Stories of Second-Hand Objects: A Senior Thesis Spotlight

Some of the objects that Blum has curated so far including the roll, turtle and sign. Photo Courtesy of Kim Blum.

“You still have the sweatshirt your ex gave you … You stole a road sign. You used it as home decor … All of your furniture is from the side of the road … What’s the coolest thing you’ve thrifted?” Posters with these phrases have been posted all around campus with a QR code — but why? What is their purpose?

As the fall semester comes to an end, the class of 2023 is starting to put together their senior theses. The posters you may have seen around campus are just that. Fourth-year graphic design major, Kim Blum has made her thesis project about objects that fit the description of “stolen, gifted, thrifted and found.” 

The final product will be an online exhibition of the items and stories that Blum has curated.

“I’m collecting stories from the community of New Paltz. I’m collecting stories of objects that are passed down or secondhand in some way,” Blum said. “I really like the special quality of different experiences with an object and they’re passed along through generations.”

The Idea

Kim Blum is working to curate stories of objects from the New Paltz Community. Photo Courtesy of Kim Blum.

The idea for the thesis came from an honors program class Blum took in her second year called “Materials of History, Thought, and Art” where she was able to start taking a deeper look into material objects and their histories. Along with that, her love of thrifting and acquiring second-hand objects fed into her thesis.

“[The class] really got me interested in material culture and seeing objects with a critical perspective,” Blum said. “We would do assignments where we would take a week and just focus on studying a piece of tape, and seeing where every part comes from, and how it’s used and contributes to the bigger picture or how we function in an office or something similar.”

Blum has received about 20 submissions to her project through the QR code on the posters. Each submission holds a different weight to the person sending in the object. “A lot of the submissions I’ve been getting are very sentimental, which I definitely want to consider in my project,” said Blum.

The Stories

Blum says that each of the objects submitted has some kind of universal aspect to them that every person can relate to in some way. 

“I got a submission on Halloween night from a person that stole a bread roll from Gulf. I thought that was like a really great story,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, you know I haven’t eaten all day. I was just so hungry. I needed something and you know, I’m poor. I don’t have much money on me. So I just kind of pocketed it.’”

“I got a submission of a glass turtle. And the story talks about how when he was a child, his mom was really angry at him and broke one of his glass turtle toys. So he was really upset about it, said Blum. “Then years later when he was in his 20s, his mom found a crystal turtle and gifted it to him as kind of an apology.”

Other stories from Blum’s Instagram for the project @stolengiftedthrifted are as follows:

“I thrifted this jacket from a Salvation Army in Boston. It has traveled with me to concerts, photoshoots, even church! I love that the embroidery makes this jacket feel one of a kind.” 

“This sign represents revenge. I stole it because in 2020 my neighbor yelled at my sister for letting my dog pee in my neighbor’s lawn (it wasn’t even his lawn!) … My friends and I went down to his house one night with our drill and took it. We were all laughing and running home, our new sign in hand … Take that Brady, you suck!”

The Process

“For right now, I plan on getting a bunch of submissions and then for maybe a few like maybe five out of the however many submissions, I would do a deep dive into its manufacturing process and how it began as an object,” Blum stated. “Then I would go through all of the different, really in depth detailed parts of the object and its life. But then other objects. I would just take the owner’s thoughts about the object and their perspective and their value towards it.”

There is a large technical aspect to this endeavor too, Blum isn’t only curating these objects, she is designing a website and promotional materials for the online exhibition of these objects.

“For anyone who isn’t familiar with web design, you use a program called Figma. Basically, you can [blueprint] the design that you want for your website,” she said. “Then you can go in and design how it looks. Then you can kind of mess with the user experience, so if you click a button it will bring you to a different part of the page.”

Going Forward

Blum began taking submissions on Nov. 1 and will stop taking submissions in the middle of the 2023 spring semester. 

The project will conclude in May of 2023 with the website being published. 

The project’s Instagram @stolengiftedthrifted is actively updated by Blum as she receives submissions. You can check there to see how the thesis is coming along.

Submissions can be made via the QR code or through this link.

QR for Submissions
About Jeremy Sodergren 21 Articles
Jeremy Sodergren is a second year journalism major from Central Islip, NY. This is their third semester on the Oracle staff. He is also Music Director of SUNY New Paltz’s Absolut A Cappella and spends most of his free time sewing clothes. You can reach him by emailing sodergrj1@newpaltz.edu.

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