A Collection Of Thoughts On Collecting

A childhood collection of boxes

A collection (of sorts), Fiera Da Ladra, Lisbon

The Dolls House 


n. something that is collected; a group of objects or an amount of material accumulated in one location, especially for some purpose or as a result of some process.

We've been thinking about collections a lot in recent weeks as the Simple Shape ‘collection’ has come together. What is it to collect? Why do people collect things when others definitely do not - preferring instead to discard and renew? What is it that makes a collection, a Collection? 

The Barbican has an exhibition that runs until the end of the month Magnificent Obsession: The Artist As Collector that has fuelled these thoughts. It lays a path through the collections of those people whose very work is considered ‘collectible’. People who have collected all sorts; from crazy gatherings of mass-produced paraphernalia to rare, unique, unusual, unexpected artefacts; stacks of photographic images; silk scarves; tiny netsuke. Arranged and displayed, framed and cased, gathered and amassed… anything goes.

We have a dolls' house that has been passed down from grandparents.  It is an exact model of a mid-Victorian house that was handmade painstakingly from old photographs.  The furniture has been gathered and new pieces made more recently to update it and to sit alongside the old.  It has been played with and treasured.  It has been passed on and passed down and we are the current custodians of this personal piece of family history, this heirloom.  This is in our collection - our mass of gathered bits and pieces, fragments of family history.   It is a piece with a narrative.  Passing things on, seems to me, to be a wonderful thing.

The Soane Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields houses a staggering collection (go at night and explore by candlelight) and The Snowshill Manor collection in Gloucestershire is a true lesson in collecting and obsession.