n anonymous stone carver, known as the Horton Carver, is particularly fascinating as a folk artist with the sad, sometimes winged faces he depicted on gravestones in eastern Kings County. - File
By Wendy Elliott
The other day a friend mentioned she was going to off load her postcard collection. My antennae went up immediately. We have three albums full of postcards and I love looking at old images of this Valley.
But do I need any more? That is the question. Now that the kids have left home, we hang onto their old treasures. We’ve absorbed many belonging to our parents, too, either because of sentiment or reluctance to part with their collections.
Where does the tendency to collect come from? How much stuff does a person need? My grandfather once had a collection of tiny penguins in his doctor’s office in Wolfville. He didn’t even particularly like penguins, but patients kept giving them to him.
Herb and Dorothy Vogel of New York City were great collectors. Eventually the artwork they garnered took over their tiny apartment on East 86th Street. The 2008 documentary about this modest pair shows their home was more of a storage facility than a place to live.
The Vogels’ collection gradually replaced all of their furniture - save the kitchen table, some chairs, a bureau and the bed. Along with what became an important collection of contemporary art, the Vogels had 20 turtles, eight cats and an aquarium full of exotic fish.
In 2006, local history buff Leon Barron died leaving his collection of roughly 12,000 manuscripts, photographs, maps, post cards, newspaper clippings and book. The remnants of Leon’s love of shipbuilding and railroading were left to the Kings Historical Society’s museum in Kentville.
With the help of funding, a large amount of his collection has been has been digitized so all those interested can have access to his trove in person or on the computer.
Former Nova Scotia Museum staff member Debbie Trask was a kind of collector in graveyards. She didn’t search for ghosts, but, instead, found very old gravestones and wrote about them in her book Remember Me As You Pass By.
In this area, the oldest graves date back to the 1780s. An anonymous stone carver, known as the Horton Carver, is particularly fascinating as a folk artist with the sad, sometimes winged faces he depicted. Today his carvings can be viewed on a University of Chicago web site and local typographer Andrew Steeves has designed a typeface based on those gravestones. That’s quite a legacy for an unknown carver.
I remember interviewing Floyd Croft of Greenfield who planned for his retirement while he was still a pipefitter. He learned to work with wood and then built an impressive collection of handcrafted models. Croft started out with vintage cars and old Chevy trucks. Since I’m not much good with my hands, his senior skill development awed me.
Greenwich resident Karen Porter’s collection of
vintage compacts has just gone on display at the Kings County Museum. Porter, who used to display her collection at the family store in Wolfville, has close to 200 of the little mirrors.
Porter began collecting as a girl of eight or ten. Over the years, she acquired more and then began trolling the Internet for rare examples.
Women have been wearing cosmetics for centuries but it wasn’t until the 20th century that the powder compact made its first appearance. In the 1940s and 50s, Porter says, “a woman had to have powder and cigarettes.”
Before the universal plastic compact of today there were decades of unique and often beautifully designed compacts, which reflected the era in which they were made. Porter’s collection is currently showing at the museum in Kentville until Nov. 15.
We all have reasons for collecting and many of them are good ones. There may be additional postcards in my future, but, having pondered the predilection, I shall try to stay within reason.