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Are you a Collector?

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

The hobby of collecting: - seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, maintaining.

For the first time since its inception many years ago, I’ve been working in the Carriage House Thrift Shop. In years past there have been faithful volunteers who have helped out. I watched the crowds of visitors come and go, to the barn, through the windows of the Rogers Mansion. I was always curious about what goes on out there. I am a collector and the barn is a temptation to me. This year because of COVID-19 there has been a need for staff to work in the barn. And so this year I found myself sitting in the barn and sure enough, I saw a bowl. The bowl was calling to me. I tried to avoid looking at it, and concentrated on greeting the people as they came and went.

What attracts these visitors to the barn I wondered? Each vendor has different things to offer. Each visitor seems to be on the hunt for that certain something that they have to have. For some there is success this week and for some they’ll be back. It’s the thrill of the hunt! I am very impressed at how well informed young people are when it comes to designer clothes and accessories. I’ve observed that some couples shop well together and some do not. I read once that it is human nature to collect. It goes back to primal days when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers out of necessity. We no longer need to hunt and gather to survive but the need to hunt and gather is still in us. All of us? My mother is not a collector. My in-laws were not collectors. My father was. My husband and I both are. I believe my paternal grandmother coaxed me to collect starting at a very young age. I have not figured out how my husband got started. As a child, before I knew him, he collected books and model airplanes. He had the planes hanging by strings from his bedroom ceiling. He shared the room with his younger brother. I’ve heard the story a million times about the day he arrived home to find that his brother and his brother’s friend had flown some of the planes out of the second story bedroom window with not good results. My husband keeps his first book, a gift from his aunt, in a box now because it is so worn that the pages are starting to fall out. He would never part with it. He has turned what was once our kid’s tree house into a mini museum for his antique tools. Not long after I met him, he started spending Sundays with my father. They traveled up and down the south fork antiquing together. My father knew all the good places. This continued after we were married. Things were accumulating fast. Over the years their destinations became further and further away and the rewards became bigger and bigger until one day a full sized antique tractor arrived in our yard. He named her “Elizabeth”. I was becoming alarmed. We have no basement and no garage. Over the years he has far surpassed me with his collections, and I must admit there have been a few domestic squabbles about too much stuff.

What is the difference between hoarding and collecting I’m thinking as I sit in the barn. A bowl is very practical I reasoned as I continued to look the other way. I looked up the definition of collecting and it says a collection consists of just three of similar or like items. I think that would put just about everyone in the collectors category. It’s just that some people are happy with more and some people are happy with less.

Two bowls that I collected

Mary Randolph Carter has written many books about collecting. She offers these five tips to collectors:

  1. Remember: It’s not clutter, it’s evidence of life.

  2. Forget the word need.

  3. Embrace the power of multiples.

  4. Let contradiction lead to harmony.

  5. Trust your instincts.

There is also the problem of “DUST”! In our house there are many shelves of things that need dusting. The rule is, if it’s yours you dust it. My husband ignores dust. He has no problem with it.

Toy manufacturers have obviously studied this human need and profited from it. Every year they come up with a new something that becomes the must have for kids. And every year the supplies run low. Remember Cabbage Patch Dolls and Transformers? Parents were out there frantically trying to find them. McDonalds came up with Happy Meals. In every box a collectible. They’ll be worth something someday we’re told if they survive childhood.

I like old things. Things that have been loved and worn and passed down. There is something comforting about your home when you “have your things about you” as Mary Kate Danaher says in the movie “The Quiet Man”. Your home is your refuge from a stressful world. Hopefully you feel happy and secure there. But, does there come a time when we must stop collecting? And, maybe start parting with some stuff? Taking care of “stuff” is a job. It’s overwhelming. Space is running out. Your kids will be resentful someday if they are stuck cleaning out your house. I often wonder, will they look twice before it ends up in the dumpster?

I was curious about my co-workers at the museum. Are they collectors? I requested that they contribute to this blog.

Are you a collector? Tell us in the comments below what you collect!


Tom Edmonds, Executive Director

I majored in art during the 1970s which was a transitional period in the modern art world. At Ohio State University my professors were heavily influenced by artwork made by the insane, children, and self-taught artists. French artist Jean Debuffet's Art Brut movement defined the era. Later I went to graduate school at the Art Institute of Chicago whose faculty were influenced by Outsider Art and Chicago's Hairy Who. I've spent my life studying and enjoying the canon of great artists found in major museums. But the thrill of finding undiscovered talent in thrift stores and yard sales is as exciting as it is addicting. 

Olympic Skater Sonjia Heine, unknown artist, c 1930
Birch Trees, unknown artist, c 1950
Jack x Two, Carol Kossman, c 1980

Connor Flanagan, Director of Education

Many people in my family certainly have hoarding tendencies so I have always been really careful to not let that impulse take over so collecting has always been a tricky thing for me. As sometimes I would start collecting things and then suddenly have the impulse to get rid of everything so I have always been going through various phases of collecting and purging my physical items. But the one thing to survive these manic purge sessions have been my vinyl collection.

My vinyl collection

Music has always been a huge part of my life, and specifically being involved with the DIY punk rock music scene. My collection is mostly made up of contemporary artist's work who began to release their music on vinyl as the medium made a resurgence in the mid 2000's. As music listening moved to a more digital platform and physical copies became more of a collectors piece, vinyl releases became a viable way for bands to make money again. While I do listen to most of my music on various digital platforms, there is still something really nice about every now and then spinning a physical record, and maybe this is the part of my familial hoarding practices that I will indulge in. But it is also nice to know that when purchasing one of these records from a small independent artist, I can more directly support them vs just streaming their music on something like spotify.

My biggest single artist collection: Joyce Manor

12 inches (top to bottom, left to right)

Million Dollars to Kill Me - 2018

Cody - 2016

Never Hungover Again - 2014

Of All Tings I Will Soon Grow Tired - 2012 (3 different colored versions)

Self Titled - 2011

7 inches (top to bottom)

2009 Demos - 2016

Joyce Manor/Toys That Kill Split - 2014

Joyce Manor/Big Kids Split - 2011

Joyce Manor/Summer Vacation Split - 2010

The first vinyl I every got, Fun by Algernon Cadwallader - 2009

My rarest vinyl, Street Smart Cyclist Self Titled - 2007, #198/300 made

My most recent addition, Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers - 2020

Mary Cummings, Research Center Manager

I am not a collector but I do own a piece of family history that I would never part with. It is the Yale mug my grandfather's younger brother acquired when he joined the Class of 1905. Photographs show him on campus, horsing around with his dashing young classmates, studying at his desk, and in the lab with a skeleton. Alas, he didn't live to graduate in 1905. He contracted TB and the doctors were then prescribing strenuous exercise to beat back the disease--which no doubt hastened its progress instead. Years later we found his barbells in the back of a closet.

Images from my family's photo album

Sally Van Allen, Business Manager

Blue plates, opera plates, glass plates. University plates, fruit motif plates, bird motif

plates, floral motif plates, old plates, new plates. Vanity plates, Christmas plates, Mom’s plates,

Royal Copenhagen plates, Wedgwood plates, Tiffany dessert plates. Stored in the barn plates.

Zachary Taylor, Curator & Registrar

I've been collecting a number of physical objects over the years (old video games, VHS tapes, books, etc) but one collection I've started recently is gathering pictures of the moon. I've been doing this on and off over the last decade ever since coming into ownership of a smartphone, but since the beginning of the pandemic I've been getting photos of the full/semi-full moon more frequently.

My method of doing so is aligning my camera lens with my binoculars to be able to get as detailed of a shot of the moon as I possibly can. Very recently I've come into ownership of a telescope which will most certainly come in handy with gathering better photos. I'm hoping to expand this into potentially getting pictures of the stars at night, provided of course light pollution and overcast can be overcome.

July 4, 2020

July 5, 2020

August 4, 2020

Liana Mizzi, Special Events Assistant

I actually collect a lot of things but one of my favorites are my stones & minerals!

I've been collecting these since I was around 4 years old. I remember my mom giving me this tiny, embroidered, drawstring bag that had a bunch of different looking rocks inside. I would pour them out on the carpet and arrange them endlessly, sorting them by color or by shape, counting them again and again. Once I got older I learned that not only do they look cool, each stone is associated with its own set of unique characteristics and properties.


One of the most well known types of crystal. Amethyst symbolizes tranquility. If you often find yourself stressed out, you may want to carry Amethyst around with you. It aids in balancing moods, soothing irritability, minimizes anger and fear, helps to alleviate grief or sadness, and can also awaken spiritual awareness and amplify intuition or even

psychic ability!


This is my all-time favorite mineral! Between the unique shape and it's rainbow colors, it is probably the coolest stone in my collection! Bismuth is the only mineral to naturally grow in perfectly, perpendicular lines and squares. It is considered a "metalloid" which is a mixture of metal and non-metal substances. It is believed that Bismuth can help stimulate energy and vitality to aid you in reaching your goals. It can also be used to alleviate feeling overwhelmed, isolated or lonely.

Tiger's Eye

This stone is very interesting, when light hits it in different ways, the stone's color shifts almost like the inside of a tiger's eye (hence the name). This stone helps to bring clarity and insight to a situation. You may want to keep one around for aiding in big decision making. You can identify Tiger's Eye by it's warm caramel color (center) but you can also find different variations like red, which are called Dragon's Eye, or a mixture of colors like the ones above.


I love this stone for it's colors. I like that this one in particular is a clear, light green with bands of purple through it. It's also really neat that you can see inside the stone. These can be found in many shades and colors, yellow being the most rare type. Fluorite is said to improve spiritual balance and boost psychic communication.

Here are the rest of my gems and minerals. There are so many kinds in all different shapes and sizes that can help you with just about any problem you may be experiencing. I'm not sure if these stones actually "do" anything but even if you just carry one around as a reminder to stay calm or balanced, that in itself could help you overcome or enhance your feelings depending on the situation.

Leopard Skin Jasper (varying colors)

Angelite, Turquoise, Bloodstone

Hematite, Sodalite, Purple Quartz, Rose Quartz

Stephen Gould, Collections Volunteer

My grandfather had a passion for the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln in particular.  I inherited his passion and some of the memorabilia that he had collected.  I have added to this collection, including some carte de visites from the 6th New York Cavalry.

Civil War Memorabilia
Carte de Visites
Lincoln Bust

Are you a collector? Tell us about what you collect in the comments below!

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