Out of the Cabinet: Tales of Strange Objects and the People Who Love Them

Charles Willson Peale. The Artist in His Museum

The Artist in His Museum, Charles Willson Peale, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia

Out of the Cabinet: Tales of Strange Objects and the People Who Love Them: A Collector “Show and Tell” and Lecture Series
Presented by Morbid Anatomy and Morbid Anatomy Library Scholar in Residence/Star of TV’s “Oddities” Evan Michelson

What, exactly, is it that motivates the collector? Is it primarily an obsession, an addiction or a compulsion? Is the urge to collect benign or malignantly invasive? No one has yet provided a compelling answer, and any collector would be hard-pressed to articulate what exactly is driving the need to hunt down and acquire that next essential piece. The symptoms of the collecting impulse are as varied as the collectors themselves: some collect categorically, some collect socially, and some are driven by aesthetic considerations above all, but most collectors agree that the thrill of that next find is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and the love of certain objects can last a lifetime.

Above all, it is our own personal history that imbues an object with meaning, and gives it resonance beyond its intended life. Collectors tell their inner stories through their acquisitions, and we can suss a collector’s personality through his or her items without a word being spoken; a collection is a physical manifestation of the perpetually unseen, inner life.

Whether it’s the pursuit of beauty, a sense of stewardship, the creation of a personal narrative, a love of science and history or acquisitiveness run amok, the objects a collector lives with speak to an undeniable drive to possess something rare, beautiful or personally significant. In this series, collectors will present some choice objects from their collections and discuss what it means to be possessed by a possession, what layers of meaning an object can hold beyond price or rarity, and what shadowed corners of the psyche are illuminated by the things that hold us in their spell.

Out of the Cabinet Events:
April 11, 2011: A Gathering of Bones: An Illustrated lecture by Collector Evan Michelson
May 20, 2011:
The Witch’s Dungeon: An illustrated lecture and show and tell with proprietor of “The Witch’s Dungeon” Cortlandt Hull
June 2, 2011: Under Glass: A Victorian Obsession: An Illustrated Lecture and Collection Show and Tell with John Whiteknight
June 19, 2011: Portrait of a Dime Museum: The Niagra Falls Museum (1827-1999): A Lecture by Historian, Museologist, and Collector Bill Jamieson
June 23, 2011: Home-Made Visual Albums: An Artifact-Based Lecture with Collector David Freund

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