Why Collecting Is Important & You Should Start Now!

Finally, a blog about objects, collecting, and all that good old stuff. I'm going to try and avoid the "teachy" and boring language, but sometimes I just can not help it when I get in the mood to explain that collecting objects to tell your story is important. Collecting is not something only museums can do. You can gather objects to tell your story, and you should start now!

I’m sure you’ve had a moment where you’ve touched or held an object, and it filled your head with countless memories. That’s the beauty of objects; they help us retrace lost memories and strike our curiosity bug. They have power in controlling the narrative we tell to society and future generations. So, I ask you: what type of ancestor will you be? What objects will you leave behind for your family to learn about you?

My antique shelf eliminates some of the wonderings my future generation will have. I will be teaching my people about me and possibly about themselves. How many times have you wondered where do you get a particular interest or trait from? Unfortunately, African Americans do not have the privilege to find these answers readily due to the lack of documentation and purposeful destruction of our history. Collect and document our history now!

This shelf is my favorite part of my apartment. Every section tells a little story about me or where I’ve been. The pink sand I collected from Bermuda reflects on that dreamy moment of walking through the caves on top of the clearest water I've ever seen. The shells from the beach of Cuba remind me of that moment I felt as though I stepped back in time by riding in the classic cars and drinking a classic coke. The Earth, Wind & Fire vinyl screams, “she’s definitely not into mumble rap.” Oh, and obviously, I have a great sense of humor from my mini-collection of 90’s themed characters and mini Groot! The things you collect are not required to be intense.

My mother often tells me the story of my Great-great-grandparents treasures being tossed away due to ignorance and greed. For a person who is an avid collector, that story breaks my heart every time. Fortunately, we do have my great-great-grandmother's cast-iron and some of her jewelry. Whenever we pull these objects out, the room is filled with emotions, laughs, and good stories. If you're fortunate to have treasures from your ancestors, hold onto them: objects transfer deeper feelings and memories that you can't get from photographs alone. 

You see, that’s the beauty of creating your collection. You decide what narrative your artifacts will tell. Museums are, or should be selective on what is acquired based on historical/cultural value. You determine the value of your collection. So, if you want to collect buttons, Starbucks tumbler cups, or high-value samurai swords, do you! You’re the Curator and Collections Manager of this priceless collection. Collect objects that are genuine to you. Put them in a box and call it the Story of Me.

Allow your future generation to learn the story of you, from you.


What objects would be in your “Story of Me” Collection?


  • Tellie

    Joan, thanks so much for commenting!
    Mourning Jewelry definitely strikes the curiosity bug. I always want to know more about the people who encountered the pieces. It’s very easy to get attached and trapped in the stories.

  • Joan Cooper

    I love this blog—thank you for encouraging people to think outside the box with their collections. I started with one piece of bog oak when I was seven from a box bought at an auction. Searching for mourning jewelry through my teens allowed me to see into people’s lives.

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