What Do You Collect?

The works of art that your students will see at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures from Kenwood House, London are part of a single collection.

Ask your students to define a collection. What makes something a collection? Think about how a collection might be brought together: Are the objects similar in some way, do they fall under a theme, or are they otherwise related? What does the collection say about the person who decided to bring the objects together? People like and dislike different kinds of things for different reasons. Collections aren’t just a group of objects: they hold meaning for someone.

What do you collect? You might collect a certain kind of toy, or perhaps you collect snow globes or magnets. Comic books, nail polish, or items related to a certain musician or band might also be collections. Have students pair up and tell their partner about their collection. What do they collect—and why is it meaningful to them?

Explain to your students that most art museums are made up of individual people’s art collections. Many people who have amassed a large collection of art often gift some or all of what they have collected to a museum or museums as they rotate their collections, or in their wills for after they pass. When your students visit this exhibition, they will see one person’s collection, Lord Iveagh’s. Encourage them to think about why this kind of art might have been meaningful to him.