Macie McGraw's collection includes bird nests and a honeycomb. She also has a wasp nest, shark teeth, a deer skull and a beaver skull. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Start a collection of your own

According to Larry Bird, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, being a curator means caring for a collection. And your collection doesn’t have to be exotic. “It should be something that amuses or delights you,” says Bird, who had a collection of matchbooks when he was a kid.

You can start a collection this summer, gathering anything that appeals to you, from bumper stickers to bottle caps. (Of course, check with your parents first.) Bird recommends starting in your back yard. “Look for different types of moss or even stink bugs,” he says. “Your collection begins with just one thing.”

Macie’s advice for getting started:

1. Don’t be afraid to start a collection with just a few ordinary things. Specimens don’t have to be perfect, but on the other hand, Macie McGraw says, you may not want “half a beetle.”

2. Collect things that make you happy.

3. Find a nice place to store or display your items.

4. As your collection grows, expand and categorize it if you like. You can, for instance, arrange items from small to large.

5. Take time to look at things you’ve collected and learn from them.

— Kitson Jazynka