I am a museum curator, which means I regularly go out collecting new specimens for the museum’s research collection. I also solicit specimens from the public (see my article Citizen Science in this issue of Curious) and other researchers to help build the museum collection. Collectors are everywhere – some collect salt and pepper shakers, some collect autographs, a lucky few collect vintage cars. I collect models – the plastic kind. It is a great way to satisfy my collector’s urge with no conflict of interest relative to my day-job.
Yes that’s me in 1974 – I was 7, and cataloguing the models Dad and I had built – those pants are probably in fashion again. These days, parents shudder at the thought of a 7 year old working with an Exacto knife, model glue (Allyl Isothiocyanate) and turpentine – but those were the days when we could crawl loose in the back of our Chevrolet van – there were no seatbelts. Perhaps we also collected bruises.
This Mk. IV Spitfire was the very first 1/48 scale plane given to me. This scale gives a decent trade-off between size, detail, model availability, and I won’t have to take over the living room. Yes you have to consider the effects on your spouse and kids when collecting anything – although model building is a clean hobby relatively speaking. There are worse things a guy could do in his spare time.
Why be so fixated on war and collecting models? My Grand-dad – Dennis Fletcher – was in the RAF. As a kid I remember watching war movies with him as he explained combat techniques and each plane’s weaknesses. I was 4 years old and getting a primer on fighter planes from a veteran. We built him a model Lysander – he kept it until he died – but I never saw the model again.
Now I have collected 377 kits; 33% are built, like this Finnish Fokker D.XXI and the Gloster Meteor prototype. I keep them organised on a spreadsheet to avoid duplication. Home computers with a database or spreadsheet were things of science-fiction when I was making my first lists back in 1974. Now my models catalogue is on my smart phone – I carry my data with me to hobby stores and use a touch screen. Technology has changed, modelling techniques change, but the collector’s spirit is steadfast.
Each year I display 40 or so models at the Royal BC Museum to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war, regardless of nationality. The models get displayed over the week of November 11th in Clifford Carl Hall. It is gratifying to see groups of kids huddled around the display case. Hopefully they will continue the modelling tradition, and start collections of their own.