The Enlightened Nerd: Collectors and Their Worlds


The Enlightened Nerd is a column designed to enlighten the inner nerd in all of us through local whimsical and intellectual events, people, and places. Know a nerdy person, event, place, or thing in Vancouver? Send it in here or tweet it to @karolinathecat (#theenlightenednerd)!

A collection of portraits of the collectors featured at “All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds.” Photo by Philip Moussavi (@phil.mou)

Prosthetics, pinball machines, and pocket watches. What do all three of these articles have in common? Other than their alliterative value, they’re all examples of the rare and unique collections one can find at the Museum of Vancouver’s current exhibition.

All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds features twenty interactive displays of unconventional and amazing collections like that of Chinese takeout menus, artificial eyes, action figurines, and vintage corsets. More than just an outlandish display for the public to feast their eyes on, the exhibit examines the art of collecting, the collector’s vision, and how private collections affect the public. Collecting becomes more than just a kooky act but also a way of engaging with history, with the community, and with oneself. The museum’s curator of contemporary culture, Viviane Gosselin, chooses to refer to these collections as “memory-keepers.”

I visited the exhibit on a Sunday morning and the building was a cool respite from the recent balmy Vancouver weather. I had heard wonderful things about the exhibit prior so I was excited to play some vintage arcade games and to get lost in the massive eclectic anthologies. With twenty different collections from twenty different collectors there is a world for everyone to connect with.

Ken Stephens’ ramp walker toys. Photo by Philip Moussavi (@phil.mou)

At the beginning of the exhibit, Nancy Bendsten’s collection of chairs offered insight into design objects, especially limited edition and vintage pieces, and provided some beautiful and funky chairs to ogle. Next up was Ken Stephens’ vintage toy collection of ramp walker toys. I hadn’t even heard of walker toys so it was mind-blowing to view Stephens’ vast collection and awe at the hand-made and hand-painted little things and their tenacity to make it into the present.

Another room was entirely dedicated to Kyle Seller’s pinball machine and arcade collection and Yosef Wosk’s circus memorabilia. The dim space was brilliantly fun with pinball machine games ready to play like “Pin Bot,” “Cyclone,” and “Revenge From Mars” and dismembered pinball machines and circus banners hung like art.  I enjoyed Wosk’s reflections on collecting as “an instinct, a remnant of ancient survival techniques” but also a “humbling experience” as most of these objects are older than us and will also outlive us. It made me feel infinitesimal among this collection of collections.

Serious contemplation aside, one can trust the Museum of Vancouver to keep things light and engaging as well, and I definitely had my fun tinkering with pinball machines, jukeboxes, and typewriters to immerse myself in the collections.

Marie Allen’s artificial eye collection. Photo by Philip Moussavi (@phil.mou)

Nearly one in every three people in North America collects something. As a child I collected the usual Kinder Surprise toys, pogs, and stickers but as I grew up my collecting became more tailored to my personality. It’s easy to overlook collections and view them as hoarding or mere sentimentality. The exhibit opened my eyes to different facets of why people collect: pleasure, protection, inspiration, preservation, belonging, and reassurance just some of them.

Check out All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds to find a piece of yourself in these collections and their collectors, and to leave inspired to rekindle something old or start something new. And remember, “if the objects you collect are cool, it’s not hoarding,” as Rob Frith, collector of concert posters, said.

You can submit your own collection to be added to a projected photo wall at the museum by using the hashtag #MyCollectionatMOV on Twitter or Instagram.

All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds
Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver

Thursday June 23rd – Sunday January 8th, 2017
Prices range from $5 – 15