion into thecollection adopts the object into a familial relationship. Traders and dealers in thecollected objects are not considered collectors because they have no feelings for theirobjects therefore trade and sell them. As Fran describes, "I'm a good collector, but Iwon't give them out. I'm not a good trader" (Fran, 3). For the majority by far, taking anobject into their collection is for the most part a permanent inclusion--a commitment forthe life of the collection. Belk's fourth proposition states that sacred conversions occur145when an item enters a collection (1988, 77). Such assimilation transforms worthless orunvalued objects. This dynamic involves the social world of the object, and whathappens to the object as a result of assimilation.Mass production has the effect of making objects anonymous. With its advent,objects which formerly bore the distinct and unique traces of their makers have becomeimpersonal and untouched. Objects with an individual identity have become less secure.One result of this lack of object attachment is alienation. To collect an object is to makeit singular again. Just as constant use makes a tool or object personal, taking animpersonal object into one's collection makes it personal. For a collection the act ofacquisition is one of severance, of an object from one context and inclusion into another-an initiation of sorts. One thing which age and history do to an object is to make itsingular. For collectors, Kopytoff refers to this principle as "singularization" or ayearning to imbue mass-produced items with unique or singular qualities. One of theways that this occurs is through the association of the object (e.g. Elvis' hankie). It canalso occur through a personal relationship with an object, so that the longevity of theowner-object relationship assimilates or bonds the objects to their owner. (Kopytoff inAppadurai, 1986, 80-81). Collecting alters the pattern of obsolescence, returning orrevaluing items which have become worthless, thereby giving them an organic quality ofrenewal.Object attachment often relates to both the category and specific objects withinthat category, and is expressed similarly in either case. Theme collectors, who maycollect everything relating to "golf' or "strawberries", speak of loving the theme of their146collections rather than particular objects, even though certain objects are favoredbecause they most closely "capture" the category.COLLECTORS AS CURATORSCollectors describe and participate in a curatorial relationship with their objects.A significant part of the process of collecting appears to be the maintenance,documentation, research and display of the collection, with as much as 40% of the timespent on collecting attributed to these curatorial concerns. For some collectors theseactivities become as significant an involvement as finding and acquiring new additions totheir collection. "I spend an average of 4-5 hours a day. Average, making sets up tosend out, sorting, corresponding--everything has to be looked at very carefully. Anythingthat's no good goes in there. Those I give to kids" (Ed, 4). For Robert the cataloging ofhis collection, and the categories he wished to identify within it led him to develop hisown computer system.If you get into a collection and it starts to expand, you have to have a way ofcontrolling it, knowing a number of things about it. When did you get it, howmuch did you pay for it? What is it? What variations are there? So that nowleads into computerization. So I've had the fun of developing a computerprogram which will accommodate my collection and allow me to keep track ofthe kinds of things I have (Robert, 7).Underlying principles of classification and organization are apparent in collectingand in the mind of the collector. So-called scientific collections appear to be the most147classified. Below, a collector expresses a desire to complete the series implicit in hiscollections:I don't know, there's something inside that just says you have to fill the spaces,you have to fill in the gaps, however, I don't know how I want to say this. Ilike to pigeon-hole things. I like for things to be neat and orderly. I like tosay, 'O.K., there's three of these things that are blank and I'd like to be able tofill in the blanks.' Maybe that's the reason I like to collect stamps. There's ablank on the page (G.S., 10).The collector reflects the meaningful relationships he/she establishes within thecollection in her classifications and display. These relationships reflect a curatorialrelationship with the objects. Collectors' methods of displaying their collections andtheir discourses of categorization reveal something about their perceptions of reality.Writing on children's collections, Cameron describes this phenomenon:Mother, perhaps while tidying up, takes the childish array and reorganizes it ina neat row along the window's ledge. The child is distressed not because hisobjects, his prize possessions have been damaged, but because the meaningfulrelationships he was establishing among them have been destroyed (Cameron1972, 14).An analysis of the full symbolic and aesthetic qualities inherent in "collections" ofany sort is beyond the scope of this thesis, yet these symbolic domains and thestructuring of reality are apparent in the displays of the collectors interviewed.Collection may present the partial as the complete, the chaotic as coherent, the obsoleteor redundant as permanent or valued, the past as the present. For Harry, the travelsouvenir collector, his diverse object forms are unified by place. Their world is orderedby geography, united by continent and unified by their common quality of being "exotic."148Butch lays out his hats in an egalitarian fashion, row upon row, none privileged in termsof display or arrangement, the only exception being that he keeps some of his favoritehats at home. The principles of organization may be a model of the collector's view ofthe world or one he projects on it. For some, this is a scientific world, ordered andrational. Underlying principles of classification emerge, sometimes visual, sometimesmaterial, sometimes conceptual, as is apparent in the display of the collection and thediscourse of the collector.Yes, there are categories of canes, uses for everything. Weapons, you knowabout sword canes, one gun cane, called a poacher's cane...Then there arecanes that are interesting because of the dedication on them. On the silverband, for the person. That's a group of canes because they are actually dated.So you've got weapons, and cosmetics, name anything that a woman carriesand one time she carried it in her cane. Oh and sports and tools. I have abeautiful fly rod of bamboo which comes out of a cane. It's gorgeous. Oh andwhat have I got in the tools line? Oh, a beautiful saw (Norm, 13).Butch keeps about 150 of nearly 1000 company hats (what he called his elite collection),at his home, with the rest at his business office. This sub-category consists mostly of hatswith embroidered emblems, which he considers the most beautiful, the nicest. Theireconomic value is irrelevant, as Butch has never purchased a hat for his collection.Butch's categories are all structural or material. For example, summer hats with an airymesh instead of cloth form one category. Sometimes these especially valued sub-groupswithin the collection will branch into new, more narrowly-focused collecting categories.When Ruth was asked to describe the categories she divided her bells into she replied; "Iguess the way I would categorize them is, my working old bells, the gift bells, there arelots of those and the travel bells. One's I've got and picked up traveling" (Ruth, 4).149Here two of Ruth's categories relate to acquisition rather than any inherentcharacteristics of the bells.Collectors develop and possess expert or specialized knowledge about the objectsthey collect. This expert knowledge can almost be considered a by-product of thecollecting process. As Robert says, "I get excitement out of the collection, I get theknowledge. To be a good collector is to learn as much as you can about that item. Idon't care much about the showing of it" (Robert, 10).Of the thirty collectors, only Pat and Chris claim to know nothing specializedabout their object category. Of these two, though, interviews reveal only Pat's claim tobe accurate. All of the rest, including Chris, can pass on some facts, information orobservations not commonly known about their categories or object types. Lou'sdiscourse is typical:I looked up the history and found out that the strawberry is actually a memberof the rose family, any tidbits, writings. I've got all of these sayings fromdifferent notable writers, just little things and it's a joke and they've mentionedit. Strawberries simply fascinate me. There is this book that I had calledLovers and Art, it's all these oil paintings and the reason that I bought theentire book is because there is a plate with the strawberry being handed as anoffering (Lou, 5).Gary through his cheese dish collecting had also "collected" a comprehensivehistory of cheese making and serving along with specialized knowledge of ceramics,The cheese was made in rounds, with some two feet across. Slices of cheesewere taken from those rounds and stored in the cheese dishes at home. Thecovering for the dishes had at least one hole, where gas could escape. Themore used dishes have a brown coloring, indicating a certain amount of oilfrom the cheese being absorbed into the dish. Older dishes have these small150cracks in the finish called crazing, and have stamps or ink marks made by themanufacturer (Gary, 3).This absorption makes the object a window, a medium through which connectionsare forged. For many collectors, their objects have served to draw them into largerinquiry. "Not only do I collect them, I also learn how to play them. So it's not just theinstrument that I am interested in but the culture itself. So I learn the culture, I learnthe music and I learn the instruments. I visit the people" (Randy, 2).This expanded specialized knowledge allows the theme collector to "live in theworld" of the collected object, to feel even more surrounded by it. Ed says, "Oh I readeverything I can get my hands on--everything, even a joke, as long as it's lottery related"(Ed, 7). This intimate knowledge of the topic or theme creates more intimacy betweenthe collector and the object category and promotes a sense of ownership or exclusivenessin regard to the category.Collectors often consider that the quality of the collection represents greaterknowledge of the collected category. The two are projected together. The connectionbetween the knowing about, and the possessing and owning of material goods has notbeen fully explored within the study of things. I have, therefore I know!Part of the goal of collecting is to become an expert on the collecting category."A collector, one of the things that is fun about it, is that you try, most collectors do, tolearn everything you can possibly learn about that thing and that part of it is quiteintriguing, become the (his emphasis) expert on Medalta pottery, to know more thananybody else" (Robert, 5).151Collectors acquire support materials which connect to their object category.These often exist in the form of books, magazines, short articles or anecdotes.I've just recently made a very large purchase, something that I'd never dobefore, that I spent five hundred dollars on a three volume dictionary ofmusical instruments, where normally I'd spend that five hundred dollars on aninstrument. But I realized that I was using this dictionary so much. I wasspending five hundred dollars a year running to UBC to go to the musiclibrary and read it. So it's cheaper to buy it and that it's an excellent source aswell and I have been reading it from cover to cover (Randy, 6).As well as information, collectors gather material which connects to their objects.Typically, collectors collect some amount of support material that is not within theircollecting category, but which they consider supports it. Chris, who collects globes, isgetting interested in old atlases as well. Jean describes this branching phenomenon:, "Sothen of course, you get into eggs and then you have to collect egg cups--you have to havesomething to display them in" (Jean, 2).Collectors express pre-established goals for their collection: they hope to becomemore selective, and to build a collection which is both bigger and better. The quality,size, uniqueness or notoriety of a collection is a source of attention and pride for thecollector. Goals expressed appear to differ depending upon the point the collector hasreached in the collecting cycle. As has already been mentioned, there is an early push tocreate the collection, during which increasing the collection's size figures mostprominently. The longer collectors have collected, the more often they tend to mentiona "better" collection as a goal. This suggests that the process develops a notion ofconnoisseurship and discrimination. Many long-term collectors link the terms "bigger"152and "better" as a unified goal. "My goal is to be the biggest collector of lottery tickets inNorth America and have the best. Biggest by number and have the best quality" (Ed, 4).For Ed, the concept of quality is clear: the nearer tickets are to "mint" condition, thebetter their quality, although he considers other factors as well. Lou's goal is diversity:"The most diverse. I wish I could see it in other areas. I find it frustrating that I can'thave strawberries everywhere. It seems more so in the kitchen and that sort of troublesme" (Lou, 10).There is definitely a competitive aspect to the "better and bigger" aspect, sincecollectors commonly measure their collections against those of other collectors. Thoseplaying the collective, social game of collecting, define winning partially in terms of thecompetition with other collectors. Yet, for some collectors, the game is singular, playedagainst oneself and the environment or against "fate." "I started up here and then foundout about this Mr. Lottery in New Jersey, that's what they call him. We have to meet.Because I figure I've got the biggest collection up this way. He's got the biggest downthere. I've got the most in terms of bulk. But this Doctor, he's close, we're vying.We're working good together" (Ed, 8).The competitive aspect of collecting comes into play in aspiring not only towardhaving the biggest and the best, but also toward being known for the biggest and thebest. In this respect, the collection is a tool in the service of self esteem and prestige."In Malaysia, there's a club, they want me for a life partner. They are sending meeverything they are bringing out. Stuff like that, it's great. I'm not kidding ya " (Ed, 8).Often individual collectors become part of a larger social system or subculture, where153their prestige is recognized. Robert describes the intricate and structured form of socialdrama that can accompany collecting: "If there was an Edward Goodall card that cameon the market, anywhere on the North American coast I would probably know about it.Somebody would write me or phone me and say, there's an Edward Goodall here, doyou want it?" (Robert, 7). Here, Robert's notoriety brings him not only status but moreobjects. He goes on to describe the communication: "So once you become sort of anexpert, or it becomes known that you're collecting, you develop an enormous network.Collectors are terribly networky, you know that" (Robert, 7).The social connections and the admiration of other collectors of one's category isparticularly significant to some of the collectors. Of the thirty interviewed, several wereactive in networking, both individually and through sophisticated international systems ofclubs and newsletters--Robert with postcard collectors, Jean with the Minoru SpoonClub, and Ed with the North American Lottery Club:I just love it, I write so many people--I've written all over the world. I justwrote 67 letters all over the world. In the states there are these new membersI've got to write. I get all kinds of great letters....What is fun about it iscommunicating with different people....The most fun part is communicatingwith the people, different collectors. It's really great. What they send and thefun of sending them something that I know they haven't got--knowing they willlove it and getting the answer back (Ed, 2, 3, 5).Newsletters such as the lottery club's (1989) consist of a list of items wanted,introductions of new members and stories about other collectors. This publication of thelottery collector's society is not a tool of a commercial enterprise, promotingticket-collecting, but started and conducted by the collectors themselves; it consists of154several hundred members who subscribe to it and also write the articles.Communication between members of a collecting group is an important socialconnection for some collectors. Others have no connection with any other collectors oftheir object and express no interest in the social world of collecting, even thoughorganizations exist for the objects they collect.Unlike the institutional or fine art collector, the majority of the collectors in thisstudy are not preoccupied with notions of authenticity. Only the collectors of tribal artmentioned authenticity or used language which suggested this was a serious concern.What the rest did project was a common quest for unique, different or rare objects.With butterflies, matchbooks, or company hats, authenticity is assured--any butterfly ormatchbook is authentic. This concept may be much more of a category-oriented, orelitist preoccupation. I find this interesting because my readings on collectors of art, forexample, show authenticity to be a most consuming obsession, sometimes verging onparanoia.Contrastingly, the majority of collectors in this study are not interested indocumentation: authenticity is not an issue but an assumed quality of their objects. Inmany respects these collectors have set their own criteria of authenticity. Harry, forexample, feels that if he acquires an item in the country on his journey, then it is"authentic".Collectors view collecting as a serious involvement, and sometimes consider ittheir "real" life's work. When asked about the investment of time devoted to theircollecting activities, the responses vary greatly, from "hardly any," to "enormous." At155least half of the collectors interviewed said that they had spent a great deal of time atsome point in the collecting cycle on their collections: "I've never tried to figure it out.It would be years, literally years. Because many summers when I was in school I wouldspend a few hours every day collecting" (G.S., 8).Ed, who does not profess to have a "career," considers collecting to be hisimportant work. "I spend an average of four to six hours a day--average--making sets upto send out. Sorting, corresponding, everything has to be looked at carefully" (Ed, 4). Itis important to remember that the activities associated with collecting, such as theacquisition of knowledge, the development of networks and the formulation of strategiesare all part of an extremely complex process, of which the act of purchase or selection isbut one component. Some collectors develop greater involvement in the area ofcuratorial activities (displaying, labelling, storing etc.) than in finding, acquiring orpurchasing.When asked if they have documented or catalogued their collections in any way,several, such as Pat, answer that they have:I have with previous collections but not with this one because it's the smallest.I would make lists of colors, I would make lists of ones with scenes ascompared to ones that just have writing or blank ones. I would categorizethem from country, from city, from restaurants as opposed to somewhere else.Just fun things. Then one time I had them all in scrapbooks, it was a terriblefire hazard. I had them all categorized when I had about fifteen differentscrapbooks. My blue ones are here, my restaurant ones are here (Pat, 17).Regarding her motivation for such cataloguing, Pat says, "I think I just wanted toget deeper into something I enjoyed" (Pat, 17). For several collectors, as much as 40%156of their time was spent in the maintenance, documentation, research and display of thecollection. Robert, for example, describes this documentation aspect as a by-product ofthe collecting process--an aspect he finds both essential and enjoyable:If you get into a collection and it starts to expand, you have to have a way ofcontrolling it, knowing a number of things about it. When did you get it, howmuch did you pay for it? What is it? What variations are there? So that nowleads into computerization. So I've had the fun of developing a computerprogram which will accommodate my collection and allow me to keep track ofthe kinds of things I have (Robert, 7).Collectors place their collections before themselves and become the personbehind the collection, so to speak. This presentation of the collection is reflected in thediscourse of collectors and in the display of the collection. No discussion of thecollection and its meaning is complete without a discussion of display. For somecollectors, display is an important aspect to collecting:I do try and make it interesting, you know, so it wasn't like a hodge podge, juststuck along here to there. I've lots of time, this time of year, there's very littlebusiness. Gives you the time to work these things out. I always try, if a littledisplay doesn't stack up as good as I'd like it, I replace it with something else.Like maybe too many pictures of one particular area, but never too much(Harry, 4).Harry has not only mounted and arranged elaborate displays of his touristmemorabilia but has placed typed captions and labels on most of the items. "So thatpeople can read it and realize what it's about. It's quite educational. People don'trealize that some of the temples in Burma are so big as they are" (Harry, 9).Display of the collection allows for comparison, reflection, and discussion. Thedisplay is most often located to associate it clearly with the domain of the collector.157When Ruth was asked if all of her bells were hanging up she replied; "Yes. They are alldisplayed in the windows—just in the kitchen, the breakfast nook and the pantry" (Ruth,2). The projection of a discrete space where the collection can be autonomous anduncontaminated, and can be presented as a whole is evident in many collectors' displaysof their collections. All are displayed as entities and in some physical way detached fromtheir surroundings through shelves, areas, special furniture. In some cases, such asRandy's display of instruments, the provision of an entire room may be necessary toaccomplish this separation. "What I would like to have is a nice cabinet and puteverything in. But that will come in the future, no rush on it" (Fran, 5). Even Mary atage eleven assumes she will collect the same object into adulthood, and describes hernotion of an ideal display for her collection:I would collect them and when I grow up, I want to be a scientist, but I wantto have a little room in my house or a little place so I can put all myminiatures in a separate place so when I have my friends over or company, Ican show them and maybe they'd like to start collecting (Mary, 3).Display allows the collection to be presented as a personal possession identifiedwith the self. It is hard to determine the outside forces which influence the placement ofthe collection. For example, when I asked Robert if I could see his collection he replied,"Certainly, my wife insists that I keep everything downstairs" (Robert, 13). McCrackenclaims this separation of the collection is "not a simple assertion of territoriality throughownership. Claiming is also an attempt to draw from the object the qualities that it hasbeen given by the marketing forces of the world of goods" (McCracken, 1986, 79). I158would add that display is also an attempt to claim the vision and labor of assembly, andthe object's perceived inherent or symbolic properties.Many collectors express an interest in achieving distinction through the quality,quantity, and type of their collections. Distinction is a specific form of prestige or status.It is based not solely on the collector being able to attain the collection economically,but concerns the personal achievement of creating the collection. The collector'simplication is that, "I built it piece by piece. I saw them, recognized them, selected themand was able to secure them. I did it out of my cultivated vision." To distinguishdenotes an ability to differentiate between or among things. The collector's goal ofachieving distinction encompasses a desire to be set apart, to be recognized for specialqualities, as are the objects of collection. The collection acts as a metaphor for and as avehicle in the display of the collector's individual qualities, particularly their vision,passion, determination, knowledge and shrewdness.By being recognized as having the ability to make fine or subtle distinctionsregarding their object category, the collector commonly finds a justification for his/herown superiority. The root of the term distinguish actually means to separate and toclassify, two essential aspects of collecting. The ability to make finer and finerdistinctions is one of the important by-products of the knowledge and experience ofcollecting. As Miller, a material culture anthropologist, states, "The artifact may be usedto promote fine distinctions through its relations to extremely sophisticated mechanismsof perceptual discrimination which tend to remain outside of consciousness" (Miller 1987,107). Both connoisseurship and elaborate systems of categorization grow out of these159fine distinctions. Connoisseurship is seen to exist for the collector of baseball caps aswell as it does for the collector of Inuit prints as long as quality is defined and perceivedand evaluated. Butch kept his "best" hats at home.Many collectors express a sense of stewardship toward objects they collect - aresponsibility to save, preserve, promote and defend their perceived value andimportance. Often, they demonstrate a strong sense of time and history in their desire tosave the objects from neglect--to preserve them for the future, for the larger community.Many express a sense of personal responsibility, to see that the objects they believe inare not only saved but valued. "In some sense I prefer to own them because then I knowwhat's going to happen to their future. I'm assured of how they will be taken care ofand that they can be properly restored, if they need it, or maintained" (Randy, 7). Thisquality of what Erickson calls "generativity" (Erickson, 1950) has been described as oneimportant to a sense of community and directed toward developing something of worthto pass on to future generations, within either the collector's family or the larger society.This goal is a concern mentioned primarily by the older collectors. Even though thecollectors interviewed show a strong sense of personal ownership toward their objects,part of this sense may result from a sense of mission regarding the objects. Robertstates, "I saw the importance of it at that time, that these things were disappearing sorapidly that it seemed important to me that they were collected" (Robert, 4). Randystates clearly that one of his primary interests in collecting was to collect "thoseinstruments that are in danger of disappearing" (Randy, 2).160This stewardship aspect disputes Belk's claim that collectors are not as altruisticas hoarders (Belk believes that hoarders save things that they feel people may need andthat they derive pleasure from being the one to provide them) (Belk 1988, 76). Alongwith collectors' concern for the fate of their objects, their belief in the cultural value ofthose objects may also be considered altruistic. J.P. once donated a collection of sevenhundred Bibles of differing languages, to a library, and later accidentally discovered themon a cart about to be discarded. He recalls his reaction in defense of the collection:I just happened to notice them on a cart. I said, so you are finally going tocatalog these. They said, no, we are getting rid of them. We have no placefor them. I said, you've got to be kidding. They were unique. Most of themin small editions in languages no one had written in before. Finally they leftthem in the special archives because I talked them into it. That they wereintrinsically worthwhile (J.P., 3).Collectors' dreams and long term-goals reflect a desire "to do justice" to the objects theyhave acquired--to present them in such a way that they may be fully appreciated.Well, I'd like it to grow phenomenally. I would like to, my interest is usingthis as a basis for a museum collection, but not to just put this into a museumto be kept in the basement for years. I have a very active interest to the pointthat I'm actually following it, in creating a musical instrument museum thatwill actually try to contain every instrument in existence. An audio and visualarchives, so that you can go and look at an instrument and push a button andsee a video of someone playing it and maybe have demonstrations and alsohave an outreach program (Randy, 4).Such long range goals, and the dreams of collectors, however, are often totallyunrealizable, therefore suggesting their symbolic or metaphoric significance.161As an activity, collecting is both creative and expressive, with each collector, tovarying degrees, placing his/her mark on her collection. The collection is an expressionof the social, cultural and personal life of the individual collector. As there are no twocreations exactly alike, collecting reinforces a notion of individual creative energy.Collectors recognize and appreciate the amount of psychic energy required to build acollection. Because collectors often create their own criteria for inclusion, theircollections reflect their personal biases, interests, aesthetics and goals. Speaking about afellow postcard collector, Robert describes the creative aspect of his colleague'scollecting:The other thing about it, it's an opportunity to be creative or artistic I suppose.I look at a fellow who is, does, I don't mean this in any demeaning way buthe's always done labouring work, he's an outdoor laborer. He collects cardsand when you see them all together, in the kind of things that he likes, itshows great sensitivity and a great artistic ability to determine what is beautifulin his eyes. So it is an opportunity for people who are not able to play thepiano or paint, or sing or build things to display an artistry by collecting otherpeople's things (Robert, 10).Collectors perceive collecting as a serious, purposeful involvement, the goals ofwhich sometimes become their "life's work," occurring over the majority of their life span.Collections are objects that have been invested with meaning and relate to the life goalsof collectors, this investment can be viewed as one of the political dimensions ofcollecting. "The freedom to create culture--that is, the freedom to invest objects withmeanings related to life's goals--is something that those in authority can never completelycontrol" (Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton 1981, 65). Brighton and Bourdieu'swork also supports the notion that, "the capacity to endow one's possessions with the162status of art--with all the implications of cultivation and superiority that the concept of'art' has come to imply--is a significant political power" (Painter 1982, 1-9).Collectors use collecting and their relationship to their objects to createmeaningful worlds for themselves. Collectors articulate immediate, short term, specificand general goals for their collections. Many of the collectors' dreams and fantasiesregarding their collections "consume," dominate, or are central to those collectors' lives.For others, their collection goals do not involve fantasies, but are real and achievable.Collectors perceive that both their collecting and their goals for their collectionsgive their lives meaning and purpose, often in ways surpassing careers or other work.Randy, for example, established his dream for his collection early in his childhood.Rather than diminishing that dream though, he actually increased it over time. Hestates,"...my dream as a young child, which is interesting, was to have a warehouse full ofinstruments. My dream still holds, much larger than what it is" (Randy, 11). For Lou,her collection and the object category are central to her life's dreams. She states,I had written to a show. It was called Thrill of a Lifetime. It was a Canadianshow. You wrote in your little dream. What you'd like to do and they wouldbring you on the show, and I remember telling my Dad that I had written, thatI wanted Toller Cranston to design me a strawberry dress and I wanted to bea strawberry queen for a day and eat strawberries and this was my fantasy(Lou, 7).Lou acted out this dream partially for her wedding, becoming a strawberry "Queen" for aday.When we got married I wore a strawberry gown, red with green. A little girlsaid to her dad, 'Is that strawberry shortcake?' 'Yes, that's the real strawberry163shortcake.' This was at Jericho Beach in May. I had strawberry in mybouquet. My bouquet was all wild strawberries with everything strawberries.When I saw that little girl, I was handing out; I had a little basket with astrawberry on it, that one on the top shelf. I handed out to all the peoplestanding around; fresh strawberries. That little girls face, she really believedthat (Lou, 7).Collecting is a highly visual process. The collector bases selections largely onhow they please him or her visually. The aesthetic dimension plays a significant role inboth the selection of the collecting category and the specific objects which are selected togo into the collection. Collections are the primary device or vehicle through whichcollectors express their aesthetic values; therefore, collectors reveal their aesthetic valuesand dispositions through their choice of objects and object category. For example, whenasked about collectors going to other exhibits and of what they thought about art, atypical response was, "It's static, there is no personality involved. It's not exciting to me.Now if it was airplanes of the second world War, then. But it's not my object ...andGreek Society, they aren't my objects, that's not my thing" (Norm, 8). Their category ofobject is approached as "art" for the collector.When collectors talk about their objects they readily describe definite notions ofwhat is more desirable or attractive to them: "They are watermarked, they are moneypaper and they are beautiful" (Ed, 3). "There might be something symbolic in the colors,they are my favorite colors" (Lou, 6). When I questioned Lou as to whether blueberrieswould be equally satisfying she responded, "The color doesn't do a thing for me. Myfavorite colors are red and emerald green, same thing, jewel color. I just think they arebeautiful colors. A blueberry is depressing to me. I don't mind eating them" (Lou, 7).164Pursuing the aesthetic and symbolic specificity of Lou's selection, I inquired as tothe dictates of inclusion. Below, Lou describes quite specific aesthetic criteria for thekind of "strawberry" she considers collectable:The ones that have the most beautiful berries to me, the ones that are themost visually delightful. See that one up there was a gift but I can honestlysay I'd pass that by because it's not a strawberry to me. The bigger the berry.If the object is the shape of a berry or if the shirt has a berry over one wholechunk of it, yes much more then. It's not the number of them. It's the qualityof the actual strawberry that makes it fascinating for me (Lou, 9).Even though a theme collector Lou clearly describes her aesthetic criterion. Sheeven speaks of rejecting many strawberry items which do not match the above aestheticrequirements.Two criteria dominate the aesthetic dimension of the collection. One, the choiceof what object category to collect, is often based on an object form or type that isvisually appealing, ("art-like") to the prospective collector. The second, for somecollectors, is that each object selected must meet their personal aesthetic criteria.Of the collectors interviewed, one group made it clear that, for them, theirpersonal visual aesthetic is the single most important selection criterion. For the mostpart, these collectors do not deal with "serial" or scientific collecting categories. Pat, forexample says,"I think a collector is more into the aesthetic. Even if it doesn't meannothing to anyone else, to me it is pretty or nice, attractive" (Pat, 11). For Norm, whohas multiple collections, the aesthetic dimension is his prime selection criteria indetermining what children's books he will add to his collection:165My first Halling Clancy Halling, I had no idea what I had. I just knew it was alovely book and I ...the lady almost didn't let me out with it because she wasmad as hell that her husband put it in the garage sale. I just fell in love withthe illustrations. The marginalia all done by his wife. She does all the factualmarginalia to explain what are the things in the story and then does the fullpage illustrations. 1928, Buzza Publishing, Minneapolis. Again, I didn'trealize I had that. I just looked at it and said, 'Gee, I like that' (Norm, 6).When asked to describe the favorite objects in her matchbook collection Patreplied, "It's a personal thing. It's a color I have never seen before, or from a place Ihave never been before, a shape that is intriguing. The same thing goes for teapots,something just really catches my eye, I can't say no" (Pat, 8).Of the several kinds of object attachment collectors express, aesthetic attachment,especially to particular forms appears to be one of the most resilient. Even after manyyears collectors still find their object categories "aesthetic" or visually pleasing.Collections transform diverse individual objects into a unified whole and valuelessobjects into a valued entity. Such transformations are part of the creative act ofcollecting. Collecting recontextualizes or recreates value in objects that often no longerhave conventional use value by incorporating them into new meaning systems. As aninvented activity, collecting could be termed a kind of innovation to recreate both valueand meaning in objects. The collector has a vested interest in making the objects he orshe collects meaningful to others. Who hasn't experienced walking through an antiqueshop or museum, then returned home to look through the attic or basement to seewhether any old or discarded items are those which were observed to be valuable. Thefact that someone is collecting an object category is evidence to the collector of its valueand importance. This principle has been exploited commercially through the creation of166objects produced solely for collection. The collectors in this study do not consider thepursuers of such commodities to be "true" collectors.The language used by collector informants suggests that the collection is thoughtof more as an entity, than as separate pieces. The term "collection" connotes unity,linking separate objects into an entity. Collectors refer to their grouping of objects as"the" collection rather than "a" collection, suggesting that it has taken on some measureof autonomy. Such autonomy is evident in how the collections are displayed. Most ofthe collected objects are displayed together, even when spreading them out would makefor a more attractive display. This desire to keep the collection visibly together appearsto be an important consideration for the collector, as it is a post-mortem concern as well.This suggests a strong desire on the part of the collector to preserve the creative aspectof assembly.As collecting becomes more discriminating, connoisseurship develops in regard tothe object category. This developing of connoisseurship appears to have a time elementto it, often described by the collector-informants as a by-product of the long timedimension of their collecting."At first I liked all bells, earrings, a ring with bells around it--everything bellswas fine with me. Now I am very fussy about looking for old bells and theyare hard to come by" (Ruth, 5).This collection that I have now, I started about three or four years ago. Therewere maybe a half dozen collections before that. When I start, to get myselfinto it, I would just pick up whatever, in the restaurant, in a club, anything justto get myself started, gas station. Then after I get so many of those, maybetwo dozen, then I'll start to become selective and look more on colors andshapes and sizes (Pat, 7).167The development of a knowledge base in some of the collecting areas clearly influencesthe collectors notions of quality. Bob describes;"I think what I buy now is different that what I bought ten years ago. In theearly days I was attracted to the dramatic impact of tribal art....my tastes havebecome more refined because I have read more about it, traveled more, seenmore--it's become more cerebral. It's still aesthetic but the big dramatic pieddoesn't interest me as a piece I'd acquire" (Bob, 3).When asked about changes that have occurred in his collecting habits over time Bobdescribes how connoisseurship developed;"I think the knowledge tended to come after early on, now it comes before thepurchase. Now I know more than some of the dealers. It puts me off certainmaterial that seems to be readily available or that I consider late or tourist--there is a sort of refinement going on. I think I am not as easily impressed bythe novelty of the pieces anymore because I think I am more aware of what isthere through accumulating a pretty good library and looking at a lot ofmuseum collections and private collections" (Bob, 4)As quality becomes more of an issue, the need for quantity diminishes. Bob relates:"Well, I'm middle aged now, so I think I have another twenty earning years ahead of me.I've though about it more recently. I might slow down and buy better quality. My ideawould be to buy maybe a dozen of really good quality" (Bob, 9).Collectors clearly define their notions of "quality" in regard to their objects. Fortheme collectors, the image that most closely resembles the quintessential object is oftenclearly laid out. Their own notions of the "perfect" object, sometimes expressed in termssuch as "mint" reflect this quest for the perfectly crafted object. "I have winning tickets,sealed, that nobody can have, never been opened. A lot of people don't understand that.168I love sealed tickets. I wouldn't open them for the simple reason, that ticket is mint.Because it isn't opened and to a true collector, he wants the best" (Ed, 3).The drama or process of collecting creates the powerful bond between collectorand objects, almost instantly creating an intimacy usually reserved for long and deepinvolvement. The objects and their acquisition serve as markers of time, of events, andof the vitality or fullness of the collector's life. Objects of the collection remindcollectors of special moments or events. The object serves as a catalyst for locating,defining, preserving and retrieving an experience now past, and provides a concretereminder of that experience. Some collections (this seems to be more true of malecollectors) suggest a narrative surrounding the sequence of their objects' acquisition andrelating to the collector's life, often on a theme involving part of their work-lives oroccupations. For example, Robert, who mainly collects postcards, also collects historicbanking memorabilia, a category related to his many years in the banking business. Onesection of his postcard collection, one of his favorites, is of old bank buildings. Chris,who is in the advertising business, collects advertising memorabilia; Randy, a musician,collects instruments. Sometimes the interest in the category comes before the collecting,but most frequently the interest develops with or after beginning to collect. No femalecollector-informants collect occupationally-related material even though several havewhat would conventionally be termed "careers".Theme collectors have a relationship with their object categories which appearshighly iconographic and symbolic. The percentage of "theme" collectors that exists is not169known but this study documents three: Lou (strawberries), Fran (mushrooms) andMaureen (elephants).The three theme collectors often express a desire in their dreams and fantasies tobe surrounded or engulfed by their object--a fantasy only made possible by the existenceof the objects. Sometimes these dreams or goals focus on the category, the entirecollection or particular objects within the collection. Below is a description of thecollectors' use of their objects as abstract symbols which they use as role models topromote certain qualities within themselves.As collectors set criteria for creating and improving their collections, they alsocultivate certain aspects of themselves to achieve those goals. Lou describes her dream,which is a also a scenario for the final placement of her collection. She mentioned thatmaybe Knott's Berry farm or a similar place would take the collection intact. Shedescribes the scene:Everyone has their own little fantasy. I see this tiny cottage, it doesn't matterif it's on the east or west coast. I always have this thing with water. I have tobe near water. I see this as literally a little strawberry cottage whereeverything inside is a strawberry. Because children seem to love them as well,would come in and could have their strawberry tea, strawberry cookies,strawberry toys, everything was strawberry (Lou, 7).This theme collector's interest is not in the objects themselves, but in what theyrepresent, how they contribute to an overall effect or atmosphere. The objects bring thecollector closer to that which he/she admires, covets, craves and desires; yet the "realthing" can't be owned or preserved or fully understood. Through the capture of theobjects, the idea or image is also contained, surrounded or absorbed.170The collection and the specific qualities of the collected objects serve as apersonal metaphors or symbols to some collectors. The collection can come to representthe self-discipline and tenacity of the collector or provide a sense of continuity andbelonging, transforming their house into a home."It does tie you down physically. It represents a self-created constraint on yourfeedom. But, it also has provided me with a sense of place and of beingsettled--of nesting, much like other people might have children or animals"(Bob, 5).The collection and its display to self and others provide an important part of theself-image of the collector and both objects and themes become closely associated withthe identity of the person. It becomes appropriate to call the collector, "the tomato lady"or "the strawberry lady." Ed mentions a lottery collector called "Mr. Lottery." Collectorspromote this type of identification by placing the item on their personal cards and logos.The identification of the self with the object category is apparent in this story of Butch's:"I had them all at home then, because I had the shop at my house. Then my wife threwme out, hats and all" (Butch, 7).Ed relates the following proudly: "This girl wrote a letter in one of thenewspapers about how she'd met me. She says, 'you won't believe this guy, he must eatand sleep lottery tickets" (Ed, 7). The identification with the collection is a significantsymbol, metaphor and motivator. Ed describes packing up all of his collection when hemoved to a different apartment. He was feeling tense, uneasy after the move and wasnot aware of what was wrong. "I finally figured it out. It is that I wasn't around mystuff, and I had to start butting stuff up. Once it's up, then I settled in" (Ed, 9).171Collectors recognize and utilize the symbolic properties of the objects theycollect, and often invest them with special personal meaning. Asking "What do theseobjects mean to you'?" evokes philosophical responses from many of the collectors. Edsays of lottery tickets, "I think they stand for a dream for the ordinary person that theymight be struck and it gives, especially older people, poor people, a chance" (Ed, 8).Lou says of strawberries, "Love" (Lou, 5), and further describes them as a symbol: "Thereis the talisman that's out of England. The reason that I like the name--the reason theycall it that is because it's such a hearty berry, no matter what happens, it just keepsgoing, it's so tough" (Lou, 11). The symbolism exists not solely in qualities of the objectbut also in the form of the collection itself. As Ruth describes; "I like the fact that everybell has a different voice. They are all individual--they all have a different voice" (Ruth,3). Behind the theme collection stands the topic or image; behind that stands thesymbol. Lou says "I think of them [strawberries] as magical. Something magical thatanybody has access to. You don't have to be rich. Wild strawberries are attainable"(Lou, 7). Randy describes the symbolic meaning his objects hold for him:I think that these, like many things that people make, that these aretestimonials to people's creativity and versatility and imagination. Whatis wonderful about these is that, not only is there a story about eachone but they also play--they also tell their own stories, you can listen tothem (Randy, 4).172CHAPTER FIVECONCLUSIONSINTRODUCTIONThe following chapter contains four sections, each of which summarizes a specificarea within the study. The first section summarizes the findings of the study in relationto Belk, Danet and Katriel's propositions. The second section summarizes the materialwhich deals with the collecting process, its cycle and its types. Collectors express acomplex "deep sentiment" or a feeling of personal attachment toward their collectedobjects in a variety of strands cited throughout Chapter Four. The third sectionsummarizes the curatorial relationship collectors have with their objects or collectors ascurators--material which forms the main body of this study. It also discusses the complexrelationship of the personal collector to the institutional collector, the collector's statusas curators possessing a particular type of authority on the process of collecting, and onhis/her collection category. Finally, it lays out the implications for museum studies inlight of the findings of this study. Section three describes the need for further researchon this topic and the direction and scope of that research.PROPOSITIONS SUMMARIZEDThe following section summarizes some of the material continued in sections one,two and three of Chapter Four by reviewing the propositions laid out by Belk, Danet and173Katriel in light of my data. In addition, it reviews a set of propositions generated by thisstudy.Belk's proposition number one states that collections seldom begin deliberately.The present study demonstrates the range of starts described by thirty informants whoseselection was blind in terms of the beginning scenarios of their collecting. According tomy data a tentative proposition would contend that collecting appears to have severalcommon starting scenarios: an accidental start, because of attachment to a particularobject (which develops into the object category); a conscious decision to collect; or acontinuation and development of childhood collecting. Belk's research suggests that thedesire to recreate the pleasures associated with an early acquisition motivates furtheracquisition. In the present study, a number of collector-informants substantiate thissuggestion, along with the notion of a seed or starter group of objects (as in the case ofTrudy's tomato ceramics).Belk's second proposition states that addictive and compulsive behaviors pervadecollecting. Certainly collection is a passionate, pervasive activity, but to label itcompulsive and addictive would be to ignore its highly disciplined and rule - governedaspects. This study's thirty collectors show evidence of an ability to "control" theeconomic aspects of their collecting, and thereby to keep their pursuits within the boundsof a passionate and self-perpetuating activity. By their collection of large numbers ofobjects, and their common metaphor of collecting as a disease, collectors may give theimpression that collecting is a disorder; however, even in calling it a disease, collectorsoften specify that it is a "wonderful disease" a term which would not be out of place in a174discourse on love. Belk develops his proposition regarding the addictive aspects ofcollecting, citing collectors' own admission of "addiction." I find that collectors use thelanguage of addiction and compulsion only metaphorically to describe their passion forthe process. Their language stressed "urges", or the "hooked" aspect to collecting. Moreoften, collectors describe collecting as positive and fun. It is reasonable to continue todo that which gives us pleasure. The negative aspects that the collector-informantsmention were mainly associated with limited space, and a lack of resources but expressedneither a desire to stop nor a feeling of an inability to stop. The fact that most believedcollecting to be life-enhancing enough that they would encourage their children to collectcauses me to question the assumption of addictive behavior.Belk goes on to suggest, "As with other addictions, the object of the addiction isrelatively unimportant" (1988, 76). This claim is not supported by the data in this study,which finds collectors continually emphasizing the importance of the object--only themecollectors and then it is a matter of degree give priority to the category over the qualitiesof the object.Belk suggests that: "Association with other compulsive collectors further supportsthis feeling of positive addiction" (1988, 76). It is equally likely that the intimacy andcamaraderie engendered among those who share an interest and an aesthetic are moresignificant factors in these collecting networks than the supposed sharing of the collectingaddiction.Belk's third proposition is that: Collecting legitimizes acquisition as art or science.Collectors have many ways of legitimizing or rationalizing their collecting, art and175science being but two. They also legitimized collecting in terms of historical significance,inherent value, and sentimental value. Most feel collecting is a meaningful activity whichserves as its own justification--but acknowledge that collections are neither profitable norpragmatic as investments of time or money.Belk focuses on the social response as the collection's primary legitimizing factor,the ultimate positive expression of which is incorporation into a museum. Belk'sobservation that collectors' desire for their collections to go to a museum is certainlyborne out by the responses of the collector-informants in this study. Such recognitioncould be viewed as being motivated by the drive for status of the collection and bringsthe collector "distinction"; but the collectors also expressed belief that their mission to"save" and promote their objects legitimized what they did even if their appreciation fortheir collections was not shared. Several felt that "history" would show them to be aheadof their time. For example, Ed was sure that lottery ticket collecting would be the hobbyof the future, and that he was one of its pioneers.Belk's fourth proposition states that, profane to sacred conversions occur when anitem enters a collection. None of the informants' comments supports this proposition,which more concerns a projection onto the collection than observable actions orexpression. Anonymous, impersonal objects are certainly adopted into the collection aspersonal and meaningful. The acts of finding, securing and placing the object into thecollection are three steps toward its conversion to the personal domain of the collector.As with many commodities, purchase and ownership produce an instant bond with thecollected object.176Belk's fifth proposition states that collections serve as extensions of the self. Mydata describes several ways by which collections come to serve such a function. Of themechanisms Belk describes which promote the connection between the collection andthe self, one is the time dimension. As I have mentioned above, through an enormousinvestment of time, "the collector has literally put part of himself into the collection"(1988, 77). The present evidence suggests that the individual's taste and judgment inselecting both the category and the objects for collection contribute to personalidentification with the collection. Part of the identification of the self with the categoryarises from the fact that others associate the object category with its collector, and oftenchoose gifts which correspond to the collecting category.Belk's sixth proposition states that collections tend toward specialization. My datasupports this proposition for some collectors, as it pertains to what I describe as thebranching effect; but this phenomenon was not evident in the majority of mycollector-informants. Serial and multiple collecting were more common than thebranching phenomenon. The same number of collectors move from collecting in onecategory to another which is unrelated as those who specialize in a particular objectwithin their category.My findings suggest that serial and multiple collecting are the most commoncollecting patterns, with life-long or sustained object categories regularly occurring, aswell as the phenomenon of stopping a collection, disposing of it, and beginning to collectthe same category again.177Belk's seventh proposition states that the problem of the post-mortem orpost-collecting distribution of the collection is a significant concern of collectors. Data tosupport or refute this proposition could only be drawn from a whole group of collectorsat the end of the collecting cycle. Among the thirty collectors studied here severaldescribe plans for the eventual placement of their collections. Of those at the end oftheir collecting cycle, only Lou says that the disposition of her collection is a problem.Further data collection which focuses on those collectors at Lou's stage of the collectingcycle or former collectors would have to be examined to determine how typical herconcerns are and, therefore, to support or alter Belk's proposition.Belk's eighth proposition states that there is a simultaneous desire for and fear ofcompleting a collection. None of the collectors studied expressed any such feelings.Most have selected categories and criteria which allow virtually endless possibilities forexpansion. Some worry that as their target items become more popular collectibles theywill no longer be able to afford them, others that they have exhausted their categories;but none express either a desire for or a fear of completing their collection. Asked theirgoal for their collections, most respond that they would like to make their collectionbigger and better or more specifically, to make it the best possible--the "most complete."Trudy is the only collector who describes a close proximity to completion: "Once I getthe cookie jar, it's pretty much complete" (Trudy, 4). She describes this as anaccomplishment, though, and anticipates satisfaction rather than fear.In contradiction to Belk, I would propose that collecting is infinite rather thanfinite, even when what is attempted is the filling in of a serial system of objects. The178majority of collectors are collecting in what Kubler (1962, 53) describes as open-endedsequences, such as postcards or matchbooks or themes that could continue over an entirelife span. Closed series, such as stamps or coins, are still so large in number that it isunlikely that a collector would ever complete more than a few sections within the series.To select obtainable complete groupings would defeat the game of collecting, whoseobject is to satisfy desire only partially, not to satiate it; therefore collectors selectcollecting categories in which completion is unlikely to occur.Danet and Katriel propose two distinct types of collectors, which they term type Aand type B. Type A's selection criteria are aesthetic, while type B's are based on adesire to increase knowledge of a particular field by collecting within a related series.My data does not lend support to these two distinctions. Serial collecting can stillincorporate highly aesthetic choices. Many collectors seek novelty and variation as wellwithin an aesthetic dimension. Within their categories, for series collecting, arepresentative sample is selected. The following appear typical of collector's selection iscriteria, with minor variations based on the type of collection involved: a butterflycollector's selection is based on whether a specimen is a representative sample, for itsrarity and its individual quality; some theme collectors select almost any item included intheir category, while others base selection on explicit aesthetic criteria.Apart from selection differences influenced by the diversity of object categories,the data supports the generalizability of collecting regardless of what is collected.Differences do occur: collectors fall into various categories, with differing personalities,life styles and collecting patterns; but their discourse reveals a similar tone and179description. They speak a common language to describe their collecting, especiallyregarding the game of it. The main points which all of the collectors hold in commonare that the objects collected are aesthetically pleasing to them. The data suggest that itwould be inconceivable to hear a collector state, "I just hate them, how they look, but Ijust have to collect them!" The decision to collect and the choice of object category areself-initiated and purely personal. Ownership is desired (for most it is essential toinclusion in the collection); regardless of object category, the collections begin with aconsiderable number of acquisitions and then slow down. All of the collector-informants,regardless of what they collect, display their collections as a unit which is separate fromother personal or owned items.As an activity, collecting appears to be socially connecting rather than isolating.Rather than being primarily an internal process, it places the collector in a community.Collectors express a connected-ness to the world. Collecting and involvement withcollected objects connect the collector in a variety of ways to the past, present, andfuture. Collections provide an agenda for action and channels for attention, and helpattach meaning to other life experiences.THE PROCESS SUMMARIZEDCollecting has a multiplicity of beginnings, the full range of which is too great tobe accommodated by a single proposition. The entire cycle can take place in a fewmonths or occur over a lifetime. It appears to have a life cycle with a beginning, a peak180and an ending and to pass through a predictable sequence of phases. Initially, thecollector amasses a large number of objects. Next, the collector reaches a peak, whichmay last a few months or several years. Eventually the collector slows down, becomingmore focused or discriminating in what is collected. Over time connoisseurship and anarrowing of the collecting focus (the branching effect), appear typical.Collectors seem to fall into distinct groups or types, such as "born," theme, serialor multiple or combinations thereof. The multiple collector, a type which appears to bequite common, has more than one collection going at a time. The serial collector goesfrom collecting one kind of object to another. The theme collector collects a variety ofobjects with an image or theme connection. The born collector lives to collect and hascollected as long as he/she can remember.An examination of collecting reveals it to be a much larger and more involvedprocess than simply purchasing things and placing them together. An expanded notion ofwhat constitutes "collecting" is necessary to include all of the various curatorial activitieswhich appear to be associated with the collecting process. Although I have yet to hearanyone refer to individual personal collectors as non-professional curators, that term maybe a more accurate indicator of what some collectors do. To call them "collectors" maysubtly diminish the activities of some collectors. Rarely are curators called "collectors."This study sought to examine object attachment, especially what I have defined as"deep sentiment"--the complex combination of feelings and perceptions held by collectorstoward their objects. Sentiment is often defined as opinion colored by emotion. Forcollectors, it appears that their opinions regarding their object categories are informed by181emotion. Among the thirty collectors studied, I found both object attachment and"sentiment" toward objects, attitudes, and emotions expressed in a variety of ways and toa variety of degrees. Some collectors, rather than bonding to objects, formedattachments to ideas, symbols or images, which their objects could only suggest,represent, or approximate.Sentiment toward objects is generally reserved for lived relationships--one'skeepsakes and heirlooms. Collectors arrive at their sentiment toward their objectsthrough admiring them (a kind of respect), through viewing them and through associatingthem with certain qualities. The objects are personal, in that the individual selects thecategory, each individual object, its placement and display, and builds the collection overtime in a way which integrates the acts of acquisition into daily life. The time span overwhich collectors collect, continuity, familiarity and often the fact that the category itselfhas strong personal associations of family, place, or occupation, all contribute toward"sentiment."Collectors reflect a notion of ownership which goes beyond any legalisticdefinition to include intimacy created by knowledge of the world of the object. Part ofthis intimacy is actually in place before the object is even found. The collector is "closeto" and infatuated with the category, form or image of the collection. As an example,imagine loving ice cream and discovering another wonderful flavor. The object is amember of an admired grouping even before it is seen. For many categories, the unseenand the undiscovered are matters of great curiosity. This privileging of mystery is asignificant and rarely-mentioned aspect of collecting.182Collectors aspire to determine what is possible within their collecting categories--to determine their limits. This often results in collectors seeking the discovery of newspecies. By eliminating the "exotic" and the "unusual" from our academic discourse wehave also eliminated any discussion of curiosity, a concept intimately linked with thehistory of western collecting. Curiosity as a motivation is still apparent in present daycollecting.As in Proust's (Deleuze, 1972, 39) writing, "Madeline objects,"--those of intensesentiment--are ones in which meaning is compressed. Souvenirs exhibit this quality tosome degree, as they are often objects charged and invested with emotion.There would be little point in collecting, preserving and displaying things wereit not for the human capacity to invest objects with meaning. And the moremeaning we have condensed and channelled through an object, the greater itssymbolic value, the greater our sentiment for it. Sentiment is nothing morethan an attitude, thought or judgment prompted by feeling. And when thisfeeling attaches to objects, perception comes into play; so do concepts, becauseconcepts organize sensory impressions. The results can be informed, feelingfulperception, a personal interpretation of the meaning of something. In awonderful stroke of phrasemaking Harry Broudy has called this orientation tothings "enlightened cherishing." Surely this is the kind of response we hope tocultivate through the museum experience (Chapman 1982, 48).For others, collecting constitutes an activity which goes far beyond the acquiringof objects, but one wherein the objects remain central, pivotal. Like Nabokov (1966),scientific or fill-in-the-blank collectors speak as passionately and as often as any othertype of collector about the aesthetics of their objects. Objects assumed to be "artful" arenot the only objects capable of eliciting deep emotional attachment or the developmentof sentiment.183IMPLICATIONS FORART AND MUSEUM EDUCATIONThis study's main implications for the fields of art and museum educationconcern: the highly curatorial relationship informants expressed toward their collectedobjects; the common long-term development of connoisseurship which appears to be aby-product of collecting; the fact that a wide range of object types and forms mayperform several primary aesthetic, symbolic and metaphoric ("art-like") functions forcollectors; and collectors' apparent use both of their objects and of the process ofcollecting as vehicles for self-cultivation.I set out to study collectors and discovered curators: every interview reflectedsome aspect of the collector's "curatorial" relationship with his or her collection. In fact,while most mentioned having "fun," and despite the fact that many also collected itemswhich the mainstream museum community might consider frivolous, the majority of these"amateurs" showed an unexpectedly "serious" or "professional" attitude and involvementwith their collecting. Many had developed complex strategies for acquiring objects,amassing related knowledge, and maintained, catalogued and documented theircollections.When researchers such as McCracken assert that the "curatorial" relationship--encompassing responsibility, respect and admiration for objects and what they represent,as well as providing "comforts, continuities and securities" (McCracken 1990, 44)--hasvirtually disappeared in the modern world, they overlook collectors as a group.184With their strong sense of mission, their concern for time and their belief in the intrinsicvalue of their objects, my informants exemplified just such a relationship. Theypreserved their objects, expounded the value of their collecting categories and projectedthemselves as the objects' rescuers. Although acquisition and possession are pivotal tothe collecting process, the collectors studied here showed a much more profoundinvolvement with their objects than simple acquisitiveness or possessiveness wouldengender. Having included their objects in collections, they also curated them to reflectpersonal perspectives.Examination of the curatorial nature of the collector-object relationship leads meto question the distinction between the "professional" and the "amateur." Although atone time the two terms connoted similar status, broad disparities have arisen regardingrole, training and motivation. Today the use of the descriptor "amateur" to describe anynon-professional collector reinforces the sharp division which has been forged betweenthe (institutional) curator-collector and the (private) collector-curator. Although thisstudy's informants were not professional collectors, many described collecting as their"life's work," and showed none of the lack of skill or seriousness of intent such a term as"amateur" may connote. They were non-professional without being unprofessional.Historically, one of the dominant qualities attributed to the amateur was curiosity,a factor often cited by this study's private collectors as a key motivator for collecting.Pomian (1990) describes how curiosity was both respected and admired in theseventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but how that respect began to wane with the185advent of the age of reason. Writing about early collectors nearly a century ago, Hudsondescribed the curious individual (in the past tense) as,...careful, scrupulous, attentive to detail, anxious to produce first-classworkmanship, eager to learn and to acquire information and likely, by itsquality or novelty, to excite interest. Curiosity was 'painstaking application,' itwas strangeness, it was 'connoisseurship' (Hudson 1897, 21).When "cabinets of curiosities" were in vogue, their collections were meticulous andaccurate, and their collectors quested after knowledge as well as objects. Today, though,the stimulation of "curiosity" as a seed of object collection and attachment is the subjectof little discussion or research in art or museum education.Another topic to which few researchers in museum and art education havedevoted significant study is the ability of a wide range of objects to serve as "art." Thedata from this study would suggest that the wide range of objects which collectors chooseto collect serve as significant symbolic, metaphoric and aesthetic foci, even though manyfall outside traditional or disciplinary definitions of art. Objects relevant to individuals,those reflecting their values and ideals, appeared to serve them best. Such a correlationhighlights the importance of attending seriously to the ways in which objects acquiremeaning in the lives of people outside of fine art circles or art and museum education.As Colin Painter suggests, the "specialness" attributed to art "has to be examinedcritically in relation to a wider cultural terrain" (Painter, 1982: 2).For many of the informants, their collected objects had taken on deep enoughpersonal meanings to make the process of collecting a primary vehicle forself-cultivation. As Gell states: "When the merely utilitarian aspect of consumption186goods are transcended they become something more like works of art--charged withpersonal expression" (Gell in Appadaurai p. 114). These charged objects, though notgenerally defined as "art," function for the collector as significant sources of aestheticpleasure, as vehicles for the development of connoisseurship, and as personal metaphors.Each of the collections which physically stood behind this study's interviewspossessed its own apparent unity and rationale, and the internal logic and aesthetic ofeach selection made it a clear expression of its collector's personality and interests.Lifestyles, occupations, economic standing and geographic location were all on display.And to varying degrees, object and category selection criteria both reflected and definedthe personality of the individual collector.The collections involved served as media for communication both through theiraesthetic dimension and through their function as a record of their collectors' motivesand methods of acquisition and display. Often, collectors had imbued their objects withperceived qualities which they then strove to emulate, thereby making the objects bothsymbols and role models. Collections are both action-oriented and contemplative:collecting makes of the static object both something one possesses and a materialreminder of something he or she does.The data regarding this study's collectors suggest they consider their collectionsvaluable not as "investment" commodities but as aesthetic objects or specimens. Acommodity is, after all, appreciated far more as a means to an end (such as increasedwealth) than as an end in itself, and its appeal is rarely visual or aesthetic. To thecollector, the value of an object relates to direct, immediate experience. Gombrich's187observation regarding collections of jewels and gold in the past is also true for themajority of collectors in this study: "There was a time--and it is not so very farback--when riches, economic wealth, could thus feast the eye, when the miser could enjoythe sparkle of his hoard, instead of having to admire balance sheets" (Gombrich 15:1963). The majority of the collectors in this study regarded their objects as "treasures",their "investment value" as secondary. They attributed the pleasure they derived fromtheir personal objects to the fact that they could actually look at and interact with them.Owning them and having them in their presence produced what might be termed thepleasure of the gaze.Like brokers of commodities, academic circles consider the projection ofsentiment or attachment as a negator of judgment--especially of aesthetic judgment. Thesupposed hallmark of the curator is, after all, objectivity. In contrast, the collectorsinterviewed in this study expressed a belief that collections have life precisely becausethey are rooted in personal passions. All expressed a need and desire to have theirobjects available and visible as part of their daily life. Their interactions have beendocumented and described within this study.This study's data also suggest that collectors' long-term physical and emotionalinvolvement with objects--their continual comparison, evaluation, selection, curation andadmiration--leads to the development of connoisseurship. Museum and art educatorsstruggle to determine how to understand and facilitate such development, usuallypre-determining the objects upon which the facility will be applied and conveying188messages of what to think about objects rather than viewing them from a collector'sperspective and offering strategies of how to learn from them.Stephen Weil's comment on when the museum object "works" for the museumvisitor appears to occur for the majority of the collector-informants in this study:Works work when, by stimulating inquisitive looking, sharpening perception,raising visual intelligence, widening perspectives, bringing out new connectionsand contrasts, and marking off neglected significant kinds, they participate inthe organization of experience, in the making and remaking of our (italicsmine) worlds" (Weil 1990, 54).This statement may be understood as a description of the goals of the museum educator;but for the collector, it is not someone else's world that is made meaningful but his orher own.Educators often attempt to cultivate connoisseurship quickly, using a wide rangeof objects with which the student may have no personal involvement. The very longaverage time span over which the collectors in this study have developed their abilitiescalls into question whether this facility can be expected via a brief and artificialinvolvement, whereby the student has little or no say in the selection of objects, and evenless direct physical interaction with them.This study shows evidence of a wide range of continued and pervasivecontemporary involvement in material things. As Cameron states:Those who question the efficacy of the real thing as a medium ofcommunication need only consider man's apparent universal and pervasivecompulsion to collect and the importance which individuals attach to theircollections regardless of their intrinsic value and their lack of meaning toothers (Cameron 1968, 34).189The construction and use of objects is the major method whereby individuals imprinttheir practices on the world. Their traces constitute material culture. But otherpractices leave traces in material culture as well. In the case of collections, it is not themarks of individual objects which are most significant but those of assemblies whichoccur through the placement of those objects. Selection, assembly and arrangement arethe evidence of purposeful action--the labor of collection--and its traces are indeedfragile. Like temporary exhibits, most individual collections are transitory, built upthough they may be over a large portion of an individual's life: of the multitude ofcollectors, only a few achieve a measure of immortality through their collections.Although the desire to do so may still underlie some collecting, it is more likely thatthrough the act of gathering things, then grouping and preserving their objects, collectorsattempt to link the present, past and future. Rather than attempting to achieveimmortality through association, they accomplish it through the preservation of materialless fugitive than living matter.The professionalism of informants' discourses did not vary significantly accordingto their object categories: art, antiquities or natural history specimens have no monopolyon earnest pursuit by individuals or segments of the population. Considerableseriousness is projected toward such categories as lottery tickets or matchbooks--aseriousness not necessarily shared, rewarded or recognized by the larger society. Yetpeople continue to collect and cherish these objects, to transform and embracesurprisingly common, mass-produced objects and to incorporate them as meaningful intotheir life. In addition to its introspective processes and effects, collecting emphasizes the190collector's relationship with the world, providing connections to the past, present, andfuture, to places and to events, to other people and to topics and ideas. Collectionsprovide agenda for action and channels for attention. They help make meaningful otherlife experiences.The more our society leans toward the use and disposal not only of "consumable"goods but of natural species, plants and animals, the more transitory our relationshipwith our world becomes, and the greater the desire to collect, cherish and value objects;collectors and museums proliferate. As an example, of the toys collected in 1983 by thePhiladelphia Museum, thirty percent are no longer on the market. Collecting is a way toslow down, cope with and create meaningful experiences out of the rapid and impersonalchanges in commodities and cycles of consumption. Hinsley concurs that collecting isassociated with "an antimodern impulse...one which expresses a desire for stasis in theface of change and modernization (Hinsely, 1991, 10).NEED FOR FURTHER RESEARCHThe following section describes areas of potential research which arise from thedata analysis but which have not been fully developed within this study. It begins bydiscussing the partially-analyzed themes which surfaced within the data and goes on todiscuss research directions suggested by the tentative propositions.The themes presented in this report do not exhaust the potential of the interviewdata. Within the thirty interviews a large amount of material has surfaced on the191interactive aspects of collecting. This material could be analyzed and tentativepropositions in the area of collecting and communication formulated. Further analysis ofthe existing data could be useful in the formulation of such propositions.There is a need to establish some demographic and statistical information oncollecting. A comprehensive study of current collecting demographics of one place isneeded to understand present collecting patterns. Excellent studies exist which carry outthis analysis for particular historic moments. Pomian's (1990) study of private collectorsin Paris and Venice details demographic information for a historic time frame, andcarefully calculates the exact number of collectors of each object category. Privatecollections were fully known and described and detailed lists made of their contents.Today, though, little interest exists in documenting private collectors, including thosecomprised of elite or prestigious objects. Individual curators know of significant privatecollections in their areas of interest; but to my knowledge, North American privatecollections of such categories as Inuit or Northwest Coast Native material remainundocumented and in many dimensions unstudied. Fear of theft and notoriety certainlyaffects the visibility of these collections, but a comprehensive study would contributegreatly to our knowledge of collecting at the present time.O'Brien's (1981) oft-quoted reckoning that "one in three" people collect isspeculative, as little is documented of what people collect, for how long they continue, orwhether there is an age or gender orientation across a wide span of the population.Coupled with the qualitative material presented in this study, such material would allowresearchers a fuller understanding of the phenomenon in popular culture. Demographic192studies might determine if, for example, more males collect than females, if females tendto favor theme-oriented collections, both of which conclusions are suggested by thisstudy.A comprehensive study of children as collectors would be very useful indeveloping an understanding of the adult collector. Collectors themselves suggest that aninherent difference exists between children's collecting and adult collecting. They projecta belief that children at a particular age collect "naturally" and that adult collecting isboth more serious and less common than that among children of particular ages. Thewhole topic of children as collectors and the emergence of adult collecting are two inneed of much further research. What appears to be an extremely common inclinationtoward childhood collecting could be investigated to discover what factors determinewhich children develop into adult collectors. An inclination of which objects peoplecollect in each age group could reveal particular orientations toward objects at differentdevelopmental stages. Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton (1981) have executed aparallel study and established that cherished or personally-valued objects are indeedrelated to points in the life span. The effect of age or gender or place on the collectingprocess is not known.The apparent relationships between collecting characteristics and place have notbeen fully explored, although geography and occupation appear to be strong influenceson collecting categories. Part of the apparent correlation can be attributed toavailability: it is difficult to collect French subway tickets in Wisconsin. When two of thecollectors in this study changed locales, their move affected their object category. For193example, Robert had collected fruit box labels when he lived in the fruit-producing areaof British Columbia. By necessity, then, he changed his collecting category in his newlocale where they were no longer accessible. The relationship of place and personalhistory to the selection of a collecting category is a topic in need of further research.Distinct orientations are apparent only with regard to very broad areas of what iscollected. The first and most obvious is to collect the known or the familiar--objects thatgrow out of occupations, locales, homelands, ethnicity or familial activities. In contrast,the second major orientation is toward the distant, in terms of either time, place orculture. These two impulses both grow out of a desire to get closer to or to contain thatwhich is collected. One affirms continuity and connectedness; the other focuses on theexotic, the unfamiliar. A comparison of collectors falling within these two orientationscould prove fruitful. Among the study's informants a number can be identified ascollecting within each of these broad divisions. Without analyzing their interviewmaterial specifically as it relates to this orientation, I can only suggest that the topicwarrants further investigation. The sentiment associated with the familiar and a more"passionate" attachment seems linked to the "distant" collecting categories.Because so few comprehensive studies of collecting have been performed prior tothis study, it has not been possible for this work to be applied to a cross culturalcomparison of collecting behavior. Given the present study's breadth, though, enoughmaterial would now be available to compare Vancouver collectors with those from othergeographic and cultural settings. Danet and Katriel's (1987) study took place in Israel;private and institutional collecting are growing phenomenally in Japan. Differences194between collectors might reveal a great deal about social and material conditions andchanging attitudes toward object acquisition. The culturally specific aspects of collectingprovide a potentially rich area for cross-cultural comparison.Changes in aesthetic development, and particularly the development ofconnoisseurship could be explored by studying long-term collectors and mapping changesin acquisition preferences.This study examined neither non-collectors' responses to collections nor theaesthetic inherent in a collection--we need to explore and describe the latter, includinginterview data from people at an exhibit designed specifically to present the aesthetics ofa collection. Reactions to collections and people's attitudes regarding collectors bothwarrant further research. It would be worthwhile to compare specific types of collectingto determine subtle variations. For example, interviewing twenty stamp collectors mightallow researchers to focus both on category unity and on subtle differences amongcollecting categories.An investigation of various museums' relations with private collectors would beuseful. The investigator would examine institutional curators' attitudes toward privatecollectors with whom they have worked at the time of donation. A logical sequel to thistype of study would be a direct comparison of the collecting "strategies" and practices ofmuseums with those of private collectors.Another potential area of study would concern the interface between the museumand the private collector, and might characterize, to some extent, the differentrelationships held between private collectors and various kinds of museums. How does195the art museum's relationship to the private collector differ from that of the naturalhistory or modern history museum? Curator-collectors--curators who appear to havestrong personal attachment to whole collections or groupings within a largercollection--have not been studied to determine the overlap of the private andinstitutional collector.A comprehensive study of the autobiographies of collectors could foster a fullerunderstanding of the effects of collecting and self-cultivation, and be useful data in thestudy of the symbolic and self developing aspects of object attachment.Since this study discovers differences in collectors' concerns and attitudes whichcorrespond to the point they have reached in the collecting cycle, it would be logical toconduct research which compares attitudes toward collected objects at the differentpoints in the collecting cycle. For example, one could compare the attitudes of collectorsat the "peak" of collecting with those no longer collecting. Is the affection for thecollected object usually fickle? Even after the collector is no longer collecting, does anaffinity typically remain for the collecting category, as the data suggest? An attempt toexamine former collectors would reveal a very different attitude toward the process fromthat of active participants in the process.CONCLUSIONSThe preceding study describes the attitudes, practices and patterns of thirtycollectors participating individually in collecting culture, and establishes thegeneralizability of the collecting process among a variety of object categories. In many196ways, informants' accounts of their habits, attitudes and sentiments toward theircollections differ significantly from projected stereotypes of collectors. As summarizedbelow by Pomian, though, the stereotypes also represent partial truths. To him, thecollector is popularly depicted as:a harmless eccentric, who spends his days sorting out stamps, impalingbutterflies on pins or revelling in erotic engravings. Or, quite thereverse, a wily speculator who buys up works of art for next to nothing,only to sell them for fabulous sums, all the while claiming to be an artlover. Or, again, a man of good family who has inherited, along with astately home and antique furniture, a collection of pictures, the finest ofwhich he allows to be admired on the glossy pages of chic magazines(Pomian 1990, 1).Such characterizations are accurate only insofar as they hint at the shrewdnessinherent in collecting prowess, the metaphor of the game or hunt, and the collector'sattachment to and identification with his collected objects. As stereotypes, they ariseboth from the literary use of collectors and collecting as metaphoric vehicles, and fromthe journalistic fascination with the eccentric and the extreme. In both fiction and non-fiction, then, the avid or passionate collector emerges as a being somehow unbalanced byan insatiable desire for objects. In this study, though, while many of the collectorsstudied demonstrate a passion for their pursuit, they are also often playful and project asense of mission or advocacy. As individuals, they are actually widely diverse inpersonality; yet the introverted, eccentric collector--a figure drawn more from theimaginations of novelists than from observation of current practice among a wide rangeof collectors--has become the popular model for collectors in general.197Even in available scholarly works, particularly those of Clifford (1988), Stewart(1984) and Baudrillard (1968) references to personal collecting are based mainly uponthe same literary/metaphoric "collector." Such works attempt to uphold and elaboratethe marxian notion of fetishization rather than to describe the phenomenon of personalcollecting. In addition, they make no reference to the self-cultivating aspects ofcollecting or materialism, opting instead to apply their discussion of collecting broadly toboth institutional and personal practice. Although my study asserts a considerableoverlap of collector and curator, it also shows that the personal mission of the collectorand the institutional mandate of the museum are fundamentally different.Scholarly literature is notably deficient in other areas as well. The discussion of,for example, institutional collecting and its role either in nation building or in defininghigh and low culture generally dismisses personal collecting as a force for defining theself. Such an assumption has not been informed by ethnographic observation or theinvestigation of a fair sampling of actual collectors, and the writers involved mostcommonly attempt to define collecting as a tool whose primary purpose is culturalcritique. By illustrating that personal collecting fulfils a wide range of needs for thecollector, this study affirms the need for further ethnographic exploration of the area.Further, before beginning this study, I was unaware of the existence of a collecting"life cycle," much less of how strongly the individual collectors' places in that cycle wouldinfluence their discourses and dialogues. It has become obvious that research drawingpredominantly on collectors at the peak of their collecting would produce a somewhatstilted view of collecting culture.198For most of the thirty collectors in this study, collecting contributes significantly tomaking life "meaningful" and purposeful, their objects often providing personalmetaphors as well as symbols after which they may pattern their lives. Collectorsdemonstrate clearly that their involvement with collecting and with the objects of theircollections is a self-cultivating process. 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