Everybody Collects Something
Malachite urn and pedestal from the palace of the Russian czar,
For years, I have been a fly fisherman. I lived in New Hampshire most of my adult life, so participation in the sport of fly-fishing was a natural consequence. What I had not anticipated was the collection hobby that would follow.
I began to tie my own flies, and became pretty good at it too. I tied thousands of them, and naturally had to organize my work into lots, which eventually became a collection. That collection led to a greater interest in fly reels, which later became another obsession, a second collection, and eventually an online business.
As I was cleaning up all my junk for the holidays (my wife's language), I began to reflect on the number and types of collections I have enjoyed over the years. Among the more memorable were books, fly rods, CDs, cigars, wine, canoes, cooking utensils, stamps, coins, art, hats, tee shirts, clocks (and I don't believe in time), Hemingway memorabilia, vintage movies, dog collars, chess sets, Meerschaum pipes, and more!
The other day, my wife and I visited the Lightner Museum here in St. Augustine, Florida. I spent most of the time thinking about how many unusual things people collect. Many collections are fascinating, and I have visited many of the museums that house them.
Courtyard of the Lightner Museum and St. Augustine City Hall complex.
The Lightner Museum is located in the former Hotel Alcazar, built in 1887 in the Spanish Renaissance style by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler. Chicago publisher, Otto C. Lightner, purchased the building to house his extensive collection of Victoriana in 1946 and opened the museum two years later. He donated the museum to the city of St. Augustine. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum displays relics of America's Gilded Age. Elegantly exhibited are costumes, furnishings, mechanical musical instruments and other artifacts, giving visitors a glimpse into 19th century daily life. The museum collection includes beautiful examples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and the stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Columbia, glass piston machine, blown and
drawn glass, Robert Howell, U.S.A., 1892
Grande escritoire made for Louis Bonaparte,
King of Holland, cabinet maker unknown,
Dutch in the French tradition, 1806-1810
The Shelburne Museum, Located in Vermont’s scenic Lake Champlain Valley, is one of the finest, most diverse, and unconventional museums of art and Americana. Over 150,000 works are exhibited in a remarkable setting of 39 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic and were relocated to the Museum grounds. It is renowned for its collection of American folk art and quilts. The Museum is also home to holdings of decorative arts, design, decoys, and carriages. The paintings collection includes French Impressionists, as well as over four hundred 18th - 20th century American works.
I particularly like the restored 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga, a National Historic Landmark and the last walking beam side-wheel passenger steamer in existence. Built in Shelburne in 1906, it operated as a day boat on Lake Champlain serving ports along the New York and Vermont shores until 1953. In 1955, the Ti was moved two miles overland from the lake to Shelburne Museum in a remarkable engineering effort that stands as one of the great feats of maritime preservation. It portrays life on board in 1923. The ship’s carved and varnished woodwork, gilded ceilings, staterooms, grand staircase, and dining room recall the old -fashioned elegance of steamboat travel.
The Singing Bartender
When Leila Cohoon tells people she owns Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri, they envision old curling irons, hair dyers, and other such tools. However, this is not the case. There are 159 wreaths and over 2,000 pieces of jewelry containing, or made of, human hair dating before 1900. According to Cohoon, "It could possibly be the only hair museum in the United States, maybe the world."
Cohoon began collecting the hair as a hobby when she started the Independence College of Cosmetology 37 years ago. With the completion of their new building, she finally had the space to open the museum. The displayed wreaths, many hanging in their original frames, were considered pieces of art. Families put their hair on the wreath in a horseshoe shape so that more could be added as the family grew. Cohoon has a couple of the hair wreaths from two sisters whose heads were shaved when they entered a convent. She has a homemade family history book dating from 1725 to 1900 that contains samples of the family members' hair, complete with calling cards. The museum contains watch fobs, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, chains, brooches, hatpins, postcards, pictures and many other interesting items.
For several centuries, artists have depicted human figures. One subject, however, has been widely neglected all those years: Micro-organisms! The Micropolitan Museum online exhibits these often- overlooked works of art, which are only visible with the aid of the microscope. Curator Wim van Egmond has collected the finest microscopic masterpieces nature has ever produced during eons of natural selection.
The Toilet Seat Art Museum