Mary Young describes, in an interview with Hellen Muma, the cast-off treasures she discovered as a kid—and how those experiences turned her into a life-long collector. She shares a lesson learned from Louis Armstrong’s white handkerchief and remembers a great-aunt who influenced her with the gift of a corrugated gift box.
So, I know you have a lot of collections, and you keep creating new ones. What are some examples and what made you become a collector?
I remember really clearly we lived in a sorta like actually my father taught in a boys boarding school so we lived in a dorm and you would take ethe trash all the way down to the basement to put it in these bins and I was old enough to take the trash down I guess for my mother So i as taking the trash down I went down to the trash room and I saw all this stuff and there was an older couple who worked was on the faculty and they were downsizing and they had piles of stuff and I was immediately really interested in it that was my earliest memory of finding extraordinary things in the trash and I’ve never stopped ever since When I was going through my paternal grandmothers stuff Among all the other stuff I found was a box of buttons I mean some of them were really old some go back to the 19th century and some buttons from when my grandmother during world war 2 was a part of the red cross ambulance driver corps ya know outside of Boston she didn't drive ambulances really but for some reason these women trained for that there were just and there were buttons they came from all different types of people now just women but mostly women the family and ya know from generations of all different people and I think I was already collecting antique buttons and I kind of dumped everything together and I would come up with some buttons from my mother and I’d put those in there and to me it's like this ocean of family history particularly for me of women history and it just is like it all flowed together into this soup and i just love that ya know I have made some things with the buttons like I've decorated some pillows with them I was thinking of framing some maybe I'll do it maybe I won't It's such an immediate connection to generations of women and its different as if I just got something from a tag sale cause this actually had to do something with people in my family who knows what but that's one example of potentially thousands I can tell