Eclectic collector puts a bit of everything on display

August 15, 1999

Doug Bast, owner and director of the Boonsborough Museum of History, says he has an eclectic collection in his museum. He does. He says he is eclectic. He is.

Bast is a semi-retired furniture trader with a passion for research and local history. He also is terminally bitten by the collecting bug.

The museum has everything from slave shackles and body armor to Chinese flatware dating to the T'ang dynasty. He has a piece of marble taken from the White House during the renovation under the Truman administration. He has a mummified bird.

Bast also has built an entire 19th century general store. He displays an 1860's woodworking shop. And he has a 7-by-7 case full of religious artifacts, many of them from Russia. And the list goes on.


Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer even has a spot on one of Bast's walls. Schaefer was touring Boonsboro under his administration; when Schaefer stopped at the museum, he told Bast he had the best little museum in Maryland and put him on the state map of attractions.

Bast is the only one who answers the phone at the museum - it's also his home.

Bast met me at his front door. The porch was covered with old cannons and World War II anti-tank guns, but the house still looked ordinary from the outside.

But once I entered, I realized this was an extraordinary museum.

The first room I saw looked like a weapons exhibit at first. I looked up at the ceiling and saw spears and pikes from John Brown's 1859 raid at Harpers Ferry. Beneath the spears was a showcase full of carved bullets.

On closer inspection, many of the mini balls aren't bullets at all, but artwork - a byproduct of soldiers' boredom between battles. One lead carving even had a faint resemblance to Honest Abe.

Three feet away, a display case holds more than 200 years of history in firearms from match-lock muskets to guns that tamed the West and early cartridge guns from 1870.

But in the same room, there are things that have nothing to do with weapons. Another showcase displays personal belongings highlighting important dates in history.

One case holds a Bible on which thousands of Civil War prisoners of war swore against the Confederacy; next to that is an admission ticket to Lincoln's conspirators' hanging. Another display case holds a cane carved by the Apache leader Geronimo.

In the next room, Bast has a replica armor suit next to a case full of religious iconery. On the adjacent wall is a history of Confederate officer Henry Kyd Douglas, who wrote "I Rode With Stonewall." In the middle of the room is a history of John Brown's raid. Next to that is a collection of slavery items.

Bast's collection is a bit overwhelming. Bast maintains six rooms in the house. Some have themes, and some have no rhyme or reason. All of them are crammed with collectibles.

I was in turns impressed, curious and a bit confused. Luckily, Bast was there to guide me to points of interest, because the clutter would have scared me off.

Bast, 62, started collecting when he was 9 and hasn't stopped since. Sometimes he searches for specific pieces to add to his collection at auctions and in catalogs. Other times he'll buy an attic full of stuff and sort through it for anything that's interesting.

Bast admits he doesn't have the space he would like to display his treasures. He thinks he's got about 10 percent of his belongings on display.

Bast says he is most proud of the diversity in his museum's collection and boasts that he has the best little museum in Maryland - which he probably does.

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