The success of internet auction sites like eBay and the cult status of public television's Antiques Roadshow attest to the continued popularity of collecting in American culture. Acts of Possession investigates the ways cultural meanings of collections have evolved and yet remained surprisingly unchanged throughout American history.
Drawing upon the body of theoretical work on collecting and focusing on individual as opposed to museum collections, the contributors investigate how, what, and why Americans have collected and explore the inherent meanings behind systems of organization and display. Essays consider the meanings of Thomas Jefferson's Indian Hall at Monticello; the pedagogical theories behind nineteenth-century children's curiosity cabinets; collections of Native American artifacts; and the ability of the owners of doll houses to construct meaning within the context of traditional ideals of domesticity.
The authors also consider some darker aspects of collecting-hoarding, fetishism, and compulsive behavior-scrutinizing collections of racist memorabilia and fascist propaganda. The final essay posits the serial killer as a collector, an investigation into the dangerous objectification of humans themselves.
By bringing fresh, interdisciplinary critical perspectives to bear on these questions, Dilworth and her coauthors weave a fascinating cultural history of collecting in America.
The peoples of northwestern Califonia's Lower Klamath River area have long been known for their fine basketry. Two early-twentieth-century weavers of that region, Elizabeth Hickox and her daughter Louise, created especially distinctive baskets that are celebrated today for their elaboration of technique, form, and surface designs.
Marvin Cohodas now explores the various forces that influenced Elizabeth Hickox, analyzing her relationship with the curio trade, and specifically with dealer Grace Nicholson, to show how those associations affected the development and marketing of baskets. He explains the techniques and patterns that Hickox created to meet the challenge of weaving design into changig three-dimensional forms. In addition to explicating the Hickoxes' basketry, Cohodas interprets its uniqueness as a form of intersocietal art, showing how Elizabeth first designed her distinctive trinket basket to convey a particular view of the curio trade and its effect on status within her community.
Through its close examination of these superb practitioners of basketry, Basket Weavers for the California Curio Trade addresses many of today's most pressing questions in Native American art studies concerning individuality, patronage, and issues of authenticity. Graced with historic photographs and full-color plates, it reveals the challenges faced by early-twentieth-century Native weavers.
Published with the assistance of The Southwest Museum, Los Angeles.
Collecting the Weaver's Art
Laurie D. Webster Harvard University Press, 2005 Library of Congress E99.N3W43 2003 | Dewey Decimal 746.14089972
This is the first publication on a remarkable collection of sixty-six outstanding Pueblo and Navajo textiles donated to the Peabody Museum in the 1980s by William Claflin, Jr., a prominent Boston businessman, avocational anthropologist, and patron of Southwestern archaeology. Claflin bequeathed to the museum not only these beautiful textiles, but also his detailed accounts of their collection histories—a rare record of the individuals who had owned or traded these weavings before they found a home in his private museum. Textile scholar Laurie Webster tells the stories of the weavings as they left their native Southwest and traveled eastward, passing through the hands of such owners and traders as a Ute Indian chief, a New England schoolteacher, a renowned artist, and various military officers and Indian agents. Her concise overview of Navajo and Pueblo weaving traditions is enhanced by the reflections of noted artist and Navajo textile expert Tony Berlant in his foreword to the text.
Collections of Nothing
William Davies King University of Chicago Press, 2008 Library of Congress AM401.K56A3 2008 | Dewey Decimal 790.132
Nearly everyone collects something, even those who don’t think of themselves as collectors. William Davies King, on the other hand, has devoted decades to collecting nothing—and a lot of it. With Collections of Nothing, he takes a hard look at this habitual hoarding to see what truths it can reveal about the impulse to accumulate.
Part memoir, part reflection on the mania of acquisition, Collections of Nothing begins with the stamp collection that King was given as a boy. In the following years, rather than rarity or pedigree, he found himself searching out the lowly and the lost, the cast-off and the undesired: objects that, merely by gathering and retaining them, he could imbue with meaning, even value. As he relates the story of his burgeoning collections, King also offers a fascinating meditation on the human urge to collect. This wry, funny, even touching appreciation and dissection of the collector’s art as seen through the life of a most unusual specimen will appeal to anyone who has ever felt the unappeasable power of that acquisitive fever.
"What makes this book, bred of a midlife crisis, extraordinary is the way King weaves his autobiography into the account of his collection, deftly demonstrating that the two stories are essentially one. . . . His hard-won self-awareness gives his disclosures an intensity that will likely resonate with all readers, even those whose collections of nothing contain nothing at all."—New Yorker
"King's extraordinary book is a memoir served up on the backs of all things he collects. . . . His story starts out sounding odd and singular—who is this guy?—but by the end, you recognize yourself in a lot of what he does."—Julia Keller, ChicagoTribune
This volume celebrates yesterday’s pulp magazines and their heroes and heroines. Readers will acquaint themselves with such famous magazine titles as The Shadow, The Black Mask, Weird Tales, and others as obscure as Scientific Detective Monthly and the sensuous Scarlet Adventuress of dim reputation. And more: Erle Stanley Gardner’s tough White Rings; Toffee the dream girl; Senorita Scorpion, a quick-trigger blond from Old Texas; Oscar Sail, protagonist of a pair of ferocious stories. And mediums, bandits, cowboys, detectives, vivacious characters, fascinating and vitally alive.
Contrary to twentieth-century criticism that cast them as misguided dabblers, English virtuosi in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were erudite individuals with solid grounding in the classics, deep appreciation for the arts, and sincere curiosity about the natural world. Reestablishing their broad historical significance, The English Virtuoso situates this polymathic group at the rich intersection of the period’s art, medicine, and antiquarianism.
At the heart of this profoundly interdisciplinary study lies the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, which from its founding in 1660 served as the major professional organization for London’s leading physicians, many of them prominent virtuosi. Craig Ashley Hanson reveals that a vital art audience emerged from the Royal Society—whose members assembled many of the period’s most important nonaristocratic collections—a century before most accounts date the establishment of an institutional base for the arts in England. Unearthing the fascinating stories of an impressive cast of characters, Hanson establishes a new foundation for understanding both the relationship between British art and science and the artistic accomplishments of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Samuel Quiccheberg’s Inscriptiones, first published in Latin in 1565, is an ambitious effort to demonstrate the pragmatic value of curiosity cabinets, or Wunderkammern, to princely collectors in sixteenth-century Europe and, by so doing, inspire them to develop their own such collections. Quiccheberg shows how the assembly and display of physical objects offered nobles a powerful means to expand visual knowledge, allowing them to incorporate empirical and artisanal expertise into the realm of the written word. But in mapping out the collectability of the material world, Quiccheberg did far more than create a taxonomy. Rather, he demonstrated how organizing objects made their knowledge more accessible; how objects, when juxtaposed or grouped, could tell a story; and how such strategies could enhance the value of any single object.
Quiccheberg’s descriptions of early modern collections provide both a point of origin for today’s museums and an implicit critique of their aims, asserting the fundamental research and scholarly value of collections: collections are to be used, not merely viewed. The First Treatise on Museums makes Quiccheberg’s now rare publication available in an English translation. Complementing the translation are a critical introduction by Mark A. Meadow and a preface by Bruce Robertson.
Gifts of the Great River
John H. House Harvard University Press, 2005 Library of Congress E98.M6815H68 2003 | Dewey Decimal 738.30899707679
In 1879 Edwin Curtiss set out for the wild St. Francis River region of northeastern Arkansas to collect archaeological specimens for the Peabody Museum. By the time Curtiss completed his fifty-six days of Arkansas fieldwork, he had sent nearly 1,000 pottery vessels to Cambridge and had put the Peabody on the map as the repository of one of the world's finest collections of Mississippian artifacts. John House brings us a lively account of the work of this nineteenth-century fieldworker, the Native culture he explored, and the rich legacies left by both. The result is a vivid re-creation of the world of Indian peoples in the Mississippi River lowlands in the last centuries before European contact. The volume's focus is Curtiss's collection of charming and expressive effigy vessels: earthenware bowls and bottles that incorporate forms of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and humans, including the Peabody's famous red-and-white head vase.
The Great Art Hoax exposes the real fakery and hypocrisy of the art world: how art is manufactured and marketed; how the pathology of private possession drives up the price; and how false art is hyped as true art to the tune of millions of dollars. Jon Huer demonstrates convincingly that what the art market deals as art need not be “art” at all.
2018 Lefty Award Finalist (Left Coast Crime) for Best Debut Mystery
When the alluring, eleventh-century Cambodian stone head of Radha, consort to Krishna, shows up at the Searles Museum, young curator Jenna Murphy doesn’t suspect that it will lead her to a murder. Asian art is her bailiwick, not criminal investigation, and her immediate concern is simply figuring out whether the head is one famously stolen from its body, or a fake.
When a second decapitation happens—this time of an art collector, not a statue—Jenna finds herself drawn into a different kind of mystery, and the stakes are life or death. It turns out that the same talents for research and for unraveling puzzles—the bread and butter of an art historian—have perfectly equipped her to solve crimes. She’s certain the sculpture provides clues to help her solve the case, which takes her to Thailand and Cambodia. But the collectors, dealers, and con artists of the Bangkok art world only compound her questions.
A Head in Cambodia is the fiction debut of noted Asian art expert Nancy Tingley. Readers will delight in the rarified world of collecting, as well as getting to know Jenna, an intrepid and shrewd observer who will easily find her place among V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Milhone, and other great female sleuths.
How do artists, collectors, dealers, and curators whose lives and livelihoods are so intimately affected by the valuation of art manage to cope with such an intangible market?
To answer this question, Stuart Plattner eschews the spotlights and media-hype of glitzy New York galleries, and focuses instead upon the more localized, and much more typical, world of the St. Louis art scene. What emerges is the most comprehensive description ever published of a contemporary regional avant-garde center, where noble aesthetic ambitions compete with the exigencies of economic survival. Plattner's skillful use of in-depth interviews enables the market's key participants to speak for themselves, giving voice to the many frustrations and rewards, motivations and constraints that influence their interactions with their work, the market, and each other.
"Plattner analyzes the social and economic factors that govern art markets outside the long shadow cast by chic New York galleries. An insightful and fascinating work."—Library Journal
"Explains much about the conundrums and paradoxes of the art world as a whole."—Eddie Silva, Riverfront Times
In the early twentieth century, Native American baskets, blankets, and bowls could be purchased from department stores, “Indian stores,” dealers, and the U.S. government’s Indian schools. Men and women across the United States indulged in a widespread passion for collecting Native American art, which they displayed in domestic nooks called “Indian corners.” Elizabeth Hutchinson identifies this collecting as part of a larger “Indian craze” and links it to other activities such as the inclusion of Native American artifacts in art exhibitions sponsored by museums, arts and crafts societies, and World’s Fairs, and the use of indigenous handicrafts as models for non-Native artists exploring formal abstraction and emerging notions of artistic subjectivity. She argues that the Indian craze convinced policymakers that art was an aspect of “traditional” Native culture worth preserving, an attitude that continues to influence popular attitudes and federal legislation.
Illustrating her argument with images culled from late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century publications, Hutchinson revises the standard history of the mainstream interest in Native American material culture as “art.” While many locate the development of this cross-cultural interest in the Southwest after the First World War, Hutchinson reveals that it began earlier and spread across the nation from west to east and from reservation to metropolis. She demonstrates that artists, teachers, and critics associated with the development of American modernism, including Arthur Wesley Dow and Gertrude Käsebier, were inspired by Native art. Native artists were also able to achieve some recognition as modern artists, as Hutchinson shows through her discussion of the Winnebago painter and educator Angel DeCora. By taking a transcultural approach, Hutchinson transforms our understanding of the role of Native Americans in modernist culture.
Inspired by a classical education, wealthy Romans populated the glittering interiors of their villas and homes with marble statuettes of ancestors, emperors, gods, and mythological figures. In The Learned Collector, Lea M. Stirling shows how the literary education received by all aristocrats, pagan and Christian alike, was fundamental in shaping their artistic taste while demonstrating how that taste was considered an important marker of status. Surveying collections across the empire, Stirling examines different ways that sculptural collections expressed not only the wealth but the identity of their aristocratic owners.
The majority of statues in late antique homes were heirlooms and antiques. Mythological statuary, which would be interpreted in varying degrees of complexity, favored themes reflecting aristocratic pastimes such as dining and hunting. The Learned Collector investigates the manufacture of these distinctive statuettes in the later fourth century, the reasons for their popularity, and their modes of display in Gaul and the empire.
Although the destruction of ancient artwork looms large in the common view of late antiquity, statuary of mythological figures continued to be displayed and manufactured into the early fifth century. Stirling surveys the sculptural decor of late antique villas across the empire to reveal the universal and regional trends in the late antique confluence of literary education, mythological references, aristocratic mores, and classicizing taste. Deftly combining art historical, archaeological, and literary evidence, this book will be important to classicists and art historians alike. Stirling's accessible writing style makes this an important work for scholars, students, and anyone with an interest in Roman statues of this era.
Lea M. Stirling is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Manitoba and holds a Canada Research Council Chair in Roman Archaeology. She co-directs excavations at the ancient city of Leptiminus, Tunisia.
Jeffrey Hammond’s Little Big World: Collecting Louis Marx and the American Fifties is the story of a middle-aged man’s sudden compulsion to collect the toys of his childhood: specifically themed playsets produced by the Louis Marx Toy Company. Hammond never made a conscious decision to become a collector of any kind, so he was surprised when his occasional visits to web sites turned into hours spent gazing at, and then impulsively purchasing, the tiny plastic people and animals in the Civil War set, the Fort Apache set, Roy Rogers Ranch, and Happi-Time Farm—just a few of the dozens of playsets the Marx Company produced.
Hammond interweaves childhood memories with reflections on what they reveal about the culture and values of cold war America, offering an extended meditation on toys as powerful catalysts for the imagination of both children and adults. Never sentimentalizing his childhood in an effort to get his old toys back, Hammond exposes the dangers of nostalgia by casting an unsettling light on the culture of the fifties and the era’s lasting impact on those who grew up in it.
Writing in a lovably quirky voice, Hammond not only attempts to understand his personal connection to the Marx toys but also examines the psychology of his fellow eBay denizens. In this warm, funny, and contemplative work, the reader encounters an online community of serious adult collectors who, as the author suspects, are driven to obsession by middle-aged nostalgia. When Hammond questions this preoccupation with the past, he comes to realize that his own collecting has prevented him from moving forward. With this insight, he offers an insider’s take on the culture and psychology of collecting.
Today, jazz is considered high art, America’s national music, and the catalog of its recordings—its discography—is often taken for granted. But behind jazz discography is a fraught and highly colorful history of research, fanaticism, and the intense desire to know who played what, where, and when. This history gets its first full-length treatment in Bruce D. Epperson’s More Important Than the Music. Following the dedicated few who sought to keep jazz’s legacy organized, Epperson tells a fascinating story of archival pursuit in the face of negligence and deception, a tale that saw curses and threats regularly employed, with fisticuffs and lawsuits only slightly rarer.
Epperson examines the documentation of recorded jazz from its casual origins as a novelty in the 1920s and ’30s, through the overwhelming deluge of 12-inch vinyl records in the middle of the twentieth century, to the use of computers by today’s discographers. Though he focuses much of his attention on comprehensive discographies, he also examines the development of a variety of related listings, such as buyer’s guides and library catalogs, and he closes with a look toward discography’s future. From the little black book to the full-featured online database, More Important Than the Music offers a history not just of jazz discography but of the profoundly human desire to preserve history itself.
This work is a composite index of the complete runs of all mystery and detective fan magazines that have been published, through 1981. Added to it are indexes of many magazines of related nature. This includes magazines that are primarily oriented to boys' book collecting, the paperbacks, and the pulp magazine hero characters, since these all have a place in the mystery and detective genre.
A Noble Pursuit
Gloria Polizzotti Greis Harvard University Press, 2006 Library of Congress GN780.22.S57G74 2006 | Dewey Decimal 949.7301
In 1905, to the consternation of her family and in defiance of convention, the 48-year-old Duchess Paul Friedrich of Mecklenburg took up the practice of archaeology. In the nine years leading up to the First World War, she successfully excavated twenty-one sites in her home province of Carniola (modern Slovenia), acquiring the patronage of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef I and German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Mentored by the most important archaeologists of her time—Oscar Montelius and Josef Dechellette—the Duchess became an accomplished fieldworker and an important figure in the archaeology of Central Europe. Gloria Greis incorporates previously unpublished correspondence and other archival documents in this colorful account of the Duchess of Mecklenburg and her work.
The Mecklenburg Collection, the largest systematically excavated collection of European antiquities outside of Europe, resides in Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. The sites excavated by the Duchess, which encompass the scope of Iron Age cultures in Slovenia, form an important resource for studying the cultural history of the region. A Noble Pursuit presents a selection of beautifully photographed artifacts that provide an overview of the scope and importance of the collection as a whole and attest to the enduring quality of the Duchess's pioneering work.
Steve Cushing, the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated public radio staple Blues Before Sunrise, has spent more than thirty years observing and participating in the Chicago blues scene. In the expanded second edition of Pioneers of the Blues Revival, Cushing adds new interviewees to the roster of prominent white researchers and enthusiasts whose advocacy spearheaded the blues' crossover into the mainstream starting in the 1960s. Rare interview material with experts like Mack McCormick supplements dialogues with Paul Garon, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Paul Oliver, Sam Charters, and others in renewing lively debates and providing first-hand accounts of the era and movement. Throughout, the participants chronicle lifetimes spent loving, finding, collecting, reissuing, and producing records. They also recount relationships with essential blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White—connections that allowed the two races to learn how to talk to each other in a still-segregated world.
Steve Cushing, the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated public radio staple Blues before Sunrise, has spent over thirty years observing and participating in the Chicago blues scene. In Pioneers of the Blues Revival, he interviews many of the prominent white researchers and enthusiasts whose advocacy spearheaded the blues' crossover into the mainstream starting in the 1960s.
Opinionated and territorial, the American, British, and French interviewees provide fascinating first-hand accounts of the era and movement. Experts including Paul Oliver, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Sam Charters, Ray Flerledge, Paul Oliver, Richard K. Spottswood, and Pete Whelan chronicle in their own words their obsessive early efforts at cataloging blues recordings and retrace lifetimes spent loving, finding, collecting, reissuing, and producing records. They and nearly a dozen others recount relationships with blues musicians, including the discoveries of prewar bluesmen Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White, and the reintroduction of these musicians and many others to new generations of listeners. The accounts describe fieldwork in the South, renew lively debates, and tell of rehearsals in Muddy Waters's basement and randomly finding Lightning Hopkins's guitar in a pawn shop.
Blues scholar Barry Lee Pearson provides a critical and historical framework for the interviews in an introduction.
A piece of Plymouth Rock. A lock of George Washington’s hair. Wood from the cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born. Various bits and pieces of the past—often called “association items”—may appear to be eccentric odds and ends, but they are valued because of their connections to prominent people and events in American history. Kept in museum collections large and small across the United States, such objects are the touchstones of our popular engagement with history.
In Sacred Relics, Teresa Barnett explores the history of private collections of items like these, illuminating how Americans view the past. She traces the relic-collecting tradition back to eighteenth-century England, then on to articles belonging to the founding fathers and through the mass collecting of artifacts that followed the Civil War. Ultimately, Barnett shows how we can trace our own historical collecting from the nineteenth century’s assemblages of the material possessions of great men and women.
Throughout the four hundred thousand years that humanity has been collecting fossils, sea urchin fossils, or echinoids, have continually been among the most prized, from the Paleolithic era, when they decorated flint axes, to today, when paleobiologists study them for clues to the earth’s history.
In The Star-Crossed Stone, Kenneth J. McNamara, an expert on fossil echinoids, takes readers on an incredible fossil hunt, with stops in history, paleontology, folklore, mythology, art, religion, and much more. Beginning with prehistoric times, when urchin fossils were used as jewelry, McNamara reveals how the fossil crept into the religious and cultural lives of societies around the world—the roots of the familiar five-pointed star, for example, can be traced to the pattern found on urchins. But McNamara’s vision is even broader than that: using our knowledge of early habits of fossil collecting, he explores the evolution of the human mind itself, drawing striking conclusions about humanity’s earliest appreciation of beauty and the first stirrings of artistic expression. Along the way, the fossil becomes a nexus through which we meet brilliant eccentrics and visionary archaeologists and develop new insights into topics as seemingly disparate as hieroglyphics, Beowulf, and even church organs.
An idiosyncratic celebration of science, nature, and human ingenuity, The Star-Crossed Stone is as charming and unforgettable as the fossil at its heart.
Although libraries and museums for many centuries have taken the lead, under one rational or another, in recovering, storing, and displaying various kinds of culture of their periods, lately, as the gap between elite and popular culture has apparently widened, these repositories of artifacts of the present for the future have tended to drift more and more to what many people call the aesthetically pleasing elements of our culture. The degree to which our libraries and museums have ignored our culture is terrifying, when one scans the documents and artifacts of our time which, if history in any wise repeats itself, will in the immediate and distant future become valuable indices of our present culture to future generations. As Professor Schroeder dramatically states it, “No doubt about it, it is the contemporary popular culture that is the endangered species.”
The essays in this book investigate the reasons for present-day neglect of popular culture materials and chart the various routes by which conscientious and insightful librarians and museum directors can correct this disastrous oversight.
We are the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful
—from an engraving on a Vietnam-era Zippo lighter
In 1965, journalist Morley Safer followed the United States Marines on a search and destroy mission into Cam Ne. When the Marines he accompanied reached the village, they ordered the civilians there to evacuate their homes—grass huts whose thatched roofs they set ablaze with Zippo lighters. Safer’s report on the event soon aired on CBS and was among the first to paint a harrowing portrait of the War in Vietnam. LBJ responded to the segment furiously, accusing Safer of having “shat on the American flag.” For the first time since World War II, American boys in uniform had been portrayed as murderers instead of liberators. Our perception of the war—and the Zippo lighter—would never be the same.
But as this stunning book attests, the Zippo was far more than an instrument of death and destruction. For the American soldiers who wielded them, they were a vital form of social protest as well. Vietnam Zippos showcases the engravings made by U.S. soldiers on their lighters during the height of the conflict, from 1965 to 1973. In a real-life version of the psychedelic war portrayed in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Sherry Buchanan tells the fascinating story of how the humble Zippo became a talisman and companion for American GIs during their tours of duty. Through a dazzling array of images, we see how Zippo lighters were used during the war, and we discover how they served as a canvas for both personal and political expression during the Age of Aquarius, engraved with etchings of peace signs and marijuana leaves and slogans steeped in all the rock lyrics, sound bites, combat slang, and antiwar mottos of the time.
Death from Above. Napalm Sticks to Kids. I Love You Mom, From a Lonely Paratrooper. The engravings gathered in this copiously illustrated volume are at once searing, caustic, and moving, running the full emotional spectrum with both sardonic reflections—I Love the Fucking Army and the Army Loves Fucking Me—and poignant maxims—When the Power of Love Overcomes the Love of Power, the World Will Know Peace. Part pop art and part military artifact, they collectively capture the large moods of the sixties and the darkest days of Vietnam—all through the world of the tiny Zippo.
From scouring flea markets and eBay to maxing out their credit cards, record collectors will do just about anything to score a long-sought-after album. In Vinyl Freak, music writer, curator, and collector John Corbett burrows deep inside the record fiend’s mind, documenting and reflecting on his decades-long love affair with vinyl. Discussing more than 200 rare and out-of-print LPs, Vinyl Freak is composed in part of Corbett's long-running DownBeat magazine column of the same name, which was devoted to records that had not appeared on CD. In other essays where he combines memoir and criticism, Corbett considers the current vinyl boom, explains why vinyl is his preferred medium, profiles collector subcultures, and recounts his adventures assembling the Alton Abraham Sun Ra Archive, an event so all-consuming that he claims it cured his record-collecting addiction. Perfect for vinyl newbies and veteran crate diggers alike, Vinyl Freak plumbs the motivations that drive Corbett and collectors everywhere.