The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

Keyword Site Search

← Back to Past Exhibitions, Past Exhibitions 2012

Santa Cruz Collects: August 11 – November 25, 2012

Why are we a nation of storage units, packed basements, and reality TV shows about hoarding? MAH’s exhibition Santa Cruz Collects (August 11 – November 25, 2012) presents extraordinary collections from Santa Cruz County residents and institutions, exploring the fascinating practice of collecting, both on an individual and institutional level. Celebrating the intrinsic beauty and insightful stories found within the collections and the people who make them, the show examines how the items we collect inform notions of who we are as individuals and a community.

Are we what we collect? If so, then come meet the minds behind such collections as a colorful array of dryer’s lint, garden gnomes, animal skulls, toasters throughout history, historic flags, and many more. Featured collectors include:

  • Good Earth Tea founders Ben and Louise Zaricor, whose unparalleled collection of American flags includes rare Revolutionary and Civil War flags as well as flags that went to the moon
  • Dr. David Shuman, a veterinarian who collects animal skulls as an amateur taxidermist
  • Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, who owns thousands of decorated eggs
  • Filmmaker David Hoffman, who lost his entire archive in a 2008 Bonny Doon fire and worked with artist Michael Leeds to transform some of his burned objects into sculpture [watch a video David made about the collaboration]
  • Betty Heil, a beloved art supporter whose collection was distributed throughout Santa Cruz County after her death
  • Dr. Bruce Damer, who runs a private computer history museum in his San Lorenzo Valley barn
  • UCSC anthropologists and archaeologists, who use objects as starting points for investigation of cultures across space and time

But that’s not all. Finding the curious collector in us all, this exhibition invites visitors to reflect on their own habits of collecting through interactive activities about consumerism, identity, and memory. Come vote on what artifacts the MAH should discard in a de-accessioning activity, share and learn about hoarding habits in our Hoarders Anonymous support group, and “collect” memories by constructing representations of them out of found materials and bottling them in Mason jars.

“Humans have been collecting since the days of hunters and gatherers,” curator Susan Leask commented. “This exhibition gives us an opportunity to explore how relationships between our identities and our stuff have changed over time—and what it means to people in our unique Santa Cruz County community.”

“This exhibition hints at the fundamental question of why museums exist at all,” Director Nina Simon noted. “People often ask why museums keep so much stuff. But museums collect for the same reason individuals do—to memorialize the experiences, people, and places that make us who we are. In the same way that people use objects to construct personal identities, the MAH uses artifacts to tell our collective story as Santa Cruz County residents.”

The member’s preview reception for this exhibition will be on Friday, August 10.