Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Important artifacts....

The dictionary states that materialism, or being materialistic is "the theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life." While I don't adhere to this, I have a certain respect, appreciation and admiration for objects. Obviously the objects that we surround ourselves with reflect choices, and therefore represent who we are, where we've been, what we like and how we reflect our identity to ourselves and those around us. We hoard our possessions and our treasures in a private way. Even as I write this, a small glass jar terrarium, a postcard with the photo of an Iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland and a small plastic figurine of a penguin stare down from a shelf above my desk.

In this vein, I fell in love with Leanne Shapton's "Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry". This book explore the fictional love story of Lenore and Harold through a fake auction catalog of their possessions. It is a lovely display of personal and mundane objects, but when presented of such a clear picture of a couple through objects, a narrative forms. Their personal collection is numbered in lots, and a price is provided. It's interesting to think about who you would be, or what your life would be should you be presented as a series of objects or simply by your possessions.

a collection of "hidden"mothers

Thanks to the folks over at The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things I came across an amazing set of vintage photographs of hidden mothers in these portraits of their children. Back when photos took a while to expose and children had to sit still for a good chunk of time, mothers would "hide" (they're clearly there...) in order to hold their kids still for long enough. I find these photos beautiful, haunting, funny, endearing and just plain adorable. And while not exactly about collections, this flickr collection is pretty amazing.

Internet Collections and Bookmarking

The Internet has allowed collections to take on a whole new meaning, and a whole new form. Everyone is a collector now - of photos, of friends, articles, links, charts, followers, websites and blogs. Your bookmark bar is a collection. Your twitter followers are a collection. I am becoming fascinated with the issues of taxonomy, cataloging and organizing these online collections - it is the intersection of data collection and management, archiving and cataloging these non-tangible, yet visible items.

As a result of how large the internet is, I am constantly looking for ways to keep my collections in check - keeping them cohesive, connected, accessible and logical, while at the same time using each of the various web tools independently. Content can be posted to multiple social sites at one time, or kept separate. This bring into the fold the issue of keeping various social site connected, yet relevant instead of redundant. Is my attempt to appeal to different audiences or share the same information in a variety of ways? Unlike these various social websites, blogs are slightly easier as they are assigned a theme or topic, and so the content can be tailored in this way.

In order to keep track of my own online collections, I have been exploring various bookmarking sites in order to save, catalog, categorize, tag, and organize web content. I make excellent use of my bookmarks bar on my web browser, but between work, home and my smart phone I finally started exploring the various options for "social bookmarking" site and apps; one place to keep track of everything.

The social aspect is far less important to me than the bookmarking aspect. At first I was using Evernote - a fantastic site with an equally fantastic app that goes with it. Evernote lets you clip anything from documents to images to web URLs, and organize them into "notebooks". I loved Evernote so much that I quickly filled up my allowed storage and seem to often go over my monthly allowances (I don't think this should be a concern for the average user). The downfall with Evernote is it's design - it's effective, but just not nice to to look at, and it lacks a certain simplicity. As much as I enjoy this tool, it's strength is in it's ability to multi-task, when I only need it to complete one task, and complete it well: bookmarking.

I moved onto delicious, digg and hunted around trying a variety of other sites, but I want more than something that can be organized into different lists. Only recently have I found the answer for my collections of links!

Finally, I found it - Pearltree is my new obsession, and allows me to interact with the internet in a more intuitive way. With pearl tree, your links are represented by "pearls" and connected together in a tree of a configuration of your choosing. To me, its a series of mind maps and instead of using tags, things are organized into collections, groups, sub groups and can be dragged and dropped easily wherever I want them, and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing, cleverly designed and entirely visual way.

How do you keep track of your web based and web related collections?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

All the....

I've come across James Gulliver Hancock's illustrations on a few different occasions on the internet, but there is something about his illustrations that I really love, I'm always really interested in how artists illustrate/represent collections in their work. Of course I'm attracted to this series, the "All the..." series, which features all the snow in Montreal, all the buildings in New York, all the mountains in Switzerland, all the rooftops in Paris etc. They are wonderful busy little line-drawings/prints that capture a series of collections, most of which could never exist in real life. Enjoy.

A Collection a Day

It's been a very long time since either Casey or I posted anything, but when I came across Lisa Congdon's project 'A Collection a Day' where she would draw/paint/photograph a different collection everyday for a year, it seemed worth posting (well, that and I just recently retrieved my password...). Here's a little quote about her project from the blog...

"Since I was a young girl, I have been obsessed both with collecting and with arranging, organizing and displaying my collections. This is my attempt to document my collections, both the real and the imagined."

Here are just a small sample of some of the photographed collections...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I always hated toast. Who wants to eat warm, stale bread? But recently, I have developed a love for the toaster, and I don't know that the two are necessarily related, but suddenly I think toast is delicious.  The toasters themselves aren't so bad either. In fact, they are such a popular collectors item there is more than one website devoted to toaster collections.

Ralph has been collecting toasters for years.  The "Toast-O-Lator" is his prized posession, and he clearly loves the chrom toasters.  Check out Ralph's collection

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Behind the scenes

These are a couple of photographs I wanted to share from various museum archives. They were part of a show called Camera Obscured in 1997 curated by Vid Ingelevics and they can be seen here on this website. I love them because even though I study museums and galleries and the roles that run such institutions, I rarely actually think about the people who created the ‘environments’ in galleries, or the beginnings of museums. They are lovely photographs of lovely museum collections.

Visitors walking through dirt fields towards newly constructed Field Museum of Natural History, Grant Park, Chicago, 1921. Photographer: Charles Carpenter.

Photographers at work in the 'operating room' in the High Attic, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1924. Photographer: not recorded.

Dr. James L. Clark and unidentified technician with lion group in preparation, Akeley African Hall, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1934. Photograph: Julius Kirschner.

Working on Flying Bird Group, Sanford Hall, American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1947. Photographer: Alex J. Rota.

Billo and Bella, museum guard dogs, with their trainer, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1941. Photographer: not recorded

- casey