David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

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Joe Mckay
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David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Joe Mckay » June 20th, 2015, 2:29 pm

I have become interested in David Copperfield's Magic Museum after hearing a recent podcast in which Penn Jillette spoke about being given a guided tour by Copperfield.

It sounds like an incredible museum.

I remember seeing some footage of it during the interview with David Copperfield at one of the Essential Magic Conferences.

I just want to see if anyone knows if there are any plans to ever film a comprehensive DVD showing the wonders in the museum? Most of us will never get to visit it. So I was wondering if Copperfield has ever considered other ways of trying to share this unique experience? Then again - perhaps he wants to keep it an in person experience so as to not diminish the impact?

Lastly - has any of the magic magazines done a feature on the museum? And I am curious if anyone on here has visited it? Did you ever get a chance to look round, Richard? Or Max?

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » June 20th, 2015, 3:33 pm

I have been many times for research. There are no public tours or detailed videos. There is no book about the museum. It's one of those things where you have to know someone or have a legitimate research project to propose.
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Joe Mckay
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Joe Mckay » June 20th, 2015, 3:41 pm

Does David Copperfield meet you each time? Or do you sometimes go in when he is not there?

Just curious as to how it is staffed.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby observer » June 20th, 2015, 4:08 pm

A few years ago I read that Ricky Jay once said of the David Copperfield collection:

"It's like an Elvis imitator owning Graceland."

and the sheer ineffable snottiness of that remark has colored my feelings about RJ ever since.

But maybe he was misquoted? Or maybe he & David are good friends who enjoy taking good-natured shots at each other?

Anybody know?

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Joe Mckay » June 20th, 2015, 4:14 pm

Yeah - I remember that quote from the Mark Singer profile in the New Yorker back in 1993. It left a bad taste in my mouth as well.

I think Copperfield deserved a lot more respect than that. Although I feel that Copperfield didn't get the true recognition he deserved from the rest of magic until later on in that decade.

So - I wouldn't be surprised if RJ feels a little differently these days.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Dustin Stinett » June 20th, 2015, 5:04 pm

I suspect that, at the time, Ricky was still feeling the sting of losing control of the collection (he was its curator until the owner was forced to sell due to the S&L collapse of the early '90s). Ricky put in a lot of work growing the original collection.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Joe Mckay » June 20th, 2015, 6:05 pm

I have have heard Penn discuss the tour a couple of times.

What I find interesting is that he says the tour is much better precisely because it is not open to the public. Once things are opened to the public - they get locked behind glass cabinets. As such - for those lucky enough to go on it - it makes for an experience far superior to just about any other museum in the world.

Penn also said that if he had to bet money he would say that Copperfield loves magic even more than Penn loves Bob Dylan. Penn didn't think it was possible for somebody to love something that much.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » June 20th, 2015, 6:40 pm

RJ and DC don't talk.
There is no access without DC or Kenner leading a small group.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Bill Mullins » June 20th, 2015, 9:27 pm

observer wrote:A few years ago I read that Ricky Jay once said of the David Copperfield collection:

"It's like an Elvis imitator owning Graceland."


Don't blame Jay for someone else's words. The quotation, in context, should read:

"A friend of Jay’s who also knew Copperfield said to me later, “David
Copperfield buying the Mulholland Library is like an Elvis impersonator winding
up with Graceland.” "

The "Elvis impersonator" line is from an unnamed person, not Ricky Jay. I'm not sure Jay has ever publicly expressed his thoughts about Copperfield.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Dustin Stinett » June 20th, 2015, 9:39 pm

Thanks for that Bill. It has been a long time since I'd read that piece.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby observer » June 20th, 2015, 10:20 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:

The "Elvis impersonator" line is from an unnamed person, not Ricky Jay.


Thank you! That's good to know. Cause I like Learned Pigs and Cards as Weapons (which I have a copy of, bought as a teenager when it came out and Not For Sale mostly because it's not really saleable being full of my quite serious marginal annotations although I was not so serious a teenage magician as to not to find the illustrations intriguing) and am happy to find out that I can ease up on disliking their author.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Doug Thornton » June 20th, 2015, 10:34 pm

By the way, the groups have to be small - 6 people when I visited - because the passageways are small.

It is remarkable to be so close - without glass partitions - to so many precious artifacts of magic history!

If you have the EMC DVDs, there's an interview with David on the 2011 set that includes a brief tour. A couple videos online were shot there as well.

Two personal favorite moments for me: Standing next to Paul Kieve as the Harry Potter theme music played during a demo of the Blooming Rosebush and taking photos of Marvyn Roy standing next to the Mr. Electric part of the exhibit.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » June 21st, 2015, 12:26 am

But we all know how Ricky Jay feels about Copperfield. The same way he feels about most people in magic, his small circle excepted.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby jamessmith » July 21st, 2015, 7:36 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:
observer wrote:A few years ago I read that Ricky Jay once said of the David Copperfield collection:

"It's like an Elvis imitator owning Graceland."


Don't blame Jay for someone else's words. The quotation, in context, should read:

"A friend of Jay’s who also knew Copperfield said to me later, “David
Copperfield buying the Mulholland Library is like an Elvis impersonator winding
up with Graceland.” "

The "Elvis impersonator" line is from an unnamed person, not Ricky Jay. I'm not sure Jay has ever publicly expressed his thoughts about Copperfield.


The full article can be found at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1993/04/05/secrets-of-the-magus and is an interesting read even though it is now 22 years old.

Notwithstanding the dynamics between Copperfield and Jay the quote is not only by an unnamed individual but was also specifically in reference to Copperfield's acquisition of the Mulholland library. My understanding is that Copperfield collects pretty much all and sundry when it comes to magic but Jay's primary interest is in paper-based material. There are many opinions of both Copperfield and Jay as collectors but when it comes to books, playbills, etc I would bet the latter knows and appreciates his collection more. The only sadness with both is that so few other people ever get to appreciate what is hidden away in these respective collections.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 21st, 2015, 7:43 pm

A lot more people have seen David's collection than Ricky's.

David collects in a very specific way, not "all and sundry."

I believe that eventually David's collection will be available for people to see. I have no idea what Ricky's plans are.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby jamessmith » July 21st, 2015, 8:14 pm

Thank you, Richard. My "all and sundry" reference was meant to refer to the fact that Copperfield appears to collect across a wide range of materials (apparatus, books, posters, correspondence, association pieces) as opposed to Jay who (I think) primarily specialises in printed matter. It may well be that Copperfield is very specific and targeted in the individual items he acquires.

Although I know neither individual, nor have seen either collection, it does appear to be the case that Jay is by far the most secretive. Apart from his well known animosity towards magicians in general, I don't know why that would be the case. Or perhaps I have just answered my own question.

With any large collection I always wonder how anyone can keep abreast of what they have and truly understand the significance of individual items. That said, I am always amazed by the knowledge that some collectors who have helped me out have of their collections despite having many thousands of items.

Some people begrudge Copperfield and the way he collects; I do not. He undoubtedly has earnt the dollars he spends and genuinely has a love for magic and its history and a desire to preserve it. Where I struggle is when you hear stories of boxes of unopened and uncatalogued items within the "museum". If the collection does eventually become an open museum / research facility then that is very welcome but until that happens it appears to just be history vanishing into the abyss. What would it cost for a full, or even part-time curator, of the collection? Surely a relative drop in the ocean. As one of the hardest working pros in the business, there is clearly no way that Copperfield himself can do it in his spare time (if he has any), so why not employ someone who can?

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Jim Martin » July 21st, 2015, 11:03 pm

Rosebud-ish?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4mQqVqRB7I

Unlike Charles Foster Kane, from the videos I've seen, I think DC truly enjoys curating the collection.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 21st, 2015, 11:07 pm

David's museum is currently closed and undergoing a major renovation and enlargement precisely so those closed boxes can now be opened.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Bill Mullins » July 22nd, 2015, 12:08 am

jamessmith wrote: With any large collection I always wonder how anyone can keep abreast of what they have and truly understand the significance of individual items.


From your questions and statements, I'd bet that you are not a collector.

When I was in my teen years (1970s), I was a pretty serious comic book collector. I worked in a comic book store and used the money (part of it, anyway) to build my collection. At one time I had 3000 comic books, and I knew what I had. That is, I could look at a comic book in the inventory of the store, and know if I had it in my collection. For all 3000. With at least 98% accuracy. I never had to have a written checklist or want list when I went to comic shops or conventions, and I never ended up buying two copies of a book because I couldn't remember that I already had one. What's more, I had a pretty good idea who drew the cover art and the interior story art for at least 3/4ths of them. To this day, I bet I know at least half of what I have, and I haven't really examined the collection in over 30 years.

That's how collecting works. If you are into something, you know about it. You remember how you acquired pieces, what they smelled like, who you got them from, their condition. I have a House of Secrets #92 -- 1st Swamp Thing -- that I can describe the cover blemishes on it. I can remember a conversation I had with Neal Adams when he signed a copy of Green Lantern #76 for me in 1978. I remember buying issues of The Shadow (drawn by Mike Kaluta, based on stories written by magic's own Walter Gibson) in Smyrna TN and reading them at my grandmother's house.

Now I collect (maybe accumulate is a better word) magic books, and I have similar memories about the acquisition of most of those.

As far as private collections being a black hole compared to museums, I don't see that as a problem.
1. Collectors have no obligation to anyone else with respect to their collections. (although many will generously share and make available what they have to serious researchers -- check the acknowledgements of any good book on magic history -- they couldn't be written without the help of people like Mike Caveney, Ken Klosterman, George Daily, Ed Dawes, and even David Copperfield and Ricky Jay.)
2. Museums are black holes, too. The Smithsonian has something like only 2% of their collection on display -- the rest is in deep storage.
3. The only reason that so much material is in museums today is because a collector realized its value, acquired it, and donated it. The Library of Congress started with Thomas Jefferson's book donation. Many of the core works in the Smithsonian's National Gallery of art were donated by 19th century collectors. The Gardner Museum in Boston is based on Isabella Gardner's collection.

Quite simply, if there weren't collectors, we wouldn't have even a tiny fraction of the artifacts of history that we do.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby jamessmith » July 22nd, 2015, 6:49 am

Hi Bill,

I don’t disagree with any of your points. I am a collector of sorts (books too) but have not been at it as many years as most others I know so have only a very small number. I don’t doubt that any collector enjoys what they have (otherwise why would they bother?) and I have exactly those memories you talk about in respect of a number of my books. For me, though, it is precisely the fact that my collection is so small that I feel able to know it intimately. I’m not sure I could if I had thousands of items. Maybe that’s just something that naturally happens as a collection grows and hopefully I’ll be able to look back in many years time and still know my collection intimately - as you and others do - even though it will have grown in size.

I think we are actually spoilt in our little world of magic collecting as most collectors are more than happy to share their collections and knowledge. Some of those you name have helped me in my research. As you say, once privately owned, no-one is under any obligation to do so and perhaps it is exactly because we are spoilt with people’s generosity that it appears in stark contrast when we come across a collection that is not as easily accessible. I doubt all other fields of collecting are as lucky as us.

If my post came across as being critical of Copperfield and Jay it was not meant to be. They are preserving history and, as you say, without them and other collectors many items might ultimately be lost forever. It is much better that than what happens in the art world where many significant works end up in bank vaults as “investments” or are bought as status items, rather than being appreciated.

Best wishes,

James

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby AJM » July 22nd, 2015, 8:04 am

And for those who have collected for many years there will be undoubtedly be more than a few 'gems' in the collection, perhaps a vary high proportion.

What then becomes of it all once once we all shuffle off to join the choir invisible.

Do we catalogue and inventorise to ensure that those remaining appreciate the collection's worth and ensure items are passed on to other collectors?

Or are we happy for the entire collection to be binned or passed on to the nearest charity shop?

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Leo Garet » July 22nd, 2015, 10:08 am

Fully agree that collectors have no obligation to anyone else and good luck to them. But that said, I’m not sure anyone is knocking collectors, merely commenting that “stuff in boxes” is no good to anyone. Which it isn’t, generally. And who doesn’t have stuff in boxes/drawers that some people would love to have a look at or get their hands on? Not on the same scale as full-blown collectors, of course.
This stuff is not necessarily rare, merely long out of print.

In my, admittedly limited, experience it seems that many collectors do know where their stuff is. Back back in the day whenever I visited Eddie and Amy Dawes, the number of times I mentioned a book and Eddie (sometimes Amy) would instantly produce it never failed to amaze me. Eddie’s collection isn’t as big as some, but it is quite substantial, to put it mildly.

Also fully agree about museums/black holes; and we can toss art galleries into the same pot. Public libraries, too, at least in the UK. Shelf space is limited, especially now that books have to compete for space with DVDs and CDs and the IT suite. But the number of books hidden in the vaults is staggering. Nobody borrows them because nobody knows they exist. Although that’s changing and not in a good way. Sad to say, and this is a crime, nowadays many of them are not stored at all. They’re just binned. Binned, as in pulped.

There was a time (not so long ago) when my local library had book sales. Condition varied, of course, but there were bargains/gems to be had. Now they bin them. Oh well.

Slightly off-topic, probably, but there we are.
Also, scribbled before Mister Jamessmith’s most recent post.

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Leo Garet » July 22nd, 2015, 10:32 am

Meant to attach this to my last post. Not magic, but certainly collecting. And interesting.

http://www.hymanarchive.com/

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 22nd, 2015, 12:03 pm

I've collected many things in my life: when I collect, it is an obsession. I have sold all of my collections and excess magic books over the years. So, now my magic library only takes seven 8-foot bookcases! :) It would be seven bookcases, but one is totally filled with my own crap.

These days I only collect Theodore DeLand and Tenyo, and very rarely do I find something new (particularly with DeLand).

Unless I croak unexpectedly and without warning, I will die owning neither collection. You really have to take care of making sure the stuff gets into the right hands rather than leave the responsibility to your family.

Now I'm collecting The Mysterious Package Company. :)
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby keeper » August 1st, 2015, 7:41 pm

Mysterious Package Company is amazing.
Every day is a magical adventure!

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 1st, 2015, 9:03 pm

Al, have you done "The King in Yellow"? I just finished the experience this past week. Lots of fun opening the crate.
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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby OneMoreTime » August 2nd, 2015, 4:19 pm

Richard, is the King in Yellow a Lovecraft themed effect?

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Re: David Copperfield Magic Museum Tour

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 2nd, 2015, 7:37 pm

No, it predates Lovecraft; it greatly influenced Lovecraft, and he referenced it.
The author is Robert W. Chambers, and it was published in 1895.
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