LaGRANGE — At the LaGrange Art Museum just off Lafayette Square, the two floors of its main gallery are filled with quirky knickknacks and memorabilia. It’s all from the personal collections of people who live in Troup County and includes everything from pins supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial campaign to Native American artifacts.
“Our County Collects,” an exhibit presented by the museum and sponsored by CB&T Bank, is on display until Aug. 15 and admission is free to Troup residents.
“It’s a fun show,” said Karen Briggs, the museum’s executive director. “I think people will enjoy seeing it. It’s kind of fun to know what your neighbors collect. … It sort of baffled me, because I’m not a collector, but it’s amusing to see that a large number of people do. I think it’s sort of human nature. Many, many people collect things.”
The inspiration for the exhibit came from the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Briggs saw a similar exhibit there titled “Berkshire Collects” when she visited Stockbridge, Massachusetts, while working on the LAM’s 2014 Norman Rockwell exhibit.
After viewing the Berkshire’s show, Briggs asked the Berkshire Museum to loan the assembly and wall text, as well as for advice on mounting a similar show in Troup County.
“I called them and they said they were going to throw away their signage, so I asked them if they’d let us take their signage and recreate the show in LG,” Briggs said. “They lent it to us for a very small fee, along with the graphics and the ‘how-to.’ It was basically a kit.”
But the loaning of the signs and media material was just the beginning. Briggs still had to find more than two dozen collections to display. The LAM formed a committee to reach out and find people who collect unique items — and charged that committee with making sure the right items made it into the gallery.
“We tried to not duplicate categories,” she said. “We sold it like a pot luck supper where everyone can’t bring potato salad. We had a very widespread group of about six people who were charged with asking their neighbors if they collected things.”
In the end, almost 30 people loaned an assortment of items, including wind-up toys, political buttons, antique cameras, coins, bells, farm tools, bottles and pottery.
John Tures, a political science professor at LaGrange College, loaned his collection of political campaign buttons for display in the exhibit. He collects all types of pins from various parties because he wants students to feel comfortable in his classroom, no matter what candidate they identify with, he said.
“I first began collecting when I was given a ‘flipper’ button by my grandfather,” Tures told the LAM. “The image moved back and forth between two candidates, it introduced me to the world of politics — I was fascinated. … I specifically collect celebrities who ran for office, or people who engaged in some sort of entertaining career before running for political office. … Of course, with a family my other priorities sneak in, but I’m always on the lookout for the obscure, such as New Jersey Republican John Runyan, who was an American football offensive tackle in the National Football League before entering politics.”
Not far from where Tures’ political pins are exhibited, a colorful display of antique license plates collected by LaGrange banker Chris Cleaveland sits tacked to the wall.
From various states and time periods, the plates have been collected by Cleaveland since 2005.
“I search for them at flea markets, antique stores and eBay, and I love to hunt for a year or state that I haven’t found,” Cleaveland said. “For example, I’m still looking for a Georgia ‘15 porcelain plate, which is very rare. … I really love the variations from year to year and state to state … I also appreciate their historic value.”
Other collections include duck decoys, Zuni Native American carvings, Sunbeam kitchen appliances, yellow-handled pocket knives, model trains, bells, Boy Scout memorabilia and more.
“Our County Collects is the second exhibit to open this year,” says Bobby Cammon, LaGrange Art Museum’s Board President. “It is particularly appropriate for this year, as this is a community-sourced exhibition that celebrates connections, collecting and sharing. As we celebrate the opening of the Museum’s new Center for Creative Learning here on our campus, we are proud of the fact that the collectors featured are our neighbors and friends, making this exhibition uniquely a Troup County experience. The high level of community participation is a hallmark of the LaGrange Art Museum.”
Briggs echoed Cammon’s sentiment, and said she was impressed with the level of participation by the community.
“LaGrange never ceases to amaze me,” she said. “It’s pretty remarkable.”
— A press release from the LaGrange Art Museum contributed to this report.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter for LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.