People collect everything! Really! Everything! Pokémon. Famous peoples’ autographs. Bars of soap from all over the world. Historical peoples’ hair. Toasters. Happy-Meal toys. Penises (honestly, a man in Iceland has a museum). Dalmation-spotted items. Coca-Cola cans (8,000 different cans).
The collections included in the “Open House: A Portrait of Collecting” at the Lamont Gallery on the Phillips Exeter Academy campus are fascinating. Director-curator Lauren O’Neal said that over 10 private collections are part of this exhibition that includes hand-carved sculptures, antique radios, African artifacts, prints from the gallery’s archives, photos of “crowdspotting,” paint-by-number pieces and a site-specific installation that engages multiple senses.
As a psychology undergrad, I must admit the psychological profile of collectors has always intrigued me. I, being more of a minimalist — well, we do have a dozen or so occasion-related wine glasses, and yes I have way too many t-shirts from road races I’ve participated in spanning three decades — fall into the “less is more” camp. But to understand why people collect is half the fun of enjoying what they’re collecting.
People usually collect for emotional value rather than monetary reasons. Collections may be associated with a meaningful aspect of their childhood