The New School Archives Digital Collections

Related people/organizations

Werner Muensterberger (depicts)
New School Art Center (New York, N.Y.) (depicts)


March 23 1967


New School Institutional Collections



MLA Citation:

Why Do We Collect?. March 23 1967. New School Art Center audio recordings of public programs. New School Archives and Special Collections Digital Archive. Web. 17 Jul 2019

Additional Audio

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Werner Muensterberger, psychoanalyst, art historian, and collector of African art, discusses the psychology of collecting. Some of the phenomena discussed include specialization and differentiation, primitivity and complexity, “trophy” acquisition, and completion. Muensterberger also discusses the history of collecting  he also includes within his purview coin collecting, “tulipomania,” and antiquing. He also discusses the “magico-religious” meaning of ancient cave paintings, the Venus de Milo, Maori designs, the Sistine Chapel, and Roman Catholic relics. (Muensterberger pays particular attention to the role of collecting within the Roman Catholic church.)

Muensterberger is equally interested in the interaction the collector has with the object, particularly as outlined in Aline Saarinen’s book, The Proud Possessors, wherein pride forms a large portion of the impulse to acquisition. He also discusses famous collectors throughout history, including Scipio, Marcus Fluvius Nobilior, Verres, Louis XIV, the Duc de Brienne, Cardinal Mazarin, and Baron Philipp von Stosch.