The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Collecting Bug

I've discovered a couple of interesting blogs this week, one of which I want to share with you today. Apparently, the New York Public Library's staff do periodical posts in which they muse on their subjects of specialty, and refer to the NYPL collections. This recent post caught my eye. Having read a lot about collectors and collecting (mostly books by Susan Pearce, I can honestly say), I've also given this some thought - and it is an intriguing question. What is it about that compulsion to acquire that makes it irresistible? And why does it bite us sometimes, and not at others?

3 comments:

Amy said...

I can't help thinking that the attraction of collecting has a lot to do with the thrill of the chase. Tracking down missing items, the achievement of adding to the collection, the sense of pride at creating something complete and representative.

Personally (and I know of at least one other person in the Department who's the same!), I can get very quickly obsessed, but equally swiftly bored with my 'collections.'

J said...

That's interesting; I get tired of my collections if they become no longer my own. Like, if people find out about them, and then decide that something vaguely related to that but not in my taste at all would be a good present idea for birthdays, holidays, and special events, and then I am left with a beautiful nucleus and a shell of junk I can't get rid of because people gave it to me.

But I meant more along the lines of: what attracts people to collecting certain things in the first place, or what do they think/feel about a certain item when they spy it on eBay, at a shop, or wherever? How do they make the decision about whether that thing fits their collection? What are their connoisseurial criteria?

Amy said...

I jotted down a few notes about this the other day, with every intention of writing them up, but promptly lost them. Duh! Just re-found them, here goes:

I think collecting ties into the need to posess, something that you own, something that makes you special and unique. Perhaps the collecting process gives people in society a role? Especially those that might otherwise feel disempowered (hence the 'geekiness' of collectors?). At the root of it is the 'hook,' the interest that becomes an obsession. I think you have to be a very particular kind of person to commit to building a collection. It's also about recognising a value in the objects one collects and coverts, that others may have missed: it's about rescuing and preserving (that's the focus of a lot of my collecting activity). But who knows what really motivates collectors and how they make decisions about what to collect. I'm sure there's a deep psychological need at the root of it all, but equally, everyone probably approaches it in a different way. For example, I have more of an aesthetic approach to my collecting: not so interested in completeness, or representativeness. God knows why. Perhaps I'm simply a visual person. I'm not good with numbers, so cataloguing, numbering and counting my posessions is less appealing. I like to display and look at what I collect, rather than pack it all away.

Dissecting my own behaviour scares me, so I'm going to finish now! ;)