|Arlee Bird a.k.a. Lee Jackson of the Juggling Jacksons|
An Estate in Limbo
For many of us our biggest mark on history will be our tombstone and whatever memories we leave behind with those who knew us or knew about us. Having a memoir published is a big step in establishing a physical presence in history no matter how big or small that place might be. Recently I came upon another concept of legacy in the tangible sense--becoming a part of a museum collection.
My own story of this type of archived preservation memory relates to my family's reputation as a professional juggling act. Though we may have not been widely known to the general public, the name of The Juggling Jacksons was known to many jugglers as well as others in the world of entertainment. When my father was still living he and my mother would regularly attend jugglers' conventions and other gatherings thus establishing themselves in that community as iconic figures in juggling history.
With my mother's passing in November of 2014 it became evident to me and my siblings that her house and everything in it would have to be sold, disbursed among ourselves, or gotten rid of in some way. Part of this estate included decades worth of juggling props and artifacts. None of the family had the proper space or wherewithal to hang on to these items even though we were aware of the sentimental value as well as the potential historical value. Since none of the family continues to work in the juggling profession these props served no functional purpose to any of us.
A Fortuitous Inquiry
A few years prior to my mother's death a juggler who at that time was working professionally in the art learned of the treasure trove of juggling memorabilia residing in my mother's house. He passed this information to another professional juggler and juggling historian by the name of David Cain.
David had been building a considerable collection of anything related to juggling for many years, maintaining space in his home as a juggling museum and touring juggling gatherings throughout the country with his collection. Upon learning about the accumulation that my mother had, David contacted us to see if we were interested in donating to the museum. We told him we'd think about it and left it there.
Nearly a year after my mother's death, our family put her house on the market. As we began clearing out her possessions, keeping what we wanted and selling, donating, or throwing away other things, I got back in touch with David Cain. Juggling equipment was not going to be something easy to sell and we sure didn't want to just throw it all away. Within a few weeks David drove down to Tennessee from his home in Ohio and loaded up nearly everything we had to add to his museum collection
He was excited with this addition to his collection and we were pleased to have found a reasonable way to remove these from our possession finding a suitable home for them. The arrangement served all concerned very well.
The Future of the Juggling Jacksons Collection
David Cain is highly regarded as a collector of juggling history and his home museum is open to interested parties by appointment. He has created a very fine website (links below) that details much of his collection to date. Though his collection currently resides in his home, David dreams of one day establishing an official museum space for his valuable collection.
Perhaps eventually the collection will end up as part of a larger museum or in a permanent juggling museum devoted to the art of juggling and the related history. Whatever the case may be, the Juggling Jackson legacy will carry on through its place in the Historical Juggling Props collection.
I encourage all of my readers to stop in to visit the online museum at Historical Juggling Props: an Online Museum. There is a lot of interesting information as well as many photos of items in David Cain's collection. David has even added my blogs on his link page. For those who are interested in furthering the outreach of this collection there is also information on how you can donate or offer your services in some way.
Be sure to visit the Juggling Jacksons page at the site to see my family's contribution to the collection. Since I hadn't gone through the props that we had in storage, I was very surprised at the extent of our collection as well as how good of condition these props were considering the amount of use they had endured. Many of these juggling props are akin to works of art in my view.
Another stop you might enjoy is the Juggling Jewels page. The "Jewels" were an all female juggling act originally from England. They worked extensively during the vaudeville era up to about 1950. In 1967 one of the surviving members who lived in Roanoke, Virginia had gotten wind of our family and sent us some of their historical props which were included in the collection my family sent to David Cain. He has credited us with this contribution on that page.
I hope you will "visit" David's museum online to see some of the history of juggling which most people might never even think about. Definitely visit the "Home Museum Display" page as I think you'll be impressed by the size of Cain's collection to date. And it's always growing!
Hopefully one day I can visit the Juggling Museum in person to see my part in preserving juggling history as well as marvel at the array of fun things that David Cain has accumulated so far.
Have you donated any family or personal heirlooms to a museum or some other collection? Do you have any things that you think might be good for museum preservation? What are some of the most unique museum collections that you have seen or heard about?