Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a collector. I collected Pez™ dispensers, flashlights, playing cards, Troll™ dolls, and Peanuts™ paperbacks. While still in elementary school, I inherited my uncle’s modest stamp collection, opening my eyes to the existence of countries I’d never heard of before and piquing my curiosity about the world beyond my hometown. As I got older, I collected baseball cards, vinyl records, and at one point in time, I even started a coin collection, routinely checking the dates and mint markings on the coins that cycled through my pockets.
Well-known interior designer Nate Berkus once said, “We represent ourselves through the things we own. I don't believe in trends. I believe in collecting things that you connect with. We should surround ourselves with things we care about, that have meaning."
You would be correct to assume that none of my childhood collections ever amounted to much from a monetary perspective, but they were nonetheless important to me; they provided me with many hours of amusement and joy while fueling my imagination and offering me countless opportunities to explore and learn. Some of my collections—like the 576 bottle caps I collected one summer—are long since lost or tossed, but others have survived my life’s many transitions, allowing me the opportunity today to share both the “treasures” themselves and the corresponding stories of my childhood with my children and theirs.
In his book, Grandma’s Attic: Making Heirlooms Part of Your Family History, author Russell Earnest reinforces the importance of the stories behind our collections, urging us to treat our family treasures as heritage rather than property and emphasizing the immeasurable benefits of sharing the history of each collected item with the next generation.
So, what do you collect and why? What pieces of your personal puzzle will your descendants discover through the items you’ve collected and the histories you’ve shared about them?
Oh, and if you have a collection of awesome stuff sitting around the house—like the vintage Kansas City-area postcards pictured above—please consider contacting the Midwest Genealogy Center at 816.252.7228 or firstname.lastname@example.org to display and share your collection with others!
Midwest Genealogy Center