Collecting the past

They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and Diana Scott’s home in Cayman Brac is living evidence of exactly that.  

“My husband says I’m a hoarder,” she chuckles, ushering me across the porch and into her house. “I’ve been collecting things since I was three years old when I received a postcard in the mail and decided to keep it.” 

A lifetime of collecting has to go somewhere, and out in the driveway a 20-foot shipping container is filled with items Mrs Scott has collected over the years.  

The wrap around porch and interior of the house are also filled with her collectibles.  

In the living room, metal shelving units on wheels are lined up in ranks against the wall, each sagging under the weight of the objects they contain. There are figurines, china pieces, piles of old vinyl records, fax machines, lamps and boxes of pens.  

In a spare bedroom one bed is piled high with old dolls, many with stuffed bodies and porcelain faces and in another room she has paintings, baskets, albums and a case full of thimbles.  

Everything she has collected, she acquired in Cayman Brac. 

“I used to go to the dump, but I’ve stopped that,” she says. “After the hurricane, when people were throwing out things, I asked if I could go through it, and people said yes. If people are throwing things out now, they know to call me first and ask if I want it.” 

Mrs Scott doesn’t limit her collecting to any theme or area. She mainly collects everyday items and household objects. 

Although some of the more recent objects might not seem interesting to those who recall using them in their lifetimes, the older objects build a picture of what life on Cayman Brac was once like: she has hollowed calabashes that were once used to collect water, shoe making tools, antique shaving kits, a wooden washboard, a cob for making thatch rope, kerosene lamps and a mandolin she believes to be several hundred years old.  

Among her favourites is a wind-up gramophone and a radio from a WWII helicopter, of which she says there are only known to be six in the world.  

Some of the printed matter she has includes the mail order catalogues from which Brackers used to order their clothes, and a copy of the 1908 census of Cayman Brac. 

From the beaches and shorelines she has picked up the jaw of a shark, a whale vertebra, a hog’s jaw and, most surprisingly of all, a canon ball.  

“You heard about the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana?” she asks, and pulls out an album filled with commemorative stamps from every British territory at the time. 

She also has an impressive collection of coins and bank notes from around the world, many of them dating back several decades. Mrs Scott’s collectibles are stored rather than displayed, and each new acquisition fits in wherever there is space. Can she find specific items if she wants to, I wonder?  

“Sometimes,” she shrugs. “That’s my problem. Every time I plan to do something with it all, something comes up.” 

Her daughter is adamant she does not want to inherit anything that she cannot use, so Mrs Scott must at some point face the mammoth task of sorting through her collections and perhaps finding a way to share some of the most antique and unusual items with the public.  

“I would like to sell the rare stuff and have it displayed in a place that would be called The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Remembrance Hall,” she says.  

Diana-Scott

Diana Scott holds a hollowed-out calabash that would once have been used to carry water. – Photos: Natasha Were
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