9 May 2017

Collection of tourist Arts and Crafts

I am looking for a permanent home for my collection.

I have a fairly extensive collection of what is broadly described as ’Tourist Arts and Crafts’. My interest started around 50 years ago, when I made some collections for the Pitt-Rivers Museum.  I travel fairly widely have and been collecting in a small way ever since. I also regularly buy in flea markets etc, particularly if there is any information on provenance.

My collections involve two main types of objects: those collected personally in my capacity as a tourist, and these can be further subdivided in to objects made specifically for the Tourist market,and those objects that have become out dated and discarded and are sold o tourists. Those collected at flea markets and junk shops are generally discarded souvenirs or gifts brought back by tourists for friends and relatives. Nearly all the collection is of objects best described as ‘portable’. Which is also typical for the international tourist market – they have to be transported home.
The emphasis in my collecting, has been to ensure that as much data as possible is associated with each specimen. Except for those purchased in England with little or no background, the objects are labelled at the time of collection.

Within this rather random collecting there are several foci.  My own professional interests relate to wildlife, and as a consequence the collection features animals. In particular, there is an extensive collection of snakes. There are also a large number of bird whistles and bird calls.  
Another focus has been artisans; models of people doing daily tasks.
But on the whole it is fairly idiosyncratic,  particularly the discarded category – whatever was popular in flea markets and charity shops. Miniature totem poles, thornwood carvings, masks, shadow puppets for example.

I also have a very extensive collection of arts and crafts from Paraguay. This collection of some 200+objects aims to be more comprehensive, and contains a significant number of weavings which are likely to become extremely rare in the future, as the nomadic indigenous tribals that made them disappear. This collection has (mostly) been catalogued on a database. It is also part of ongoing collecting.

Ideally, I would like to donate this collection to a single location, but of course, by their very nature the objects in the collection have multiple classifications, and will fit numerous taxonomies.  Having visited numerous ethnographic museums, I can say with confidence that much of the collection is of ‘museum quality’, and the groupings within the collection often make interesting study material. And taken as a whole may be of interest in representing one person’s collection of a period of half a century. Finally, it is an ongoing project; I have not completed the labelling and cataloguing, which includes cross referencing much of the material to reference books, photographing the objects for recording in my data base. I felt it would be appropriate to establish any desire to give it a home, so that future development can be in accord with its future. Much of the material is accessible at present, although shortly to be packed away. If there is any interest I will be more than happy to answer questions or show the collection, or photos of specific objects. 

John Burton

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