Rabbits dressed as humans are colorful additions to the Many More Things People Collect exhibit.

Rabbits Run Amok 

Rabbits dressed as humans are colorful additions to the Many More Things People Collect exhibit.

"I was born just before Easter and I grew up getting a lot of rabbit-themed gifts," says Ruth Dreher of Olathe, in an attempt to explain her baffling collection of rabbits dressed as humans. "As time goes on, you start weeding out certain things. After a while, I focused solely on rabbits wearing clothing."

After decades spent collecting, Dreher has come to the conclusion that "everyone has a collection, whether they know it or not." But a narrow focus separates recreational, halfhearted collectors from that rare breed who -- like Dreher -- won't stop until the collection is undeniably complete.

"When you become a dedicated collector," Dreher says, "you do the research, you know the value of things and you know about certain artists or companies that were prolific in that field. I think you go a step further."

Some of the collectors displaying their wares in this year's Many More Things People Collect exhibit at Crown Center seem to have stepped right over the edge. From animal-related ephemera to the mind-boggling singularity of a tire-repair-kit collection, it's like the Smithsonian Institution of an alternate universe in which knickknacks are high culture.

The exhibit gives visitors an unusual chance to lay eyes on these treasures, which are usually locked away in spare bedrooms or dusty basements. Display cards explain the origins of the various collections and give insights into what keeps their owners searching for things that most of us would overlook at the yard sale down the street.

In Dreher's case, it's partly a visual thing. "I was drawn to rabbits wearing clothes because of the colors," she explains, "as opposed to rabbits in dull woodland scenes." Dreher's rabbits dance closely in blood-red evening gowns and indigo-blue suits, carry vivid rainbows of balloons and wander through town in well-pressed khakis and coveralls.

Dreher also notes that the symbolism of dressing animals in human clothing might have inspired her. "In literature and mythology, they always talk about how we use animals in fables and allegories because we can accept animals doing foolish things even if we're doing the same foolish things. Plus, rabbits are a symbol of spring, life and rebirth. Life goes on through all the elements."

But the life of Dreher's collection might not spring eternal, even with all that helpful symbolism on her side. "I've been collecting rabbits dressed as humans for so many years that now I feel tapped out," she admits. "You focus on a collection, keep building it, and you eventually reach a saturation point and move on to something else."

She's considering selling some of the pieces she has on display but happily admits she will never stop looking for rabbits dressed as humans. "I think I'll just be more discerning in what I get in the future."

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