Monday, January 2, 2017

Caretaker or Curator–Which are You?

QUESTION: My father collected old tools. He would scour the tables of flea markets and yard sales to find interesting and unique tools to add to his collection. He passed away last year and left me his collection. I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m not particularly interested in old tools. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER: Here’s a good example of a collection that has been passed down from father to son. It’s also a good example of the predicament that many people find themselves in when a relative dies and leaves them something that was dear to them.

It seems that you have taken over the job of acting curator for your father’s collection.  While there’s nothing wrong in that, you’re missing out on the joy of collecting—the search for other pieces and buying the ones that you like. But you shouldn’t feel bad. This is more often the case than not.

The important thing to note here is that this collection is your father’s. It was he who actively sought out the various items. It was he who did the research to find out what tools men used in the 19th century. And it was he who saw the connections between the tools and the jobs they helped men do.
Currently, you’re simply caretaker of your father’s collection. One option you have is to sell the collection, in its entirety or piece by piece. You could sell it to another tool collector or a dealer for a lump sum and not be concerned about how much you get for it. In fact, you won’t get anything near to what it’s worth. Or you can do some research and find out just how valuable these tools are. However, if you decide to keep the collection, then you must become its curator.

A curator is someone who catalogs and maintains historic or artistic collections. This usually entails the maintenance of the objects and their general protection from damage. The curator also finds out as much as possible about the objects in the collection and, using a number of reliable resources, determines their value. In addition, the curator adds to the collection, refining it by selling off inferior pieces and arranging for the purchase of better ones. In essence, the curator becomes a collector.

So which are you—caretaker or curator? If you’ve been acting as a caretaker, why not change roles and actively get involved in learning all you can about and growing your inherited collection. You don’t know how much fun you’re missing.

1 comment:

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