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Special Collections

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Special Collections: Hoff's Harmonica Cases

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Harmonica case by Kathy Wegman - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Harmonica case by Kathy Wegman
Bob Hoffman strives to be superlative. At a recent Burlington Farmers Market, the 71-year-old nimbly entertained shoppers and passersby with his extraordinary collection of harmonica cases — the world's largest, he claims. At roughly 500 cases, the family includes several "world's only" items, ostrich egg and kaleidoscope harmonica holders among them.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Special Collections: the Assemblages of Pat Laffin

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 3:28 PM

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When Pat Laffin was four or five years old, she had a special box. If she was put in time-out, the New Haven artist and collector recalls, she would ask her parents for her box before retreating. Inside it were scissors, paper and glue.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Special Collections: Jennifer Brinkman Wants You to Bring Her a Keychain

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 12:43 PM

Jennifer Brinkman - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Jennifer Brinkman
Burlington resident Jennifer Brinkman describes herself as a "bread and buttered" Vermonter. She grew up in Colchester, and both her mother and daughter attended Vergennes Union High School. Travel is not particularly appealing to her, though she does visit family outside of Tampa, Fla., with relative frequency.

I meet Brinkman at North End institution T. Rugg's Tavern — my first time there — to see and chat about her collection of keychains. For someone with so little interest in travel, she has keychains from locations flung across the U.S. and a smattering of international ones, too. She empties these from a metallic pink cosmetic case onto the plastic patio table in front of her, looking like an ace poker player who just won the whole pot.  

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Special Collections: The Nests of Baxter Doty

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 3:27 PM

Baxter Doty surveys his nest collection. - RACHEL JONES
  • Rachel Jones
  • Baxter Doty surveys his nest collection.
This week, I found myself barreling from Burlington to Tunbridge, wondering if anyone's ever pleaded their way out of a speeding ticket on the merits of being an arts writer with a hot tip and a deadline. My particular tip was the kind with the sort of poetry that only small-town life affords: a Tunbridge native named Baxter Doty who collects hornets' nests. I needed to get to Doty before dark so I could get pictures of the nests in daylight. 

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Special Collections: 'Small Worlds'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 3:59 PM

Miniature of Marcel Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel" readymade by Andrea Rosen - COURTESY OF ANDREA ROSEN
  • Courtesy of Andrea Rosen
  • Miniature of Marcel Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel" readymade by Andrea Rosen
When  Andrea Rosen, the new curator of UVM's Fleming Museum of Art, was growing up in New York City, she and her family would pilgrimage to the annual convention of the International Guild of Miniature Artisans. Before returning home, she and her sister would be allowed to purchase one or two treasures made by exhibitors. These things, Rosen says, still make her happy whenever she sees them on the dresser in her mother's home: a dish of Purina dog food, a music book,  a pack of M&M's, all of which could easily fit in the palm of her hand. 

Rosen related this early memory to a small but invested audience during her March 2 lunchtime lecture, "Small Worlds: Miniatures From the Fleming Collection." 

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Special Collections: NEK Collectors Fair Edition

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 2:30 PM

Glass eye in the collection of Peter Martin - RACHEL ELIZABETH JONES
  • Rachel Elizabeth Jones
  • Glass eye in the collection of Peter Martin
"Local color" may not get more local or colorful than at a regional collectors' fair. Last Sunday,  20 or so folks displayed their hard-earned treasures atop rows of folding tables in the Orleans Elementary School gymnasium for the annual Collectors Fair. The Orleans County Historical Society and the Old Stone House Museum in Brownington hosted the event.

Interests were diverse, from local kids' sundry Pokémon paraphernalia and miniature monster trucks to sparkling costume jewelry to vintage hand tools. The atmosphere was friendly and casual.  I began to  wonder what else goes on in the state's nooks and crannies on any given lazy Sunday. 

Wyatt Moseley, who works in the Old Stone House blacksmith shop, noted that collectors are "kindred spirits of museums in many cases — the temperament is shared." The institution's focus, he said, is "historic Vermont" — and that passion seemed to extend, even if by default, to the community gathered in the school gym. At least a handful of the collectors are also involved with the Vermont Gas and Steam Engine Association, a nearly 40-year-old group that hosts an annual summer event at the Old Stone House Museum. 

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Special Collections: Brian Collier's Teeny Tiny Things

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 8:25 AM

Three of Collier's Very Small Objects - COURTESY OF BRIAN COLLIER
  • Courtesy of Brian Collier
  • Three of Collier's Very Small Objects
Sloane Hall is empty, and mostly unlit, when I go to meet Brian Collier, an art professor who has taught at Saint Michael's College since 2011. I follow signs with arrows taped to the wall, up stairs and winding corners to his office, a spacious studio whose details I have trouble noticing due to the gravitational pull of "Very Small Objects." 

Vials and more vials sit on a wooden table, some with price-tag labels tied to them and others without, and inside each is a single, very tiny object. "I don't know many artists who don't have some kind of collection of something," Collier says. The difference with Collier, however, is that the process of collecting — and tweaking the collecting process' more formal trappings — is itself the art. 

Very Small Objects is an ongoing project of Collier's. He identifies himself as a re-naturalist. "I've always been really interested in the history of natural history," he says, noting "the level of subjectivity in the invention of classification systems." It probably doesn't hurt that Collier's grandfather was a watch repairman. 

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Special Collections: Handy's Lunch

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2016 at 10:44 AM

Earl Handy reaches for a bill in his restaurant collection. - RACHEL ELIZABETH JONES
  • Rachel Elizabeth Jones
  • Earl Handy reaches for a bill in his restaurant collection.
Numismatics refers to the study and/or collecting of currency, and might bring to mind hole-in-the-wall businesses run by bespectacled, white-haired gentlemen, or nostalgic county fair stalls, or maybe even the flash-in-the-pan 1990s game Pogs, which briefly made coin-like discs all the rage. Handy's Lunch in Burlington, however, has its own far less calculated brand of numismatics — though proprietor Earl Handy certainly recognizes the allure that an in-house collection gives to his business. 

"You’re sitting in a diner, you’re waiting for your food to cook," he told Seven Days over the lunch counter. "You can see me cooking your food, and Mary [his sister] is there visiting with you. It’s kind of neat, when you look up, there’s something on the ceiling." 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Introducing Special Collections: A Series About Stuff We Love

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 4:32 PM

Scrimshaw objects - COURTESY OF SHELBURNE MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of Shelburne Museum
  • Scrimshaw objects
Hector the Collector, the protagonist of a totally delightful Shel Silverstein poem, and wealthier-than-God collectors of repute, such as Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb, are on different ends of the same spectrum. In Silverstein's poem, "Hector called to all the people, / 'Come and share my treasure trunk!' / And all the silly sightless people / Came and looked...and called it junk." In 1947, Webb founded a museum on 45 acres that Vermonters and visitors alike continue to visit today.

Hector, of course, is a fictional character but can act as a playful stand-in for folks who don't achieve cultural recognition for their collections. Sometimes they're considered hoarders, sometimes just nerds. 

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