Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Unique Collections: Good Idea or Bad Taste?

Most of us have had a collection at some time or another; spoons, shot glasses, maybe even leaves. Perhaps you're the kind of person who likes to think outside the box and think of something that no one else in the world collects. It could be cultural (Mexican wall hangings), personal (a collection of all the notes or letters you've ever received since you were in kindergarten) or unique (the metal tabs from the top of soda cans). A collection represents you and your interests, and will probably be a a part of your life for a *long* time, so choose carefully.

What exactly constitutes a "unique" collection? Something that you've never heard of. Consider collecting pamphlets and sales receipts from beloved family vacations - candy wrappers from Disney World, ticket stubs, the ring you were wearing when you took your first ride on Thunder Mountain. A piece of material from the shirt you were wearing when you went to Hawaii; a vacation collection is fun because it's broad and can expand to include almost anything. There doesn't need to be a neat little area, like row after row of perfectly lined shotglasses. Be individual.

This may sound odd, but collect clothing. The outfit you wore when you were brought home from the hospital (if your mother still has it), the first "fancy" attire you wore to a wedding, your favorite play clothes, your child's first booties. A clothing collection usually isn't known as a "collection," and most people will probably call you a packrat, but consider making it nice and different. Choose a wall and frame bits and pieces of the material from these clothes or even the whole outfits; placards underneath the frames can describe what they are and when they were worn. It may seem odd to others, but it's certainly a collection most people would never have dreamed of, and that's what makes it unique.

Collect newspaper articles that interest you; one time at an outdoor sale, I purchased many photo albums full of article clippings that the woman who originally owned the house had accumulated. I never knew if she knew all of the people in the stories or if she just cut out articles she liked and places she was familiar with. If you're into family history and want to find out about distant cousins, you can collect newspaper clippings that mention your relatives, such as school lists, obituaries, marriage announcements, or anything else that might have landed their names in the paper.

Another unique collection that probably never crossed the minds of the general populace involves electronics. Consider collecting old telephones or phones with different, unusual themes. I've actually seen a phone shaped like a train, which was quite adorable, but actually *sounded* like a train whistle and blasted everyone's ears. You could collect old radios or photographs. On this same note, consider a collection from a certain era. Everything from the 1930s, for instance. You could set aside one room for old clothing, cathedral radios, models and ads of antique cars, and anything that pertains to the decade you're interested in. A Victorian collection might include a Model-T, Victorian paintings, clothing, valentines, etc. It all depends on your personal preference.

You can also collect holiday items. A Christmas collection could start with old ornaments that are no longer functional, cards, invitations, hardened gingerbread cookies, family letters, photographs, even Christmas tree needles or a jar of sap from the tree. This collection can be as tame or unusual as you like; you could even collect the tags and wrapping paper that was used, and scrapbook it instead of throwing it out like most people do. Items from any holiday can make a unique collection. If you like to collect, you will see possibilities in everything you do. Napkins and name cards from holiday gatherings are some more ideas for holiday collecting.

Sometimes collecting is a way to hold on to the precious moments of your life. This puts me in mind of something I read about Christian Sanderson, a man who lived in Pennsylvania and had a very messy house totally filled with every kind of collection. When friends wrote and expressed an interest in visiting, Mr. Sanderson wrote back: "Apologize for look of house, but everything in here means something to me." That is what a collection should be to the collector; a room of memories.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer