Curious Collections

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All Together Now is the title of the Museum Of Vancouver’s current exhibition. It offers visitors a chance to encounter 20 unique collectors and collections. There are some very odd and interesting agglomerations on display. For example, you can peruse selection of artificial eyes, explore an assemblage of prosthetic limbs, and learn about heirloom plant species through a stockpile of seeds.

A selection of Marie Allen’s artificial eye collection Photograph taken by: Rebecca Blissett

Earlier in July, Viviane Gosselin, the Curator of Contemporary Culture at the Museum Of Vancouver, gave VIA a tour of the exhibition, sharing her interest in collections, collecting and collectors. Her tour offered great insight into this fascinating presentation of eclectic objects.

So just how were these 20 collections chosen for exhibition? The strategy was varied. According to Gosselin: “The selection was based on a mixed approach, there was a call out, I wanted to be surprised and learn about people I never knew about. But also, as I have worked at the museum for a number of years now, I had a list of collectors that I was working from as well. Some collections in this exhibition were from people I had in my mind from previous interactions. The museum was able to show some of the more quirky and eccentric collections alongside more mainstream and popularized collections. The stories attached to each collection ultimately guided the final selection.”

A selection of Angus Bungay’s action figures and toy collection. Photograph taken by: Rebecca Blissett

Gosselin highlighted that each collection presentation also offers great learning opportunities. For example, Harold Steve’s heirloom seed collection easily sparks a dialogue with the public about the the importance of maintaining biodiversity. Another example, David Moe’s prosthetic collection, touched on a curatorial theme at the MOV from a few years prior: Sex Talk in The City – an exhibition where the museum explored disability and sexuality. In showing Moe’s collection the museum is able to further expand the conversation they started earlier surrounding disability. This collection is a teaching collection, visitors are able to physically interact with the prosthetics, enabling an educational process where the strange and uncanny become known. This familiarity helps to reduce disability stigmatization in society. Ultimately allowing people to become more comfortable with and knowledgeable on the subject of disability.

A portrait of David Moe with his prosthetics collection. Photograph taken by: Rebecca Blissett

Visitors will also see much of the city reflected back at them, “I also tried to make the exhibition about Vancouver’s history…There is a critical mass of Vancouver centric stories in the exhibition”, says Gosselin.

In addition to these 20 featured collections, the MOV partnered with Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology to produce a fascinating suite of eight videos. Each video focusses on a different Vancouver collector. Collaboratively, twenty six SFU students created these short documentary films all of which asked a series of seven questions to each collector. These were also the same questions asked to the 20 featured exhibition collectors. The films explore a myriad of collections: comic books, bikes, radios, boomboxes, Marvel characters, exercise records, sneakers and vintage cameras.

A still image taken from Johnnie Christmas: Comic Book Collector a video by Stephanie Bourgeois, Carlo Misajon and Arthur Wang, from the SFU/SIAT Collector Documentaries
A still image taken from Jeff “Martini” Martin: Sneaker Collector a video by Rachel Ward, from the SFU/SIAT Collector Documentaries

When asked if there were any surprises to the questions that Gosselin asked each collector, she said, “I wasn’t surprised about the answers, more about the new collections that were found during the research process. I was also surprised at how much I came to love the pocket watch collection.” The only collection by an anonymous donor, the pocket watch collection is beautifully crafted, and in contrast to today’s society of planned obsolescence, these vintage watches were built to last, many of them outliving their owners, steadily ticking away. Another discerning element of this collection, several of the time pieces were chosen because of their connections to specific events in history.

A selection of ephemera related to Harold Steves’ Heirloom Seed Collection. Photograph taken by: Rebecca Blissett

Make no mistake though, the collections are not the only things on display. The museum created a suite of portraits of each collector. A gesture that really activates the imagination of the visitor, each collector is photographed in/with or surrounded by their collection. Through this series of photographs, one is able to look at the person behind the collection, they can relate to and ponder the reasons and rational behind each collector’s selection process.

A portrait of Gabrielle Whiteley with her taxidermy animal collection. Photograph taken by: Rebecca Blissett

As Gosselin pointed out, although museum’s tend to focus on the minutiae of collections, the collectors who constructed the origins of the collection are often understudied. Nearly every museum collection was first a private collection by an individual with a specific set of interests and personal reasons for collecting. Just as museums decide what is relevant to their collection, collectors must also discern what angles and strategies to employ in expanding and building on what they already have. The direct connection to the collector through the All Together Now interview questions and the photographic portraits of collectors offers great insight into these curious amalgamations, aggregations and accumulations. There are so many ways to lose yourself in the Museum Of Vancouver’s All Together Now exhibition.

The MOV is also offering Vancouverites a way to share their collections with the world via Twitter and Instagram. Visitors can use: #mycollectionatmov on either platform to connect with the MOV. We are all, in one way or another, collectors, here is a chance to showcase your collection.

All Together Now is up at the Museum Of Vancouver until January 8, 2016. Coming up, there are also several related programming events throughout September and October, visit the MOV calendar for more information.

#mycollectionatmov Instagram images from: @visualheart (left), @jasonvanderhill (middle), @wanderingzoo (right)

 

ALL TOGETHER NOW

Museum Of Vancouver

June 23, 2016 – January 8, 2017

1100 Chestnut Street, Vancouver, V6J 3J9

Open Sunday – Wednesday 10am-5pm

Thursday 10am-8pm

Friday & Saturday 10am-9pm.