The collector: Wishbook, Digital Archivist, Western United States.
The collection: Christmas catalogues.
The story behind the collection...
In the early 2000's, I picked up a few of my favorite Christmas catalogues on eBay, but I hadn't any notion of digitizing and sharing them until 2005, when I brought one of the catalogues to lunch with a friend. My friend's enthusiasm at seeing the old catalog was so great, I started wondering how I could multiply that effect by as many people as possible. With flickr in mind as a forum for sharing images, I started scanning the pages from the 1979 Sears Christmas Catalogue - initially trying to keep the catalog intact. Eventually, I gave up that notion and carefully deconstructed the catalogue so that I could scan each page flat on the glass. Even before I'd finished scanning the whole catalogue, the collection garnered significant attention via boingboing.net. The response was just as I hoped, and this further encouraged my efforts. Six years later, there are close to four dozen Christmas and toy catalogues being shared with the public - several of them scanned by my East-coast partner, who I met through flickr.
The first thing my collection revealed to me was my ignorance of the amounts of money my parents saved (for they never got into credit) and spent on us kids at Christmas. I more fully appreciated my Dad's working extra shifts at work. The collection and its sharing reveals my childhood nostalgia, but on the darker side, it reveals how I had been raised to be an unthinking consumer...of things.
The entire collection of catalogues I've scanned are shared on flickr.
They are organized from oldest to newest. Most are scanned and shared at 1200 pixels high, but my most recently scanned catalogues are shared at 1400 pixels high - plenty tall to soak in all the details of the pages.
My favourite parts of the catalogue collection are the toy sections - even from the years when I wasn't a kid. My next favorite parts are the dapper fashions from the early 1960's; the cringe-worthy fashions from the early 1970's; and all the National Football League paraphernalia. The most unusual thing sold from the pages of these catalogues was an assortment of exotic and domesticated (but impractical) animals: kinkajous, monkeys, burros.
All images via Wishbook.