Still, What Is A Collection?

Employment of the words collection and collector seems to have a settled semantic buttressing and clarity in all its meanings. I do not think that there is such a collector who would look for an established definition of these terms in encyclopaedias. A collector is confident that, by virtue of his experience, gratification and aspirations, he can at any time produce a satisfactory definition, perfectly capable of covering the main meanings of the prestigious mania. A fact which frequently leads to the conviction that the virtues any collector finds in his passion are, irrespective of its motivation and extent, cardinal. In other words, all the definitions given to collection and collector are afflicted by subjectivity to such a degree that they cannot claim the designation of the established and dictionary-type. To my mind, for instance, the word collection automatically conjures up the word painting, as if in a reflex. And, although the most valuable "garnering of representations" even – as of yore Dinicu Golescu worded it – cannot contend against the criteria of direction and exhaustiveness manifest in a collection of, say, butterflies, I still think that an apartment filled with canvases is more of a collection than one filled with showcases of butterflies. We would say that, akin to all the words with a long and complex history, collecting has both a broad and a restricted acceptation. Romanticism, for instance, is a universal datum of human actions, but also a period in the history of arts. Collecting is verily an old occupation from time out of mind, save that its numerous individual illustrations make the broader acceptation of the term expand ad infinitum, with every new-comer to the fraternity. If I say fraternity, or guild, it is because many associations of collectors in a number of countries have a charter as exclusive as that of mediaeval guilds. To be a high-ranking collector equals to be a type of modern-age lord. The prestige of the collection reflects itself on the persona and attests a certain nobility of the social status. What we have here is a stimulating historical relationship: lords are indeed in the habit of inheriting collections from their families! All these considerations should find their place as a foreword to a volume on how to structure a collection, albeit this would be tedious. Placed at its closing, they would prove likewise inappropriate. And, as a middle section, even more so. If we venture out to bother the reader therewith it is because the status of the Romanian collector is still impregnated by Heliade Rădulescu's summon and could be thus put into a nutshell: "Collect, fellow countrymen, as long as you collect!" This is, that is to say, a season for collecting, of founding collections, irrespective of their contents. Jewish merchants have a saying, when they speak of the well-informed person. They say that such a man "finds a fortune in the street," that all that is left for him to do is to bend and collect it. The post-1990's collector is different from the inter-war counterpart – the latter, particularly oriented towards painting. And, as a result of a hasty instruction in a subject, they will direct their costly passion towards other areas (furniture, glassware, petty inventory…). The AntipaMuseum, with its splendid scientific collections, demonstrates that many scientists have succeeded in bestowing upon the captivating occupation a number of universally acknowledged compatible traits. Precisely because they have structured their hobby as scientists – individuals who are familiar and value the benefits of a systematic approach. If science is the action which discovers order within chaos, scientifically supported collecting is the passion which renders it evident. A number of major collections – the meteorite collection at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Vienna, the collection of mediaeval armors in a Czech castle, of jade objects at the Imperial Museum in Peking, of precious stones at Zolotaja Kladovaja in Leningrad, of crystals and rocks of the American Museum of Natural History – persuade even the most pertinacious human being relishing in costly, spiritual and refined gratification that at the basis of a worthy collection there still lies culture and the profoundly human need to exhaust a subject. What this means could best be put into words by a stamp collector or a corkscrew collector. One could not even begin to imagine how vast the realm of corkscrews is and to which lengths their collectors may go to acquire the landmarks in the history of the humble object. That is, if one of them has not opened yet somewhere a Corkscrew Museum.
From Ziarul de duminica, November 28th 2003

by Tudor Octavian