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Five thousand objects and counting
Andrew Nelson ’02 grew up in a house attached to the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford, Massachusetts, built in 1888 and thought to be the oldest continually operating jail in the United States (Lizzie Borden was held there in 1892 while on trial for the murder of her parents). You could say a passion for history came to him naturally.
His father, a former sheriff, is now an antique book dealer, with “an incredible collection of New Bedford maritime items,” says Nelson. “I just thought [of] doing the same for Boston College”—an enthusiasm, he says, that has “spiraled out of control” since graduation.
As the manager of online operations for his father’s business, Nelson uses his connections to build his collection by means of estate sales and sports memorabilia shows. He has amassed more than 5,000 Boston College artifacts: postcards, football game programs, photographs, pins, yearbooks—pretty much anything with the words “Boston College” on it. He keeps his collection in plastic bins and binders in a 12-by- 12-foot spare room in his house.
Nelson’s favorite item comes with a story. Prior to the 1940 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Boston College’s first bowl game, the football team was invited to dine at the home of Vice President John Nance Garner, and, for whatever reason, a copy of the 1939 biography Mr. Garner of Texas was passed around. “Everyone—the players, all the staff, all the reporters traveling with the team—signed it,” says Nelson. “It’s a one-of-a-kind.” He found it at a bookstore in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Nelson says he “can’t imagine ever being done with collecting,” As long as there are attics and basements, “there will always be gems that turn up.”
Read more by Tim Czerwienski