Collector’s Spotlight: Brooches

April 12, 2013


Museums and collecting go hand in hand, but many people also like collecting something privately as their hobby. Not all private collections get turned in to museums – such as Monday’s Kleines Katzenmuseum – but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. For a while now I’ve been brewing the idea of interviewing people about their collections for a new blog feature, and after contacting Russell Dornan, whose ‘brooch of the day’ posts I’ve been enjoying on Twitter and Instagram for a while, he agreed to go first. If you have an interesting collection you’d like featured on Museum Diary, please get in touch!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Russell Dornan. I’m from Ballater in the North-East of Scotland but I spent six years in Germany as a child. After living in Toronto for a year, I returned to the UK to pursue a career in museums. Upon completing a (natural history) curatorial traineeship in the Midlands, I now live in London with my partner and cat. I work at the Horniman Museum & Gardens as Natural History Project Co-ordinator.

What do you collect?
I collect badges and brooches. Since I wear them, I only collect those I want to wear.

Since when have you been collecting?
I have collected brooches properly since about 2007.

A selection of my favourites

How did your collection start?
I’d always had badges as a child, like most people, but they were never something I “collected”. It was only when I saw small button badges with witty phrases on them that I thought about wearing them regularly. Not long into that, I started seeing brooches that I liked. I realised I liked brooches but it was a challenge finding ones that I wanted to wear. Many are floral, ostentatious or very sparkly. I kept an eye out at car boot sales, charity shops and antique markets; I also started making my own because I couldn’t often find what I wanted. There’s not a great choice of brooches aimed at men. I still wear little button badges but I’m much more selective about them; I tend to focus mainly on brooches and pins now.

Where do you keep your collection?
I keep my collection at home. I have a printer’s drawer mounted on my wall where I store my favourite pieces so that the’re on open display; I also have a mini storage box with loads of little drawers for the more numerous pieces such as button and pin badges. Of course, being brooches, there’s usually one on my jacket and one on my jumper so I display them that way too.

Where I store my brooches

Do you use your collection?
Yes, I usually wear a brooch every day so am always wearing “part of my collection”. I try to wear a different one each day but sometimes it’s hard not to wear some of my favourites repeatedly. I share my broochoftheday via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest.

What was the most recent addition to your collection?
The most recent additions I purchased myself were two brooches from a maker in Brighton. I bought one of his knitted cat faces (because it resembled my cat, Kubrick) and commissioned him to knit me a Parasaurolophus head. I’ve recently been gifted a few badges and brooches by my colleagues too.

One of my most recent brooches

How big is your collection now and is it still growing?
I’ve never counted them all but I have around 400 badges and brooches, probably more. My collection grows by at least two or three brooches a month. I love visiting second-hand shops or markets and picking up some pre-owned pieces; the quality, style and uniqueness are a draw. Imagining who wore them over the years fascinates me. I also love discovering contemporary makers and artists. I like people who work with Perspex, felt and wood in imaginative ways; the themes I like seem to be trending too (such as foxes, natural history, geekiness, etc.). I got some amazing brooches for Christmas from friends and family and I’ve been gifted brooches from people clearing out their own collection or when they’ve decided to experiment making their own. I’m very grateful and some of my favourite brooches were gifts.

Another favourite of mine

Do any of the pieces in your collection have interesting stories associated with them?
Because most of my brooches are either second hand from people who aren’t aware of their histories, or they’re new contemporary pieces, none of them have a particularly interesting story…yet. When I look at them, I remember where I got them from, when it was, what was going on at that time. Or if they were a gift, then who gave it to me and why. So they are all interesting to me on a personal level and I can only imagine the history some of the brooches have.

What is your favourite piece in your collection?
I have a group of brooches which are my core favourites and they’re all very different. The one brooch that pops into my head first, though, is one of the first I bought and the one I think really kick-started my collection: a small, silver cicada. I’ve had many compliments on it. It’s tiny and really simple; it’s a very appealing little brooch.

Cicada Brooch

Thank you so much to Russell for sharing his collection! If you want to ask Russell more questions about his collection or follow his #broochoftheday posts, you can find him on Twitter under @RussellDornan or connect with him via

4 Responses to “Collector’s Spotlight: Brooches”

  1. Fi Hocking Says:

    Hi Jenni,
    Lovely post and a fabulous idea for a regular post. It is wonderful to curate a personal collection and Russell’s collection is fab.
    x Fi


  2. Mona Says:

    Ein sehr interessantes Interview und eine schöne Idee, “Privatsammlungen” hier vorzustellen!
    Liebe Grüße



  1. Collector’s Spotlight: Jake’s Bones | Museum Diary - June 28, 2013

    […] Spotlight, where I interview people about their interesting, unusual or unique collections. Russell and his ‘brooch of the day’ collection were the first to be featured, and this time I am […]

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