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Tomorrow's History Today? Post-modern Collecting

Paul Martin considers what message our mania for collecting has for history in post-modern times.

'Own a piece of history', proclaimed The Badge Shop in London's West End in the early 1980s. 'To buy in', as it were, to the past by owning a piece of its material remains, in this case old promotional badges, has a more powerful hold on people than might at first be expected. Historical objects can tell as much about history as the printed word and certainly make it more tangible and interesting. Collecting 'things' per se is more profuse now than at any time in the past. Why should this be? Is collecting symptomatic of any wider change in society, and how relevant is it historically

Collecting has always been with us in one form or another: the whole concept of the museum was born from the private lootings of European princes. Contemporary collecting can be as diverse as traditional antiques to fuse wire and drainpipes. To understand why, we must look at collecting in the wider context of social change.

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