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When collecting becomes something more

When collecting becomes something more deb-gardner-250x250.jpg

I have a confession. I’m a serial antiquer. Books and jewelry are my weaknesses.

I come by this hobby honestly. My dad was a great tag sailer – he couldn’t go past a roadside display or estate sale featuring tools of any vintage without stopping. Then there was the influence of my favorite aunt on my dad’s side – she and my uncle owned this wonderful old summer home filled with antiques they had bought out of an estate. She took me to my first real antiques mart when I was a preteen – and I discovered collecting that day. I didn’t have much of a budget, but African trading beads and table salters became my passion that afternoon and for a number of years  thereafter – replaced when I got a bit older by Art Deco jewelry and cameos.

I still have all those collections – and more, thanks to grandparents who left behind certain treasures – but I’ve never had the desire to find the history behind any of the items, until I came across an album of old photos that had been handed down through my dad’s family.

Looking at all the carefully preserved and mounted images of unnamed people in unknown locales makes me appreciate the passion that drives Greg Van Antwerp, the self-proclaimed Urban Archeologist profiled in this month’s feature.

He’s the kind that would keep digging until he got a lead on who these people are, and where the album rightfully belongs.

After all, I don’t even know if they are people from my side of the family, or my grandmother’s distant relatives.

I discovered Van Antwerp and his unique approach to tag and estate sailing quite by accident. I was reading through a list of events coming up at the Agawam Public Library – doing my own digging for story leads, so to speak – and saw a notice about this “Urban Archeologist” who was slated to speak.  Intrigued, I looked up his website and blog, then asked the reference librarian if she could put me in touch with Van Antwerp, as I couldn’t make his event.

What followed was a fascinating interview with a guy who has turned a lifelong hobby into a unique approach to what T.V. celebrity Mike Wolfe of American Pickers calls “picking.” In fact, after chatting and exchanging several emails with Van Antwerp,  I can only describe him as a cross between Wolfe and Hollywood’s most famous fictional archeologist, Indiana Jones.

As I point out in the story, where Indiana Jones’ most famous line goes something like “That belongs in a museum,” Van Antwerp’s might be “That belongs to the original owner.”

I hope you enjoy reading about Van Antwerp and his hobby that’s become  a calling, which he explains means he’s become part of of a group of  “travelling curators of American history, culture, and just memorabilia.”

I also want to take a moment here to congratulate longtime columnist Jonathan Evans on the 40th anniversary of The Herbarium. He and his wife Kathy Duffy have been helping Valley residents find natural ways to approach health issues for longer than most of us have been thinking about alternative health.

Thanks for being a trailblazer, and here’s to many more years of helping others!

Thanks for reading,

Debbie Gardner