News | May 2, 2013

Harvard Announces Student Collecting Contest Winners

May 2, 2013 — The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, marked by tragedy, are also known for being the first to incorporate a brand across all aspects of the games.

“The Munich games were really the first games to create a visual identity. And it was a visual and graphic identity that spoke to the new identity of West Germany,” said Matthew Gin. “This was important because it was the first games held in Germany after World War II.”

Gin, a Ph.D. candidate in architecture, was this year’s first place winner in the Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting. His collection “Between West Germany and the World: Design at the 1972 Munich Olympics” was deemed outstanding by the judges who evaluated this year’s entries.

The annual prize, open to all Harvard students, is named for Philip Hofer, ’21, a former curator of Houghton Library. The awards are given to students whose collection of books or works of art fulfill “the traditions of breadth, coherence and imagination” exemplified by Hofer. According to Hope Mayo, Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts and one of the judges who evaluated the entries, this year’s Hofer Prize competition attracted such a strong field the judges decided to award not only a first prize of $2,000, but also two second prizes of $1,000 each, and  two third prizes of $500 each.

This year’s prize winners were recently recognized at a ceremony at Houghton prior to the Philip Hofer Lecture on April 16.

Gin began collecting Munich games material out of necessity.

“As I was working on my master’s thesis it was difficult to do the research because this material was not in one place. I really had to build my own archive,” Gin said.

His diverse collection contains city maps, official handbooks, parking passes, paper napkins and a plush toy mascot, among other ephemera. According to the judges, the collection offers a vivid picture of the role of design as a means for creating a brand for the games. In addition to a certificate and his prize money, Gin has been invited to exhibit a portion of his collection in Lamont Library during the coming year.

Samuel Milner, ’13, was awarded a second prize for his art collection “The Cleveland School: Then and Now.” Collecting paintings and sculpture from Cleveland, Ohio, artists has a personal connection for Milner, seeing as he is a native of the city.

“I’ve always liked and appreciated art, and being from Cleveland, it makes sense for me to collect pieces from local artists,” said Milner, whose former school back in Cleveland features a fountain created by local artist Joseph Motto.

An interest in art can be more easily fueled in the digital age, Milner added.

“There’s just more information about auctions and greater access to catalogues these days,” he said, “so finding nice pieces is just easier.”

The other second prize was given to Margot Leger, ’13, for “Rediscovering The Classic: South African Literary Magazines of the 1960s.” One of the third prizes went to Matthew Alpert, ’14, for “What is a Computer? What is Consciousness? What is Reality?” The other third prize was awarded to Martin Greenup, a graduate student in the English Department, for “‘My Wars are laid away in books’: Emily Dickinson in Print.”

To be considered for the Hofer Prize, each student is asked to submit an essay about the genesis and nature of his or her collection, together with an annotated bibliography of items in the collection. The collections are judged on purpose, consistency and quality, not on cost, rarity, or size.