The collector: Professor Martin Parker, Warwick Business School (UK).
The collection: Airline sick bags.
The story behind the collection...
My dad used to travel quite a bit when I was little, and bringing back sick bags was a joke that turned into a collection. Later, when I became an academic, I used to ask anyone who went on international conferences to bring me a bag back too. This being a cheap present, and my friends being mean, they happily agreed.
I don’t really like them, or have any particular interest in them. What interests me is the effect that they create when I show them to people. I have long been subject to various obsessions and fascinations and this collection provides me with a nice set of things to think with.
My collection probably started in the early 1970s. I think I have about 400, though I haven’t counted them. They are kept in three box files in my office. You may be interested to know that the collecting of sick bags is called ‘malamphorology’.
My favourite one is an old Soviet bag with a nice picture of a jet on it. The multiuse ones are quite nice too. I have one that doubles as a photo developing envelope, and another that you can use to indicate that your seat is occupied. I wouldn't say that there is anything 'missing' from my current collection as mine is not a collection for which there is any end, catalogue or predictability. It’s more like gathering shells. I also have a collection of nodding dogs, and of McDonald’s Shelbies – quite possibly the finest Happy Meal toy ever made.
My collection isn't out of control. I have room for more box files. I’m not obsessed with sick bags. Mildly curious perhaps. I am obsessed with obsessions though.
As you might imagine, if you type 'sick bags' into a search engine, you will find many demented lunatics displaying their collections, most much larger than mine. I wonder whether there are any collections which only one person collects?
Photography by Helen Powell with the kind permission of Martin Parker.