Provenance Prize Subject No. 1: Broken Heart.



An award presented for the art of imagining the life of antiques. 

Announcing the Old as Adam Prize in Letters, or the “Provenance Prize” for short, an award presented to a writer who captures the imagined history of an object in a creative and compelling way. 

Antiques are more than just old stuff. They hold stories, often untold, about their origins, about where they’ve gone, about the people who made and owned them. Old things hold unknowable secrets, but their mute mystery is not a wall but a door. The creative power of objects decades or centuries old is accessible to anyone, provided they take a few moments to wonder at the presence of the past held in their hand. The Provenance Prize celebrates the untold stories and imaginative pleasures of antiques.

On a regular basis, I will choose an object from the collection. The history of the piece is likely lost. Tell me that history. Who made it? Who owned it? What has it seen? What does it symbolize for you? You needn’t answer any of these questions, just let the piece guide you. The object may play a principal or minor role. Submissions should (theoretically) take the form or short fiction or poetry, but I won’t place limitations on creative work as long as it involves imagining an object’s past.

First Prize: $100 Old as Adam gift certificate and $40 Portsmouth Book & Bar gift certificate

Second Prize: $50 Old as Adam gift certificate and $25 Portsmouth Book & Bar gift certificate


  • Written submissions should be 500 words or less.
  • Submissions may be anonymous.
  • Anyone is welcome to write, whether or not they’ve heard of Old as Adam.
  • As this is about imagining the life of a physical object, participants are encouraged (but certainly not required) to visit the shop to see the piece in person.
  • Finalists shall be judged anonymously by Old as Adam and Portsmouth Book & Bar customers.
  • Selected work will be collected and shared publicly after the contest on an ongoing basis.
  • The Prize is actually always up for grabs, even if a contest isn’t currently in effect. If you fall in love with something at the shop but it isn’t quite within reach, I’ll give you a generous discount for a worthy creative work in its honor.
  • Submissions can be sent to or brought in person to the shop.
  • Deadline for the first subject is April 1, 2014.
  • Have fun! Whether it be serious, silly, or surreal, all creative work is welcome.

And now, I give you the first subject of the Prize.


Damaged plaster medical model of a heart on a wooden base, circa 1910s. Made in Germany (as many medical devices and models were). The heart is hand-painted in a realistic manner. Delicate hand-written letters denote the various parts of the organ, although whatever accompanying guide is of course long gone. The heart shows the slot of an interior pin where a removable section of the organ would have originally locked in. This section is missing. Interior ventricles–fashioned of painted string–have broken from the plaster wall. The plaster shows various chips and scratches. The piece is 14.5 inches tall, the heart alone 5 1/2 inches and 4 1/2 inches wide.

$185. While for sale, it will remain in the shop for the duration of the contest.