mad in pursuit notebook


Loaves & Fishes: Life of the Collector


Seriously, I should stop telling people I'm "inventorying" or "cataloging." First, the process seems eternal: they must think I am not only a dweeb, but the world's slowest one. Second, it's really more than that. I use the terminology because it makes it sound like I have a job -- which is true: exercising good stewardship around the many valuables we've accumulated over the years. But the reason why I'm so slow is that I actually enjoy picking up each item, dusting it off, taking its picture, figuring out what it is, matching it up with a receipt, doing a little research, etc. So many items -- whether bead or figurine or hand-fan -- are little marvels of workmanship or little lessons in history and culture. Entering it into a database and doing all the labeling is the laborious part, but it does convey a satisfying sense of completion, control, and "job well done."


Jim collected books, artifacts and art all his life. I only went bonkers for beads as of 1990. When we retired and stopped getting regular paychecks, the impulsive accumulation of "stuff" stopped. And anyway, our place was busting at the seams with over-indulged artful appetites.

That's when we started remodeling -- so that we didn't look like the flea market storeroom. And that's when I started our Ebay store -- so that we didn't look like hoarders. Closets got cleaned out. And we sold a couple of large collections (books, antique firearms) that were too overpowering in their demand for space.

Ahhhhh... Now for the enjoyment!

What Is An "Active" Collection?

Active collectors are folks who keep in the know about the trade and frequently buy and sell their desired items. Once you stop buying, you start losing touch with the marketplace. The collection starts getting dusty. You stop seeing it as fascinating and exciting. For so many collectors, the thrill is in the hunt.

If the collector is not active, how do you keep the collection "active." How do you keep it alive? If you've paid attention to some of my writing, you know that I do feel old objects take on a life of their own. And if you don't engage with a lively spirit, it gets lonely and bitter and winds up turning on you. You think? They fall off the shelves. Some kind of rot sets in. They begin to feel like so much crap... a burden.

And so we play and call it "inventorying." Maybe I should refer to it as our "continuing education course" in art history -- school. Our own personal Elderhostel.

This week the process makes me think of the parable of the loaves and fishes, when 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes fed a multitude. Our one tableful of Asian objects could not be emptied, no matter how fast we cataloged the items -- or so it seemed till last night when we finally finished up (the hungry database was full, ha-ha). I know that story has something to do with Jesus working a miracle, but for me it is a celebration of abundance -- you are only as rich as you appreciate what you have.


Aug 26, 2012