I had the opportunity to go to a talk about Collectors and Hoarders by curator Gary Martin at the Greenough Museum & Gardens last Sunday. It was very informative and in my role as a member of the management committee at the Chapman Valley Museum, some things really made a lot of sense.
Collectors make a hobby of collecting, seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloguing, displaying, storytelling and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. Collections become valuable if they are one of a kind and other people are interested in the same item. Bottles, for example, the bottle itself has no value, however, if it is a rare bottle and people who are bottle collectors, will pay sometimes, exorbitant prices to get their hands on one. This is often where museums need to work with their Collection Management Policy to help them decide whether to take in a collection or not. When someone offers a collection that one of their relatives has collected and no other family members are interested, the question is, does it belong in a museum and when does it not?
A series of postcards had been donated to the museum and within that collection were only a couple that linked to the Greenough region. Using the Collection Policy, Gary was able to extract just the relevant postcards and discard of the rest that had no significance or provenance to the region, so served no purpose at the museum.
Hoarding, on the other hand, is when someone collects anything and everything, just for the sake of it and there is no real value in the items they gather. This can often be seen as a mental issue and the person may show signs of depression and anxiety.
However, heirlooms fall into a different category. Often these are not necessarily a collection of items, but objects that have been used or lovingly made by a member of the family. e.g., Christening gowns, patchwork quilts and scrapbook albums. These are family heirlooms and many find their way into museums when no other family members are interested. The question is then asked, does it have provenance and is their significance, is it rare and does it have historical value?
Over the years, I have been the recipient of objects that have come into my possession when my parents passed away. Thankfully many of them were talked about over the years as none were labelled. I have made a “museum in a box” for some of the smaller items and either labelled them or made a list in the box of what they are, who they belonged to and what they were used for. Some of the items are more recent, being some of my own memorabilia from my days growing up on Mumby farm and attending Ogilvie School. I probably would have had a lot more, however mum, being the opposite of a hoarder, used to throw a lot of our things out once we left home!!
I have a patchwork bedspread that my mother was hand quilting when she died nearly 30 years ago on 3 August 1988. It was not completed, so over the years, I took out the quilting needles (a quilter I am not!), the template she used and thankfully there was enough cotton to finish it off. I asked a friend to turn the edges for me. This quilt is now on our bed. Someone with more quilting knowledge could probably tell me what that pattern is called.
My mother also made my two girls a Holly Hobbie quilt each just a couple of years before she passed away. I remember asking her if she would stitch her name on the back of the quilts and the year. Thankfully I did that, as she passed away soon after.
A have other items that my mother had, one being her engagement ring and a necklace worn by my grandmother, Annie Herbert. The necklace has the 1908 coat of arms of Australia on it. The first arms were authorised by King Edward VII on 7 May 1908 and the current version by King George V on 19 September 1912. It is noted that the emu has one foot up on the shield to help the kangaroo support the shield. The symbol of using an emu and a kangaroo is that neither can move backwards easily. i.e. symbolising progress. Australia keeps moving forward. So this is a very rare pendant indeed. Why my grandmother had it, is a mystery yet I distinctly remember her wearing it.
Another item that I’ve cherished is my wedding dress that I cut down to make Helen’s First Holy Communion dress and the veil I wore when I made my First Communion, which Helen and Melissa both wore on their First Communion day.
I’ve mentioned my walky talky doll before, that my grandmother bought for me when I was 5 years old. I still have her in the original dress, although her hat disintegrated a long time ago. Recently I came across this photo that my brother Peter had in his collection of me with my doll the year I received her. She sat on my bed at Mumby for many years, then when I had our firstborn daughter Helen, I let her play with her ‘sometimes’ in her new doll’s stroller that she got for her birthday.
The latest heirloom that I hope will remain in the family, is a shawl that my mother bought for Helen when she was born. Each of Melissa’ children came home from hospital wrapped in it, then just this year, Helen had her first baby and now she has it. It was a proud moment when Helen took a photo of us with Ollie wrapped in his shawl.