Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects

February 5, 2017 – April 30, 2017

What drives the universal human impulse to collect objects? What makes different objects desirable? What are some of the hidden treasures in Grand Rapids and throughout West Michigan? These questions, and others, are addressed and answered by Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects. From fine art to Victorian jewelry, rare and precious minerals to antique rifles, sneakers to carpet sweepers, decorative glass, and more, Finders Keepers celebrates the passion and drive that fuel the collecting bug. Organized by our curatorial team in collaboration with community scouts, the exhibition includes hundreds of diverse objects drawn from both private and institutional collections in a lively and unique gallery setting.

Humans have accumulated objects for centuries—and before Museums existed—ambitious individuals assembled impressive private collections of objects from nature, culture, and history. Many of today’s museums developed from the collections of multiple individuals, essentially forming collections of collections. Beyond whatever fuels the urge to collect, the items collectors assemble reveal aspects of who they are. The objects in Finders Keepers shine light on the different disciplines or subcultures with which the collectors align themselves. Individuals often are, or become, experts in the histories of their collected objects. Serious collectors will travel great distances to procure a certain item, while some simply enjoy exploring, socializing, and trading with collectors who have similar interests.

Among the hundreds of objects on display are geodes, amethysts, quartz crystals, and other rocks and minerals from the collection of self-described “rock hound” Roger King, who has assembled an astounding array over a span of 60 years. Harry L. Rinker’s diverse and eccentric collections are represented by selections of wooden jigsaws, mid-century German ceramics, and cat-themed sheet music. A selection of the Public Museum’s collection of more than 1,500 carpet sweepers–a gift from the Bissell Company–will be on view illustrating design innovation from the past century. Embroidered samplers from Ann Kelly’s collection are a window into the lives of young 19th century British girls, for whom decorative embroidery was part of their domestic education. In partnership with the Grand Rapids Public Library Youth Services, the exhibition will also include a selection of objects collected by young people, revealing that collecting can start early in life.

In its array of objects, Finders Keepers reflects the myriad interests of West Michiganders and celebrates our region’s creativity and uniqueness.

Exhibition Videos

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