University gets collection of thousands of bags to exhibit

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — An unusual new collection is in the bag at the University of Akron.

Roughly 12,000 bags — made of paper, plastic, metal and even glass — and bag-related pieces make up the Lee L. Forman Collection of Bags.

The big batch of bags donated to UA includes shopping bags autographed by artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and at least one bag from every presidential election since 1948.

There’s a cheeseburger bag signed by Elvis Presley and a 100-year-plus saddle bag made to sit on a horse.

Sometimes Forman, who lived in McLean, Virginia, and died in 2009, had a loose definition of bag — the assemblage includes a 45 RPM record sleeve signed by all four Beatles.

“Bags are an everyday item that some people don’t think about,” said Jodi Kearns, director of UA’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. “But they are such a significant part of our cultural lives.”

And the collection fits perfectly into the institute’s mission of exploring “what it means to be human,” she said.

The institute is on the third and fourth floors of the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, which also includes the National Museum of Psychology, which opened last year and showcases the largest collection of psychological material of its kind in the world.

Forman, a graphic artist, began collecting bags in the 1970s, initially saving Bloomingdale’s department store limited-edition bags featuring various artists’ designs.

She also was a fan of Bloomingdale’s signature big, small and medium “Brown Bags,” introduced in the early 1970s.

Twenty or so years ago, her collecting really took off, when she began to buy bags online, and go after collector’s pieces. Her husband, Howard Forman, who retired from the family wholesale liquor business in 1999, helped her pursue items.

The collection also includes non-shopping bags — a body bag, the saddle bag-related, air sickness bags, as well as clothes, paintings and scarves featuring images of bags and more.

She did not, however, collect purses, Kearns said, knowing that others were amassing large collections of them