News / Arts & Entertainment

    Former 'Opium Fiend' Gives Drug Gear to University

    Donor Steven Martin and University of Idaho curator Priscilla Wegars hold antique opium pipes. (VOA/T. Banse)
    Donor Steven Martin and University of Idaho curator Priscilla Wegars hold antique opium pipes. (VOA/T. Banse)
    Tom Banse
    It's taken weeks to carefully unpack and catalogue all the opium implements and accessories former addict Steven Martin has decided to donate to the University of Idaho.

    He estimates the collection includes at least 1,000 pieces of opium-smoking paraphernalia, including ceramic opium pipe bowls, ornamented heating lamps, traveling kits, scrapers, old photographs and mug shots.

    Martin is working with University of Idaho historian and curator Priscilla Wegars, who stops to admire an elaborately decorated, 19th century Asian pipe bowl.  Clearly some upper-class drug users indulged their habits with style and pizazz.
    Ceramic opium pipe bowls; the center one has a toad design.(VOA/T. Banse)Ceramic opium pipe bowls; the center one has a toad design.(VOA/T. Banse)
    x
    Ceramic opium pipe bowls; the center one has a toad design.(VOA/T. Banse)
    Ceramic opium pipe bowls; the center one has a toad design.(VOA/T. Banse)

    Martin's expansive collection started just over a decade ago with a spur-of-the-moment souvenir purchase of an opium pipe.  

    "I had what I like to call a collector's epiphany," he says. "I really became obsessed with it from that moment. I decided I had to collect more."

    At the time, Martin worked as a Bangkok-based freelance writer who often took jobs updating travel guidebooks.  

    "So my collecting meshed with my work," he says. "I was able to travel around and look at antique shops in different cities in Southeast Asia."

    In the name of research, Martin also visited rustic smoking rooms - so-called opium dens - in Laos, possibly the last in existence.  

    "I did, around that time, start experimenting with opium-smoking myself," Martin says. "At the time, I was able to rationalize it as research for my collection."

    In his new memoir, "Opium Fiend," Martin describes his long slide from occasional experimentation to full-blown addiction. Eventually, he says, he was smoking 30-to-40 pipes a day. He kicked the habit in late 2007 by checking himself into a Buddhist monastery which specializes in narcotics rehab.

    Even before that, however, Martin was thinking about where to donate his opium-smoking paraphernalia. Some institution in San Francisco? Or maybe turn it into a for-profit attraction in Las Vegas?

    He eventually decided to send the forbidden treasures to the University of Idaho, after coming across an archaeology book, edited by the university's Priscilla Wegars, which included a chapter on opium-smoking artifacts.
    Donor Steven Martin and University of Idaho curator Priscilla Wegars examine and catalogue the donated opium artifacts.(VOA/T. Banse)Donor Steven Martin and University of Idaho curator Priscilla Wegars examine and catalogue the donated opium artifacts.(VOA/T. Banse)
    x
    Donor Steven Martin and University of Idaho curator Priscilla Wegars examine and catalogue the donated opium artifacts.(VOA/T. Banse)
    Donor Steven Martin and University of Idaho curator Priscilla Wegars examine and catalogue the donated opium artifacts.(VOA/T. Banse)

    "I was very, very impressed by what knowledge they were able to glean from these mere shards that they were pulling out of the ground here in Idaho and other parts of the Western U.S.," Martin says. "I knew that they would take my collection seriously."

    He was right. Wegars was eager to add Martin's ornate objects to a research collection of artifacts related to Asian immigration to the American West, her area of expertise.

    She explains that immigrant Chinese laborers popularized the custom of opium smoking in North America in the mid-1800's. The drug could be legally imported into the U.S. until federal laws banned it in 1909. However, some states and U.S. cities could and did outlaw it earlier by local ordinance.  

    Wegars says this led to numerous police raids on illicit opium dens where Chinese were arrested, while Caucasians in attendance often managed to escape. The pipes and other drug paraphernalia were usually seized and destroyed.

    "It is amazing how quiet the room becomes when you hold up an opium pipe, an opium pipe bowl, and have the lamp there and start to demonstrate how this was used," Wegars says. "People are fascinated."

    The University of Idaho had already acquired a few opium-smoking accoutrements from archaeological digs at Western “ghost towns,” or abandoned mining settlements. Those objects are very plain and utilitarian compared to the newly donated paraphernalia, according to Wegars.

    The university did seek permission from state authorities before accepting the Martin collection.

    "Because opium-smoking paraphernalia - any kind of drug paraphernalia - is forbidden to own, we did get an opinion from the attorney general in Idaho," Wegars says.  "Because it was for teaching, research and study purposes and would be securely housed at the University of Idaho, it would be OK for us to have it."

    Besides, both Wegars and Martin point out, most objects in the collection are no longer functional.

    The antique drug paraphernalia will not be on public display except when items are loaned out to museums. The collection will be open to scholars and researchers by appointment.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures