What Do Our Collections Say about Us?

Photo courtesy of Meridian Pearson

Story by Meridian Pearson, Editor-in-Chief

I have always been fascinated by collecting. As far back as I can remember, all the women in my family were collectors. I grew up admiring Precious Moments figurines, old china, red hats, buttons, and more displayed in all sorts of ways: mirrored cabinets, TV stand shelves, large clay jars, and even in the backs of closets for those determined enough to find them. I long for the day I can add a display case of my own to our family history, but my collections themselves are already far underway.

Ever since humans largely abandoned the Nomadic lifestyle, we’ve been known to collect things. As early as the Victorian era, we had “cabinets of curiosity,” or curio cabinets, in which to display our collectibles. People would collect things to show them off and signify their family’s wealth and history. Now, people amass things of high and low perceived value, from marbles and postage stamps to glassware and antique art pieces. But what makes a collection valuable, and what do our collections say about us?

Photo courtesy of Meridian Pearson

Because of my upbringing, I’ve never questioned whether a collection is valuable—only what makes them so. A few weeks ago, my grandma asked my dad if any of us would take her Precious Moments collection after she passed away. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Upon further reflection, I couldn’t figure out why I wanted them so much. They aren’t my style, and I’m not a collector of figurines, but the thought of not having them (or of them being given to someone other than family) absolutely tore me apart. 

To me, what what makes a collection valuable is simply that it’s important to us. Though I didn’t collect those figurines myself, they are important to my grandma, and therefore very valuable in my eyes. Maybe it’s my sentimentalism, but I can see her spirit in the collections she’s curated. The things we collect start to make us up, I think. What used to be a sign of wealth and status has become a sign of the person underneath. I find that when I describe myself to new people, my collections make their way into the conversation just like any hobby would. I’m an avid collector of pins, stickers, stuffed animals, journals, and more—and I’m sure that someone could learn a lot about me just by looking at the stuff I’ve amassed in my lifetime and chosen to keep around. I know for certain that the stickers on my laptop have started conversations I never would have stricken up myself, and I have to assume the same could be true of any collection. Much like a museum documenting history through artifacts, my collections document my own. I can only hope that, one day, someone looks at this pile of stuff and thinks it’s worth something just because it was so important to me.