Collections, Objects, Memory by Catherine Valdez

Illustration by Gisela Levy

Illustration by Gisela Levy

As my last semester at Columbia comes to a close and senior-move-out nears, I am thinking of all the things I must pack up. Things that have occupied my room for the last few years, that have become inseparable from my concept of a safe place. Books; paintings; reams of fabric that have leaned against my wall and slowly been replaced as projects come and go; the winter sweaters laid over my desk chair that’ll lose their purpose as I move back home; a second-hand teal cabinet full of India-inks, markers, embroidery floss and other art supplies I use with less frequency as assignments pile up; a windowsill and suite filled with stuffed animals my suitemates and I have ascribed elaborate, sometimes hilarious or inappropriate personalities to; a door covered in doodles, quotes and sticky-notes; a dachshund-patterned box I’ve been throwing loose buttons and pins in since perpetuity; a small herd of plants that have sadly (mostly) died under my friends’ collective care. The list goes on. My love for things (and what they become as they age with you) cannot be contained by a list.

Mostly because I was curious, I made this post about collections and things. I asked Quarto staff what objects they’ve accumulated and why these things have become important to them:      

  • While this collection is somewhat intangible, the songs and playlists I have accumulated this year have made my Columbia experience incredibly meaningful. I always have associated songs with people, places, and periods within my life, and I have realized even more so in college how important this sort of 'collection' has been for me. When I listen to certain artists, I am immediately transported to special memories with friends.

  • I have notes written by friends, ticket stubs and cards. I am very sentimental so I like keeping stuff like that. The clothes I have accumulated since moving here are evidence of my changing style and how NYC has affected me. :)

  • A clay pig made by one of my friends, a Chinese Horoscope book, and flowers :) They all represent some of my most cherished friendships.

  • I am the type of person who accumulates lots of things, from tickets and brochures I can’t bring myself to throw away to fancy soda bottles and dried flowers and cute, otherwise useless doodads. Some of the objects I’ve come to value most, however, are the art pieces that live on my wall. Some prints have been up since my first year at Columbia, poorly stuck to the walls of my John Jay single, and will be with me all the way through my senior year. Others, I have picked up along the way, at book fairs and art festivals, at the MET (I try to buy a postcard every time I go) and the Brooklyn Museum. Some have been given to me as gifts, and others I bought myself on a whim, looking to add a splash of color to my white walls. All this art makes my tiny room feel much more like a home, and it is comforting to look at my collection every day and remember the stories behind each piece.

  • Lots of pictures (polaroids and physical pictures people have given me) which remind me of all the memories and relationships I've formed. I also have free branded Columbia T-Shirts which often reminds me that Columbia is a prominent capitalist force and is not so slyly preparing us for corporate life. I own snow clothes/gear (?!) which is wild, as I've lived in the South my entire life. I've also collected more books than I can count, and that represents all the incredible perspectives I've been fortunate enough to interact with here. I've also collected train tickets because I had never gone on a train before coming here–tickets to Connecticut, New Jersey, etc.

  • Every year I seem to accumulate an exorbitant number of postcards. Though I don't send nearly as many as I intend to, I love the idea of them, the blend of art and correspondence. There's something romantic to the whole process, at least to me. They're also a great record of where I've been, and where I hope to go.

Catherine has been a staff editor on Quarto for the past four years. This is her first blog post. Check out her Senior Spotlight on our social media in the days to come!