Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Collecting / Collections

Do you collect anything in particular?

my big barbie collection 3

joe smith 1




butterfly collection


Mickey Mouse collection - MACBA - Barcelona

leno-garage-car collection

part of my teacup collection

Pez Collection

With my LP collection


nicky-hilton shoe collection


Hello Kitty Shop Window Collection

gun collection


book collection

GardenGnomes collection

carrie-bradshaw closet

precious-moments collection

June 15 2009 - Day 18

Dolls!  14/2/09

I think most of us collect at least one thing or another.  I suppose that I collect clothes, shoes, jewelry, books and art.  For a while I was collecting teapots, and never using them, so I wondered what the point was and pretty much quit collecting those space-taking teapots.

So I was wondering why we collect things.  Because we are bored? To have a hobby that keeps us entertained?  To distinguish ourselves from others?  To have something to show off?  To have some sense of purpose in life?  To blow money?  To fill the emptiness of our lives?  Other?

I was wondering if there was a psychological theory behind the tendency of collecting, and it turns out there are many interesting thoughts about it:

Throughout the ages, people have devoted great amounts of time, money, and energy making and maintaining collections. When people think of collecting, they may put in mind expensive works of art or historical artifacts that are later sold to a museum or listed on ebay. But the truth is, for many people who amass collections, the value of their collection is not monetary, but emotionally valuable—and often not for sale. Collections allow people to relive their childhood, connect themselves to a period in history or time they feel strongly about, to ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves, and to keep the past present. Some collect for the thrill of the hunt. Collecting is much like a quest, a life-long pursuit which can never be complete. Collecting may provide psychological security by filling a part of the self one feels is missing or void of meaning. When one collects, they experiment with arranging, organizing, and presenting a part of the world which may serve to provide a safety zone, a place of refuge where fears are calmed and insecurity is managed. Motives are not mutually exclusive, different motives combine in each collector for a multitude of reasons.

What Is Collected?

People will and do collect almost anything. Saint Louis collected saints’ relics and built a temple for them. Collections may be antisocial, such as the collection described in Mozart's darkest play, Don Giovanni. Mozart’s character, Don Giovanni, ran about town collecting sexual conquests, making his endeavored servant Leporello follow after him and list names in a catalog, verifying the authenticity of the account while doing so. Henry Wellcome, a pharmacist, collected for society- he spent 40 years collecting over a million sharp objects that he felt could represent the history of medical science. He later opened a museum “The Museum of Medical Science” which during WWI. The infamous are famous for their collections. Donald Trump collects skyscrapers, Demi Moore has an entire house filled exclusively with her doll collection, Sharon Stone collects cashmere sweaters. Napolean  collected countries, a habit that led to the “Napolean Complex” term we use to describe a man who compensates for physical flaws through aggression.

Psychologists Perspectives

Psychologists have often taken a Freudian perspective when describing why people collect. They highlight the controlling and impulsive dark side to collecting, the need for people to have “an object of desire.” This desire, and hence the innate propensity to collect, begins at birth. The infant first desires the emotional and physical comfort of the nourishing breast, then the familiar baby blanket the child clings to for comfort and security. Stuffed animals, favorite toys are taken to bed and provide the emotional security needed to fall asleep. A sense of ownership and control is facilitated through possession of these items for the vulnerable child. Freud himself took a more extreme position on the origins of collecting. Not surprisingly, he postulated that all collecting stems from unresolved toilet training conflict. Freud took the stance that the loss of bowel control was a traumatic experience, and the product from the bowels was disgusting and frightening to the child. Therefore the collector is trying to gain back control of their bowels as well as their “possessions” which were long flushed down the toilet. Where Freud linked object fixation to the anal-retentive stage in childhood, Muensterberger, in his perspective paper “Unruly Passion” believes collecting to be a “need-driven compensatory behavior where every new object effectively gives the notion of fantasized omnipotence." Jung had his own theories about why people become collectors. He touted the influence of archetypes on behavior. These universal symbols are embedded in what he termed our collective unconscious. Using this logic, collecting and completing sets have as their archetypal antecedents the collecting of “nuts and berries” once needed for survival by our early ancestors.

A Dark Side?

There are unemotional commerce-motivated collectors, those that hunt for collectibles only to turn them around soon after and sell them. However, the current author of many autograph collecting books, Mark Baker, describes most autograph seekers as being emotionally motivated to collect. Baker (2005) estimates that over 90% of autograph collectors have no intention to sell their wares. If not for money, and assuming issues arising from childhood were long resolved, then what reasons do people give for collecting? "For me there are three sides to it," says Petrulis, a former outfielder at  St. Mary's University in Winona, Minnesota who is an avid autograph collector. "The thrill of the chase, seeing who will sign that day. Second, the collecting aspect, trying to put together one of the best autograph collections around. And, finally, feeling more connected to the game because I actually meet the guys playing it instead of just seeing them on television." Petrulis also admits there is a dark side to collecting, providing some support for the Catholic Church's position that emotions are bad. "It gets addictive," says Petrulis, "just like gambling, drugs or sex. It's like putting a coin in a slot machine. It might not pay off this time, so you put another quarter in and keep doing it until you are tapped out or finally hit the jackpot."

When Collecting is Happy

Despite the interesting “dark side” of collecting, collecting is still mostly associated with positive emotions. There is the happiness from adding a new find to the collection, the excitement of the hunt, the social camaraderie when sharing their collection with other collectors. Oxlade-Vaz describes the intense emotional bond she had with her grandmother, and the rich heart-warming memories she had amassed at her grandma’s house as a child and even as an adult. Her grandmother, a product of the Great Depression, “saved” everything. As a child, the author recalls the loving and gentle way her grandmother organized seemingly ordinary items: rubber bands were neatly bound together and artfully displayed on the mantle. Tops of pens of all colors and sizes were neatly arranged in drawers and bins. Artificial flowers, saved from the dumpster decorated every room in the house. At her grandmother’s death, Oxlade-Vaz recalls the overwhelmingly pleasant emotions that overcame her as she sorted through her grandma’s collections. Though not valuable, the author kept these collections to remember her grandma’s thrifty, sensible, wisdom—reminders of the graceful way her grandmother was able to provide seemingly useless items dignity and respect.


There are also times when collecting is not pleasant for anyone — and much harder to describe than simply dark. These are the collectors that have surpassed healthy collecting behavior and are considered hoarders. When a collection becomes hoarding is when it also becomes pathological. Hoarding is pathological because it interferes with living a normal daily life. Differences between collecting and hoarding are clear. Items in a collection are neatly organized, maintained, and presented or manipulated with ease. If a collector of 1000+ trains wants to find a particular one from his collection, he can find it easily. Collections are often catalogued, sorted, and objectively maintained like books in a library. Hoarding behavior is the opposite. Items with no value or use are piled up in stacks without order nor reason. Steven W. Anderson, a neurologist who studies hoarding behavior, posits that the need to collect stems from a basic drive to collect basic supplies such as food. This drive originates in the subcortical and limbic portions of the brain. According to Anderson, people need their prefrontal cortex to determine what supplies are worth saving (or hoarding). Anderson has found that many compulsive hoarders with brain injury had suffered damage to a region of their brain that regulates cognitive behaviors like decision making, information processing, and organizing behavior—the prefrontal cortex. Those with brain injury who did not display hoarding behavior, did not have damage to their frontal cortex, but showed damage distributed throughout the right and left hemispheres of their brain.

Verrrrrrrry interesting, no? 



Trixie said...

As a OCD thrower outer, most of these photos make me want to SCREAM and run and get giant green garbage bags to throw everything into. Isn't that horrible? It's almost as bad as being a hoarder I swear. They keep piles of stuff and I obsessively throw out stuff once it reaches a "cluttered" state regardless of value

So you might guess that I am not a collector! I do know a hoarder and I think that's why. She for awhile could not part even with a textbook that 1988 that she'd found in a thrift store so it didn't even have sentimental value just she felt her collection was part of her and in getting rid of it or thinning it down she was getting rid of part of herself

Love those dolls in the last photo by the way! Adorable!

Trissta said...

I do find it interesting to know WHY people do the things they do. I almost went into psychology because of it, but rather chose to deal with the organization and prettificaiton of those possessions instead of dealing with the crazies. ;) Hoarding collections, though? It's extreme and many people won't admit to doing it. My mom's bf collects projects. Cars, houses, chickens. You name it, he'll buy it and start a new project before finishing an old one and they all sit around. Collecting shit is dangerous. I, however, will admit to my closet being quite close to being overrun with clothes, sunglasses, purses, shoes and jewelry. However, I have a rule that if I get to a point where I feel overwhelmed and junky and buy something new, I have to throw out something I haven't used in some time. It seems to work pretty well.

Much Love,

Lara said...

My parents are HUGE collectors and I got myself in that rut growing up as well. The collect antiques with inherent value though and look at their stuff as their retirement/my inheritance (oh joy). Something clicked one day and I was sick of it all. Now I purge my possessions on a regular basis like Trixie.
Dusting nic nacs is my most hated chore so I try to keep clutter at a minimum so no collections for me... except for shoes and jewelry I guess.

Freud was such a freak.

Mandy_Fish said...

I used to have quite a large book collection that moved with me at least four or five times. The collection was so large I had to keep it in cardboard boxes in the basement. On my second to last move, I finally decided it was time to let it go and donated it to the local library.

Dancing Branflake said...

Have you seen that 30 Rock episode where we discover that Jack collects Cookie Jars? Hilarious!

Okay, and I am not a hoarder but I definitely see myself in them.

Caroline said...

Oh Mom used to be a hoarder (thankfully recovered). I don't really collect things because of that. I do find some people's collections kinda interesting (except for my in-laws that collect beanie babies...WTF?).

rach said...

I half-assedly tried to collect stamps as a kid....gave that up quickly...As i got older seashells are what I collect. Unfortunately I had to leave the majority in the states. Now I collect grocery store receipts (look at the bottom of any purse I've used in the last 2 years...its quite the archive) and dust bunnies. lol

Lorena said...

Oh, so you finally shared your Barbie doll collection with us... at least put some clothes on them :)
I collect things, well some things at least to try and maintain a collection with that era...
For example, I have a stamp collection that I need to organize. With it I learned SO MUCH about geography and history.
Another collection is Panama Canal related items, specially from the 1915 PPIE (Panama Pacific International Exposition) held in San Francisco.
I have toned it down a bit, but I actually have a room on my house for it. Also part of my collection is in the Canal Museum.
I buy mostly from ebay and do it secretly, so my nobody knows what i buy or how much I pay.
In fact just 2 minutes ago I was eyeing a ring on ebay that is very appealing. The bid ends after midnight, so I have to figure out if I am going to participate or not.
I fear being a hoarder- but I admit that i also like old telephones, gramaphones, typewriters, inkwells, dressforms, radios... i just realized i might have a problem.

Lorena said...

i meant a CONNECTION with that era :)

Phoenix said...

I used to collect miniatures for a huge dollhouse that I had, from my travels all over the world, but grew out of that. I also used to collect stone animals, but grew out of that as well.

I get collecting as a child. It gives you order and a sense of purpose. But as an adult? I think that's where the darker side, as they say, of collecting comes in.

Right now all I seem to collect are books and people. :) Everything else I throw out when it takes up too much space in my life.

Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

I collect pipes- lots and lots of pipes- every single pipe I own has been smoked-

hope505 said...

~ fascinating post!~ & I was just thinking of this very topic ((psychic you!))

I inherited a collection of rare (Wedgwood fairyland lustre) porcelain...enjoyed through the years, growing up...

I collect art...and any RARE things that I personally enjoy...ok I have a "cat collection" since childhood, but it isn't a bonkers, GONZO one, very selective, personal ones, Royal Doulton Flambe cat, "Lucky" the cat, an antique corticelli thread box with a cat on know...stuff like that...displayed selectively.

And then I have "Magic Earring Ken", for no reason, just because he's rare and valuable and gay! *hahaha! A fun collectible conversation piece...

Vintage clothing and jewelry...does that count?

Somebody once said 3 or more of something was a "collection"...hmm...I guess I just like "rare stuff".

Felicia said...

I was just going to write a blog post about "collecting" AKA HOARDING. All those hoarders on those reality shows say they are just avid "collectors." Yeah, ok.

This topic popped in my head the other day because I'm moving and getting rid of things I haven't even looked at in 5 years. I'm realizing that my clothing is the biggest source of this "collecting" and managed to get rid of a lot of it. But then slowly but surely I managed to buy enough in the past month to replace every single item I got rid of!!! It's ridiculous!! I have three huge boxes of shoes!! What is wrong with me?? HAHA!

Big Red said...

I collect ex-boyfriends and sexual partners. Does that count?

NellieVaughn said...

I collect books. Thousands of them. There is a strong emotional attachment to every single one of them. It pains me to have to leave them behind soon.

mermaid gallery said...

I collect art of course....who doesn't?...but after moving last summer....(23 years worth of crap)I am now a believer of, if you don't use it, lose it.....

Chessa! said...

so interesting. I have a tendency to keep a lot of stuff that I just don't need. I used to actually collect little cows but not I just have a really hard time getting rid of things. If I had a bigger place I would have one room to just hang photographs and make gallery walls. I'm completely over the top when it comes to printing pictures and saving them. It makes sense given my profession but I have no space!

These photos are too much for me...the Barbies and the shoes and the mickeys? omg.

Kitty Stampede said...

i collect cool, obscure and sometimes old cat books. *blush*

i used to collect vintage clothes just cause i thought they were cool and maybe wanted to sell them but i am going through a bit of a purging. have far too much stuff i don't actually like or wear and it's just in the way. and what's the point in it being in storage. i sold some once to a vintage shop so i made a bit bones, which was sweet.

that's pretty much it. i think people get so easily obsessed and fanatical with things. i mean it's good to have interests, but i think they can go waay too far, psychologically.

tulpen said...

I collected bells as a kid.

Have a bunch of salt and pepper shakers now.

And elephants. They're everywhere.

Now I'm concentrating on collecting criteria for my impending nervous breakdown. Almost there!!!

Daniela said...

doll collections scare me. I feel like no matter when you are in a room with dolls, they're always watching that girl in The Grudge. Fuck I just scared myself.

Kathryn said...

I have always thought Freud was overrated, but the rest of the article is interesting.

I collect movies, mostly old VHS tapes and that is probably my largest collection, followed by clothing, shoes, photo albums and nail polish and a few Garfield items.

Kara said...

I find collecting to be really odd, if we're being honest. I'm the anti-collecter. I'm not super sentimental about really anything material. Seeing other people's collections actually make me feel kinda I wanna go downsize and dust it or something.

melifaif said...

I don't collect jack diddly shit. Other than dust bunnies!!! lol. But, yes, interesting, none the less.

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