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!
Photographs courtesy of Rachel Allen.
Photographs courtesy of Rachel Allen.
Photographs courtesy of Rachel Allen.
Photographs courtesy of Rachel Allen.
Photographs courtesy of Rachel Allen.

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.”

Photograph courtesy of Steven Mallory

Vinyl Records

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.

Elongated/Pressed Pennies

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.”

Photographs courtesy of Akiyo Nishimiya.
Photographs courtesy of Akiyo Nishimiya.

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.”

Photographs courtesy of Kristen Levesque.
Photographs courtesy of Kristen Levesque.

Limited Edition/Special Release Sneakers

Collector: Gareth Benshoff, Annual Giving Assistant

“My brother actually got me into it! I always have been a sneaker person over any other shoes, so when he started collecting rare sneakers, I got into it as well. His collection is much more impressive than mine, but the pairs I do have all mean something special to me and my life… I was actually born on Nike Air Max day (a different year but same day and month); my favorite pair of sneakers that I have are the ‘Air Max 1’ anniversary pair which say 3.26 – my birthday – on the tongue.”


Photographs courtesy of Gareth Benshoff.

Georgian Paste Jewelry, Victorian Clothes, Asian art, & American Art

Collector: Kathryn Carey, Conservator

It is my nature... also, I have a house to furnish.

Sea Glass and Pottery

Collector: Francesca Williams, Registrar for Exhibitions

“When I moved to Swampscott I got into the habit of walking on the beach to relax and clear my head. It is so peaceful and meditative to just lose yourself in the sounds and sights of the ocean while walking along. The best time to go is actually in the winter, when I have the beach to myself; it is just the ocean and I without any distractions. As I walked I started discovering all kinds of little treasures hidden in the sand. Pretty soon I was hooked! My house is full of jars full of sea glass and pottery, and little projects that feature my treasures. I love to think about where the glass and pottery might have come from and what it once was.”

Photographs courtesy of Francesca Williams.
Photographs courtesy of Francesca Williams.
Photographs courtesy of Francesca Williams.
Photographs courtesy of Francesca Williams.


Collector: Catie Robertson, Print Librarian

“I started collecting bookmarks out of childhood practicality – I always had a book, so always needed a bookmark. In my adulthood, this has become a fascination with antiquarian bookmarks, particularly depicting women. Parts of my collection are currently on view at the Grolier Club New Members Collect Exhibit in New York!”


Photograph courtesy of Catie Robertson.

Divided Blue Willow Plates

Collector: Blair Steck, Director of Annual Giving

“When I was little, I was an extremely picky eater. I preferred those divided plates that ensured NONE of my food touched each other. Around when I started living in my first apartment, my parents gave me a divided blue willow plate they found at an antique store. I have kept collecting and now have at least ten of them – almost all different manufacturers. And I have found a green and a red one!”


Collector: Tamara Gaydos, Manuscript Librarian

“When I was young, my grandmother brought me back dolls from the various countries and places she visited, dressed in their native costumes. Later, my father added to my collection when he served in the Army in Korea and Vietnam. When I was a child and had the mumps, my father brought me each of the four Beatles dolls. Lately I have been branching out into dolls as art… In Kenya, I bought a doll made of a gourd, fish vertebrae, and beads and another made of cow dung.”

Photographs courtesy of Tamara Gaydos.
Photographs courtesy of Tamara Gaydos.

Photograph courtesy of Elise Mankes.

Old bottles with Original Labels (and Some of the Original Contents!)

Collector: Elise Mankes, Merchandising Sales Associate

“I have several collections, however this one is my passion. It started with one or two. I love the history they tell in addition to the various shapes and colors… I have goose oil and whale (sperm) oil. Anchovies that fill up a jar. Various art supply liquids. Anything that is beautiful.”


Photograph courtesy of Lynne Francis-Lunn.


Collector: Lynne Francis-Lunn, Director of Merchandising

“I began collecting hats when PEM featured the exhibition, Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, that was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. I now have over 300 hats in my collection!”

Sports Memorabilia, History, Coins, & Artifacts

Collector: Ben Arlander, Desktop Support

“I am a major sports fan. That collection started in 2004 after the Red Sox won their first World Series. My first item was a game-played ball from the 2004 American League Championship series, signed by 28 of the Red Sox players and staff (it was once on display at the MFA, Boston!)... I finalized and ended this collection in 2013 with some Red Sox autographed baseballs that have direct ties to the Marathon Bombing. I am also a major history buff. My World War 2 collection is just a portion of my history collection, initiated in Hawaii in 2011 when I met an old man born and raised in Hawaii. During his childhood he would walk around Pearl Harbor with a metal detector and dig up shots fired during the attack in 1941. He gave me a handful of bullets. My coin collection started in 1999. I was intrigued with the quarters that were exclusive to each state. They were printed in the order they joined the US. I became more intrigued with the proof sets because they are fresh from the US Mint; the coins never touched by human hands and were mailed directly to the collector. Each of my collections have a deadline. Therefore, the capacity and expense does not become excessive.”

Books and Journals

Collector: Emily Cooper, Development Events Assistant

“Scholastic book fairs and my mother's reading habits inspired me to read voraciously as early as the 2nd grade. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. I have my own collected journals from the 4th grade until present day… I have written them in cursive since the end of the 8th grade. Pressed within the pages you might find confetti, four leaf clovers, drawings, candy wrappers from abroad, dried flowers, a handmade silver necklace with a moonstone, and notes from friends, family, and my husband. The oldest of my journals were made out of construction paper and had paper locks and a paper key. It has paper pockets, a paper board games, and a mini paper journal within the journal for extra secret secrets! Then there is my book collection, which consists mainly of fiction; however, I do have Julie Andrews's memoir, a handful of poetry collections, creative writing guides, books on gardening, and the illustrations and stories of Shaun Tan which, though more contemporary, I prize as much as some of my childhood favorites.”

Photographs courtesy of Emily Cooper.
Photographs courtesy of Emily Cooper.
Photographs courtesy of Emily Cooper.

Martin Johnson Heade, Two Green-Breasted Hummingbirds, 1863-64. Oil on canvas. Collection of Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch. Photography by Bob Packert/Peabody Essex Museum.

Explore a jewel-box exhibition that celebrates decorative art, furniture, paintings, sculptures and Native American artworks – featuring spectacular pieces by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, American Impressionist master Childe Hassam, Massachusetts folk painter J.O.J. Frost and pioneering landscape painter Martin Johnson Heade. A Passion for American Art: Selections from the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Collection is on view through December 1, 2019.

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