You adore your Oriental carpet. Its glinting yellow and plum hues sing. But they are just a little too bright. One day, you hit on an ingenious idea involving your pet tortoise. You decide to encrust its shell with dazzling gems, so that when it crawls on your rug, it will dull the fabric's tints by contrast, finally making it easy on the eye. But something goes wrong. Your pet fails to cooperate, suddenly expiring under the weight of its new jewels. Instead of the perfect rug, you have a dead tortoise. This talk explores the dark side of collecting. In 2018, the World Health Organization classified Hoarding Disorder – or "extreme collecting" – as a global phenomenon. Enter the hoarder: an addict whose urge to accumulate verges on insanity. Yet the hoarder is only the latest incarnation of a figure who recurs throughout history: the obsessive collector driven not by sublime reason but a dangerous passion. Who are the mad collectors that came before the hoarder and what is the nature of their madness?
Guest lecturer: James Delbourgo, Rutgers University
Professor of History