Collyers' mansion

DEFINITION

A residence so packed with piles of possessions that it presents a fire hazard. Accumulations of material are obstacles to walking through the rooms or halls of such a place. The term is most common among firefighters in eastern USA. It originated in 1947, when the brothers Homer and Langley Collyer were found dead in their Harlem dwelling amid an estimated 100 tons of obsessively stockpiled debris, including "stacks of phone books, newspapers, tin cans, clocks, and a fake two-headed baby in formaldehyde" (Newman, 2006). In other regions of America, firefighters sometimes call such a space a packer house, a habitrail house, pack-rat conditions, or heavy debris. In the art world, such an environment might be described as a residence, studio or storeroom that displays horror vacui in its collections of material culture. This miscellany might include art supplies and objects, but emphasize ephemera, bric-a-brac, and other detritus.Reference Newman, A. (2006). 'Collyers' Mansion' is code for firefighter's nightmare. New York Times, July 5, p. A17, photo.See also folk art, storage, visual culture, and Wunderkammern.

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