Friday, August 26, 2016

Hoarder or Scientist?



     
What? You don't have a rhinoceros skull?

     The other day I was casting about for a venue for a day out with a friend.
We began at Mt. Holyoke College’s art museum, but while charming, it was small and had several rooms closed while they were finishing an installation.

          Next on our list was the Joseph Skinner Museum, also owned by the college. Joseph was the son of William Skinner, a silk manufacturer instrumental in the industrialization of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Every time you turn around in the area there’s something named after a Skinner; not many families can boast an entire mountain named after them.

          When he wasn’t being treasurer of the family business and sitting on local boards, Joseph indulged his love of history and natural history by traveling and bringing home what he’d found.

          In the 1930s Boston needed water and the Massachusetts General Court decided that the best solution was to dam the Swift river and flood a number of small towns in the center of the state to create the Quabbin reservoir. Graveyards were moved, towns were disincorporated, and nothing remains except a few foundations on higher ground. I can’t even imagine a project like this being approved today. 
 

          When the town of Prescott was due to be flooded, William moved a church and a schoolhouse piece by piece to Hadley and rebuilt them to house his treasures. 






He continued collecting and depositing his acquisitions there until his death in 1946.

 As the college’s website states, “He left little record of his intentions,” and a stroll through the museum makes that abundantly clear. 



Buttons from the Civil War sit next to sand from the Sahara, and down the next aisle you'll find a whale sperm oil lamp.
Yikes!!


How wonderful to have a curious mind and the ability to haul back whatever cool thing you see, and then pop it into your own personal museum. 


         

12 comments:

  1. Oh my, look at all that stuff, every piece of it precious to Joseph Skinner.

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  2. And there's a basement full of it,too!

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  3. It must have been wonderful being able to indulge his curiosity like that.

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  4. Phew, sure glad I wasn't born in the 18th century when the Scarificator was in vogue. What an interesting (another word for weird) collection.

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  5. I was OK with the individual pictures, but stunned by your photo from the balcony! Well, he took care of it, and seems to have left it a trust fund.

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    1. Yes, he donated it and two buildings to Mt. Holyoke College.
      I hope some money went with it.

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  6. Very precious pieces ♥ Hugs ♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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  7. Wow, that last picture really shows the scale of Skinner's collecting! Someone once told me that the distinction between hoarding and collecting was organization -- and it DOES seem like these items are pretty well organized. But, yeah, he certainly had an appetite for acquisition, didn't he?!

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  8. one giant cabinet of curiosities.

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  9. And what a cool place to spend an afternoon perusing with a friend. I don't think Mr Skinner was a hoarder or even a scientist -- more of a curious guy who,was interested in a lot of different things. Eclectic Eccentric comes to mind! Lucky for his family he had the money to store it all other than in the family basement or attic.

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    1. Makes you wonder how much attention he actually paid to the family business.

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  10. Very cool. I will have to visit this museum one day.

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Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to hear what you think.