Stoop Story 02: Montana Picker
The Architect’s Wife has always been focused internally on showcasing our showroom space and the artists, creators, or makers within it. But given the current circumstances, we’re learning to shift our focus and connect with people in new ways. More importantly, we want to shine a light on craftspeople and the creativity they contribute to our community. In this series which we’ve dubbed “Stoop Stories”, The Architect’s Wife visits friends and makers to share how they’re staying in/spired.
David Perlstein, also known as Montana Picker, is an avid collector of all things Montana history. He specializes in Advertising and Americana but can share the history of just about any artifact. From early photographs, maps, books, documents, bottles, tokens, political posters and badges, labels, industrial pieces, breweriana, postcards, execution notices, to different territories around Montana – Dave is a fountain of knowledge.
As a friend of The Architect’s Wife, Dave has contributed to many projects – sourcing statement pieces or perhaps providing a final piece to the puzzle. We took a day touring his home in downtown Bozeman, Montana where he shared the stories and history behind his found treasures. We hope Dave will ignite some curiosity in you or perhaps serve as a reminder to look at things a bit closer next time, consider it’s history, and preserve the quality that makes it valuable – if not for you, someone else.
“Welcome to my pandemic problem. When you walk into my home, it’s not a River Runs Through It, it’s more of a Disaster Runs Through It, but it’s my variation of Montana history”.
Tell us how it all began…
My world has been a strange journey of collecting and history. I started collecting baseball cards. My Grandmother was a collector. I liked a lot of contemporary and folk art. I used to explore Chicago and noticed outsider art picking up. I have a history degree and transitioning from being a Chicago boy to a Bozeman boy with a love for history – history of people or the history of the people that collected these items.
There are items here that are amazing to me. Then there are items that are amazing to me because of where they came from, who collected them, and that I was allowed to be the next steward of it – sort of bestowed to me with the idea to not let it go to the junk pile.
How did you land the name Montana Picker?
People always kept asking me “Hey, are you like that show American Pickers [on the History channel]?” In crafting my name Montana Picker, I used to be just ‘Dave’ and I told people I ‘junk’. I think they might have expected ‘Sanford and Son’. I kept hearing this name so I sort of picked it up. It’s a decent name I’m more in collections and in touch with museums and universities. The picker name for better or for worse is something people understand. I don’t pull up in a sprinter van or a trunk and schlep things away though.
Whose you’re clientele?
I have an eclectic collection and deal with so many different collectors – I deal with people that only collect brewery history, only collect neons, only collect cans, only collect photographs, only collect bottles… So I can go into everyones collection, know something about what they collect and know who collects it. It’s a bit of a horse-trading game, but the neat part is having that avenue of having the Architect’s Wife and being now able to see an item in it’s home (instead of seeing the bland things that you can buy online or on eBay). Clients are actually receiving historical Montana artifacts and they look amazing. And to me, not only does it make me feel really great about seeing this stuff stay alive, it’s about adding great character to a home.
What do you find special?
It’s amazing what resonates with different people. Not everything I have is Montana theme –I like having weirder, factional pieces from a collective standpoint.
When someone presents me with something, they’re giving me a story and I like to open that story up. They story is what’s really special to me. I also really like old folk art advertising. And sometimes it’s just a treasure hunt.
Signs specifically. Each sign is it’s own tale – it’s a reflection of where I was, who I was with, my relationship to that person – and that’s what I think is really neat. I can see friends or people that did this before me and hear why they saved it and how got it from point A to point B.
What is your end goal with all of your pieces?
The goal would be to find other stewards. You hope that it gets loved and shared. You can’t keep everything – right? So what I’ve learned with Abby is that the design world is an incredible opportunity for me to find things, keep them salvageable, and Abby can make them interesting and unique. Abby has helped me enter this new world of appreciating being able to find things and pass them on in that sense. It also allows me to keep getting bigger and better things.
It’s amazing to reach out to the tight-knit community [of collectors] that I have and to be able to say “Hey look, it’s restored, it’s home and it’s alive again”. It’s a neat story.
If you had to pick only one treasure from your wall to keep – which one would it be?
Everything about Montana history is captured here on this whiskey label. Booze. Water. Mountains. Mining. The Railroad. The State Capital in Helena. And it’s all here on a label. So much on so little on the teeny little label.
What have you been up to during quarantine?
Too much social media, though it has been great for education and meeting new folks around the state that collect or are interested to share memories and historical items they own. I’ve also used this time to seek out items specific for AW projects.
What’s something you’ve been working on your excited about?
A remodel of my space with Abby to make it the most interesting way to display and show my collection. Especially to keep me excited.
If you could have someone else’s voice, whose would it be?
Anything else you’d like to share?
Patience and honesty.
The Architect’s Wife is focused on sharing togetherness, inspired spaces, and warmth in any capacity we can generate it. Here we shine a light on craftspeople and the creativity they contribute to our community.