Connected \\ July 12, 2019
Our collective curiosities
It is a banality, but you do not possess art, it possesses you. It is like falling in love.
— art collector Francois Pinault
From shoes and seashells, to ocean liner and vintage horror and sci-fi art, masterpiece paintings and even knives – stories about collectors and collecting have permeated PEM since its inception. It is not an unusual conversation topic for museums. What is revealed through this collective storytelling is something ever-unique and, more often than not, deeply personal.
Object 114571. © Peabody Essex Museum.
One of our newest exhibitions, A Passion for American Art: Selections from the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Collection, dives into an extraordinary couple and their life of collecting. For almost half a century, Carolyn and Peter Lynch traveled together and shared an unwavering love for art and culture – through which they began embracing and acquiring beautiful examples of American creativity. Breaking a certain mold, the Lynches collected and displayed artwork based on their taste, rather than following the more traditional rules collectors tend to have. Instead, their pieces – despite subject matter, type or time period – freely mingled within the walls of their homes.
Frederick Carl Frieseke, On the River, 1908. Oil on canvas. Collection of Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch. Photography by Bob Packert/Peabody Essex Museum.
There is no clear, prescribed way of becoming a collector. People just follow their interests. Take Peter Lynch, for example, who began collecting coins as a boy.
Collecting is highly motivational, highly personal and everything in-between, says Lynda Hartigan, Deputy Director at PEM. “Some collectors set their hypothetical ‘North Star’ and stick to a particular path while others evolve organically. It is true to say that all are incredibly visual people and collect because of that – whether it is for memory-making, visual stimulus, the shaping of our own environment or to have a talisman of experiences.
Carolyn and Peter Lynch. Courtesy of Peter Lynch. Photography by Bill Brett.
With a postcard of Salem’s Charter Street Burying Ground ca. 1910. Photograph courtesy of the author.
I was able to share a little about my collection of vintage Massachusetts postcards in a post relating to our 2016 exhibition, American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals. An artwork from this exhibition, ‘East Headland, Appledore, Isles of Shoals’, was generously gifted to the museum by Peter Lynch in memory of Carolyn. A Passion for American Art further sparked my curiosity about PEM staff members and their collecting bug.
And so, in the spirit of the Lynches and our unending creative pursuits, here are some of our staff collectors and their collections… Marie Kondo, avert your eyes.
Foreign Editions of the Harry Potter Books
Collector: Caryn Boehm, Creative Engagement Producer
“My collection began when I received a German version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone during an international "Secret Santa" gift exchange. The gifter even inscribed it with a holiday message in German. I really enjoy the variety of cover art styles from around the world and flipping through to see how names have been translated. Some of my favorite book covers are the Swedish editions, with their gold foil accents, and the Italian editions.”
Photograph courtesy of Caryn Boehm.
Collector: Rachel Allen, Assistant Curator for Exhibitions and Research
It began about 12 years ago. I have three turtles – Molly, Steve, and Pete – which I constantly showcase on Instagram (sometimes with costumes!)... because of that, people give me turtle-related things all of the time. I love that!
17th and 18th Century Baroque-Era Musical Instruments
Collector: Steven Mallory, Manager of Historic Structures and Landscapes
“I started collecting these as an offshoot of being a baroque violinist… It has been an odyssey sleuthing out unaltered and historically intact examples for the past 25 years, and I have gained thousands of insights into the mindset and intentions of both pre-Modern instrument makers and those who played on them.”
Collector: Dan Lipcan, Head Librarian
“The story goes that when I was 4 years old, I loved playing my mother's copy of Steely Dan's 1972 ‘Can't Buy A Thrill’ album, particularly the song ‘Dirty Work.’ Later, she allowed me to take many of her records with me to college, and my collecting really began when WARC, the radio station there (I hosted a late-Saturday-night jazz show for a couple of years), decided to get rid of a bunch of LPs. Collecting a format that sounds great is one dimension of how important music is to me… The most I have paid for a single record is $45, for Chris Isaak's 1989 ‘Heart Shaped World’ (even though it lacks the illustrated inner sleeve). And feel free to buy me anything on my wantlist! … just kidding!”
Photograph courtesy of Dan Lipcan.
Collector: Akiyo Nishimiya, Group Tour Specialist
“One family vacation I took as a kid brought us to a place called ZooQuarium in West Yarmouth, MA. That place is now permanently closed, but it was the location of the first elongated penny machine I saw and I never quite forgot about it and the idea of flattening pennies to emboss images onto them. It was not until high school that I really began actively looking for and using each machine I encountered to begin my collection. Now whenever I go somewhere and know there will be machines available in the area, I bring a pouch of shiny pennies and quarters so I'm all set to go. They are nice little trinkets from trips near and far – from Salem to Boston to New York, Seattle, London, and Australia… A handful of the designs I have are no longer available as machines are retired, or locations close. I actually do not have any of the ones from ZooQuarium where my interest began, which is the main reason I am so bummed about their closure.”
Lu-Ray Pastels Dinnerware
Collector: Kristen Levesque, Exhibition Publicist
“Lu-Ray Pastels was Taylor, Smith & Taylor Company's most popular line of dinnerware. It was first introduced in the summer of 1938 and was discontinued in 1961. My house was built in 1939, so it felt appropriate to collect dinnerware from this era – and I LOVE pastel colors! My kitchen is painted pink to match.”