COLLECTORS AND COLLECTING | KENT STATE UNIVERSITY MUSEUM | Kent State University

COLLECTORS AND COLLECTING

June 24, 2010 - June 3, 2012

Tarter/Miller, Palmer, and Mull Galleries | Sara Hume, Curator

What drives an individual to acquire ever more objects of a certain type? Some people collect out of a specific interest – Chinese art or first edition books. Others collect to fill their homes with beautiful things, things that demonstrate their taste and refinement. Once these collections find their way to museums, often their original coherence is lost. Rarely is the initial passion that first assembled the pieces documented – few collectors clearly record their motivations or even their personal memories connected to the objects. Museum exhibitions often aim to create a narrative about the function and production of the objects on display. However, part of the story of these objects involves their inclusion in a collection. This exhibition explores the peculiar phenomenon of collecting – this passion some people have to amass related objects.

Museums ultimately result from the desire to collect but their collections are not exactly comparable to those of individuals. When a private collection is absorbed into the larger collection of a museum, its original integrity and internal logic is obliterated in favor of the mission of the larger whole. While the original donor of each item is always acknowledged when the object is displayed, rarely is the coherence of the original collection evoked. Museums generally have clearly articulated guiding principles that govern what they collect: their mission. Integral to a museum’s mission is the educational purpose of the institution. A museum makes its collection available to the public through exhibitions formed of carefully selected items drawn from the larger whole.

In sharp contrast to a museum collection, rarely does the purpose of the private collection involve being viewed. For many collectors, the acquisition and possession of related objects is a goal in itself. In becoming part of the collection, the objects lose any meaningful function. Not only are they not used for their original purpose, but, in many instances, they do not even serve a decorative purpose. Collectors who amass too many objects often have no reasonable way to display their pieces. The objects must be stored in whatever space is available – such as in boxes and under beds. “Collectors and Collecting” aims to explore the peculiar qualities of individual collections.