The Future of Collecting
Collecting is, essentially, a spare-time activity. It offers an excellent way of filling those leisure moments when we are not required to concentrate on the immediate tasks necessary to promote the security of ourselves and those close to us. Those leisure moments must, after all, be filled in some way, if we are to avoid the painful disorder of boredom.
Collecting, furthermore, is a rather benign activity. Conducted with reasonable care and rational intensity, it gives pleasure to the collector and to viewers, and does harm to none. The time spent on collecting might well be devoted to activities some might feel would be more constructive and socially useful, but it might also be devoted to activities that are harmful and damaging. Since it is very likely that there are many more ways of doing harm than of doing good, to settle on something like collecting, which is, at worst, a neutral activity, is surely to be ahead of the game.
But it follows, of course, that to be a collector one must have some spare time. If every waking moment of one's life is spent in an attempt to wrest a bare subsistence out of a hard world, there is neither time, nor money, nor desire to collect anything but whatever quantity of food, clothing, and shelter one can wring out of existence.
Throughout history, most human beings have been in the unfortunate condition of having to deal only with survival. The very few who have had any leisure to devote—kings and potentates, wealthy landowners, office‐ holders, and merchants—collected items they valued and could obtain and pay for. They collected wives (or mistresses), jewelry, art, books, and the like.
Such collections were themselves advertisements of the power and wealth of the collector.