My daughter is a bit of a magpie – a collector of things, some shiny, some not. If you open any small purse or pouch in her room, you’ll likely find a collection: plastic butterflies, acorns, pressed flowers, feathers, rubber bouncy balls. (I’m sure there is a fine line between her kind of “collecting” and hoarding, but for the sake of my sanity and the story, we’ll just call it collecting.)
The newest special exhibition at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science focuses on the hobby of collecting – and why people (and museums) do it. After all, that’s what a museum does: they conserve and collect the world as we know it. But why do the rest of us collect things?
The answer, and the resulting exhibit, is fascinating, as the exhibition invites viewers to explore the reasons why we collect, be it legacy, as in the collection of vividly colored Ballet Folklorico costumes collected by Anita Martinez, or nostalgia, as in Bob Bragalone’s collection of Dallas Cowboy memorabilia. It might be for the sense of connection to a period in time, or inform curiosity, or for the thrill of the chase in finding the next addition…or a combination of any of these.
I confess: as I drove into the city, I had my doubts about the concept because I felt a disconnect between the collected items themselves and the Perot’s science and nature focus. However, the more I explored the exhibit, the more I was drawn in. How did the exhibitors start collecting these items? Why these items? What was their connection to these items?
While I had the benefit of hearing some of the exhibitors speak to this end at the Media Day event I attended, visitors are able to view video of some the collectors which provide insight into their collections. The pieces on display have their own stories, their own connection to the collector and, as I watch the reaction to those around me, the viewer as well. For example, Scott McCaskey’s display of bicycles includes a 1951 Hopalong Cassidy model, complete with guns and holsters. One visitor, holding her granddaughter, turned to me and said “I just sent a picture of this to my sister. She was thrilled – she had this same bike when she was 11 years old. Isn’t that fantastic? Goodness, it takes me back.”
Other collections on display include antique duck decoys, unique jewelry which is really wearable works of art, an amazing collection of African-American and black dolls, Star Wars memorabilia, a must-be-seen to appreciate collection of Pez dispensers, and an impressive sampling of the wonders that Randy and Nancy Best have collected, which range from Sumerian clay tablets, Roman coins and early American currency to prehistoric fossils and skeletons to minerals and gems to antique weaponry and early tools. You can only imagine the stories the Bests have to tell about the acquisition of some of these artifacts (and where they display them all.) Many of the items in these collections have never been on public display, while Steve Sansweet’s massive Star Wars collection holds a Guinness World Record, and has spurred him to form a non-profit organization, Rancho Obi-Wan, to educate and inspire communities.
Eye of the Collector opens today, April 16 and runs to September 5, 2016. The exhibition is free for members; non-members pay a surcharge along with general admission. Advance purchase/reservation is highly recommended so that you can skip the ticket lines on arrival! For more information and ticket pricing, visit perotmuseum.org.
Are you a collector? You can be part of the exhibition, too! The museum is accepting photo submissions to be included in their digital display through September 4 at perotmuseum.org/submit.
So tell me: What do YOU Collect
As for me? I collect coffee mugs and books. They go hand in hand, you know.
One more fun thing – the Perot Museum offered me 4-tickets as a thank you for attending the event, but I’m already a Family Member, so I’m offering up the tickets to one lucky reader!
Disclosure: I was offered 4 tickets as part of a Media Day event. All thought and opinions herein are my own.