As I wondered around museums in the Amsterdam and Berlin, I was reminded of the “curio cabinets” of historical collectors. I know that in the 21st century we still collect a wide variety of objects — from creepy dolls and international beer bottles to souvenir thimbles and baseball cards — but the curio cabinets of past centuries held a wild variety of strange and unusual items.
Fossils, skulls, seashells, chipped Roman glassware and items associated with magic filled home collections and spilled out into the public museums of earlier times. Over and over again, I’ve been enchanted by these odds bits & pieces displayed in cabinets by personalities as varied as Rembrandt van Rijn and Frederick the Great.
When creating an individual character, I’ve sometimes asked myself what this person would collect. A character with a room full of vintage clothing is quite different from the stamp collector or the character with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with TV show memorabilia — but they are ALL collectors.
A while back I had a serious discussion with an antique collector about his passion for acquisition. He had beautiful Buddha statues, souvenir kitchenware from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, serious antique furniture and many other collections of beautiful things. He said that passionate collectors were always trying to fill a hole in their hearts with stuff that resonated with what they felt was missing in their pasts or in their present lives. I thought it was a very insightful comment for a man to make about himself.
What do I collect? Stories, of course, and I’m always ready to hear people tell me their tales.