Air Mobility Command Museum hosts Collectors Day

DOVER — Goeffrey Crawley has been collecting bugs for decades. He has stag beetles and stick insects, leaf insects and June bugs, so many different ones he doesn’t know even an exact number.

His bugs were on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum Saturday along with about two dozen other collections, including elephants, toy cars, NASCAR paraphernalia and more, gathered inside the museum for the 14th annual Collectors Day.

The event began at 9, and within two hours, the parking lot was full. A steady stream of people filtered in, some stopping to look at the aircraft and dioramas on display as well.

Mr. Crawley, who insists his name and interest in bugs are mere coincidence, had his cases stretched out across tables, the insects pinned neatly inside drawing attention from many curious spectators.

It’d be easy to mistake Mr. Crawley, who began collecting bugs as a Boy Scout decades ago, for an entomologist. Not only does he import many insects from other countries — dead, since laws restrict what living bugs can be brought in — he has bred stag beetles.

Much of his experience in and passion for creepy crawlies comes from time spent in Japan.

“The Japanese, it’s such a cultural thing,” he said. “It’s more rewarding to go out collecting in the forests of Japan because there’s more types and they’re more abundant. So you go out with your kids, you go to a light near a forest, you’re going to find something at the right time of year. It’s very predictable. But here, it’s hit or miss.”

Some of his insects are several inches in size, the kind that could make even a wildlife lover shudder.

Just a few tables down from Mr. Crawley was Derek Biggs, of Camden, who brought part of his assortment of his old Bibles and religious books.

Mr. Biggs is not just a casual collector — in addition to dozens of Bibles, he has 2,000 comic books and 1,300 soda bottles, among other items, which he has brought to the museum in the past.

“This is like maybe the cream of the crop,” he said of the books he chose to display Saturday.

A self-described “religious nut,” he has been collecting old Bibles and religious texts for about a decade, picking them up at consignment shops and flea markets and paying anywhere between a few cents and $20 for a book. He has a few pages from the 1500s, a book from 1683 and a small coin he said is more than 2,000 years old.

“I just consider myself a preservationist, … Like a museum person,” he said. “For the next generation. My son might get it and maybe he’ll pass it on.”

Mr. Biggs said he would like to receive a grant, which would allow him to open a small museum showing his collection to interested people.

Several military-themed collections were laid out, including war medals owned by Eric Czerwinski. About a dozen cases sat on his table, a handful of medals in each box.

A fan of military keepsakes since his youth, Mr. Czerwinski is proud of his collection, which includes World War I and World War II medals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan.

Among his assortment are Purple Hearts, Russian commemorative medals and Nazi armbands, all bought from military shows and antique stores, as well as family members of medal recipients.

One of his most prized medal groups belonged to Col. William A. McWilliams, a Dover resident who lived just a block and a half away from where Mr. Czerwinski resides.

Mr. Czerwinski, a military veteran who has taught history at Wesley College, has returned a few medal groups to families. He sees the honors as representing both the high and low points of a soldier’s life, a symbol of their sacrifices.

“Of all things people leave behind, typically they might leave behind a watch or a ring, something that’s of some value to them,” he said. “But when you leave behind the medal groups, this is what’s left of all these people. There’s nothing else that’s left of them that you can say, ‘Hey, this is part of their life.’ It identifies them by name.”

Medals, Mr. Czerwinski believes, tell stories.

“Once you split up (a soldier’s awards), they’ll never get it back, and that story’s destroyed,” he said.

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