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To the Best of Our Knowledge: The Art of the Collection

Written by: Jim Fleming
Narrated by: Jim Fleming
Length: 51 mins

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Publisher's Summary

Bottle caps, coins, dolls, rocks. My Aunt Mary's ceramic chickens. Most of us collect something. It seems to be in our genes. And for most of us it's a fun hobby. For others, it can get a little time consuming. But for a few, collecting is a total obsession.

Amanda Petrusich is a music journalist who was assigned a story about obsessive collectors of 78rpm records. But she ended up getting a little too close to her subject. She became obsessed herself - and ended up scuba diving in the Milwaukee River, looking for the Holy Grail: a lost collection of Paramount 78s.

Where does obsessive collecting come from? And what does it mean? Lorraine Daston takes us back to 17th century Europe and the nobility's Kunstkamera, or chambers of wonders. They were filled with nature's freaks and anomalies. But these marvels, these monsters, gave birth to modern science.

Artist Natasha Nicholson makes contemporary cabinets of curiosity, but not simply to gaze at - she lives in them. Nicholson lives inside her own art, highly curated rooms in an old storefront in Madison, Wisconsin.

And please, don't forget Gary Brockman. He makes his living from his collection. Baseball cards? Stamps? Nope. Gary collection buttons. And not just any buttons, 19th century buttons.

Our final interview in today's show has nothing to do with collecting - unless you consider winning two presidential campaigns a collection of two wins. David Axelrod was the chief strategist for Barack Obama's presidential campaigns and recently stopped by our studio to talk about the art of running for office. [Original Broadcast Date: September 9, 2015]

(P) and ©2015 Wisconsin Public Radio

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