One way or another everyone collects ‘stuff’… right ?

In this working seminar we will be examining the popular culture of Collecting. Our research will be directed towards organising an open exhibition (in the university Gallery) of local collections with accompanying video interviews. My expectation is that through careful research we'll be able to plan and curate a comprehensive engaging exhibition of genuine interest to local audiences.

Our most vital resource is the combined skills and collective knowledge that already exists within our group, naturally we will also have to learn new skills as required to present a thorough well conceived exhibition from scratch. Collating and delivering each individual collection on time to the gallery represents a significant challenge. We have a firm opening date, with the support and resources of the gallery, but we'll have to handle all the other essential details/logistics ourselves.

That there exists a vibrant culture of collecting ‘out there’ is beyond doubt, what it might represent however is open to further examination. For many their collections are so much more than a mere accumulation of life’s flotsam and jetsam, so we must first establish some practical distinctions as to what constitutes 'a collection', I’m sure we each have personal definitions. That basement or garage may hold some remarkable and valuable items, but does a box of metal toys or a bundle of old railroad maps really add up to a collection? If it does what makes it so? If it doesn’t, what particular additional qualities are we looking for? We will have to learn to work closely on this the first of many questions, reviewing our progress and updating our aims and objectives as we go.

We are scheduled to meet twice a week, but to engage substantially with the subject of collecting and pull this ambitious project together we'll have to work outside that limited schedule. In our first meetings we'll identify and timetable our key requirements and at the same time find out what particular skills we have within our group, for example to facilitate our plan we will need to create a simple accessible system to register and collate our growing list of collectors and the contents of their respective collections. 

It is central to our success to expand the search outwards as quickly as possible beyond the limited confines of the university to include unknown local collectors embedded in the wider community (it's their university too so let's invite them in). Most collectors will understandably be reticent about exposing their ‘treasures’ outside their circle of trusted friends and fellow collectors, so we must tread carefully and develop sensitive interview strategies to elicit best responses and get insightful glimpses into each persons world of collecting, for this aspect of our investigation to work well we'll first practice interviewing each other before setting out. Everyone should read one of Studs Terkels wonderful books, ‘Working’ is a good guide, it offers a tried and tested method to achieve a successful interview. I have several other references here for you to consider as well.

After that we'll begin a series of on site video interviews to establish a core archive that we can use as a resource and build the exhibition around the results of our discoveries. I'm sure that this process will be both revealing and helpful in shaping an insightful exhibition which will inevitably generate particular demands... as yet unknown, additionally it will help spread the word about our project amongst other collectors. It might also be useful to consider building a parallel linked website ‘The Coalition of California Collectors’ (CoCaCo)? containing the interviews and useful details that we can use to announce opening event.

Our budget for printing, insurance, mailing and opening expenses is generous but limited, but we shouldn't need additional funds or resources beyond those already available, however any extra costs will have to be raised by us. Let's use the time before the beginning of the next semester to put the word out, first amongst our immediate friends and families and take it from there to develop new leads, I have some flyers for you to pass out with details and contact information.

Assessment criteria; You will be assessed as a group but may receive different grades, keep a comprehensive diary, and work together with commitment to bring about a successful exhibition.