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Preserving your finds

Sunday, December 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:55 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thinking of collecting stuff? Here are a few tips from Jenny Dowd, an MU graduate art student who is doing her thesis on collections:

Collecting is an individual process, and the possibilities and approaches to collecting are endless. I organize, label and store objects differently depending on what they are and what they represent to me.

Organization is the first issue I deal with in my own collections. This begins loosely, usually with piles sorted by genre. A lot of what I collect right now is random: small notes, lists, seed pods, twigs, stones, small bones, unrecognizable objects. If I take one of these objects apart — I often rip open seed pods to see the inside — then I keep all of the parts together in their own box or envelope. The objects are then sorted in piles — pods here, twigs there — which end up in small boxes, drawers, envelopes or on shelves.

I do not label the container or object; instead I rediscover the objects by rummaging through them periodically. I rely on memory as a label for most of my collections, and I find I stay in touch with the objects more by looking at them often. My most meticulously labeled collection, however, is the list of books that I have read.

When beginning a collection, I try to think about what I believe is best for the object and what I want out of the collection. It may not make sense to keep photographs of family and friends piled and unlabeled on a shelf. Collections should not be treated the same. Some may need to be archived or protected, while others may need to be specifically or even scientifically labeled.


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