Fanfare for a Stunning Hand Fan Collection

Fan Collector

PAMELA SHER IS the founder and director of the Hand Fan Museum, the only one of its kind in the United States, located right off Healdsburg’s square on its eponymous avenue. As one might expect, a hand fan is a handheld air mover that was much more popular before the advent of air-conditioning. In 2003 Sher showcased around 1,200 fans in a 200-square-foot space but has since expanded her reach by moving 500-or-so of the collectibles from all across the globe to a bigger space next door at the h2hotel, a property she and her husband, Merritt, are partners in.




HOW MANY PIECES? More than 1,000

WHY? It’s a long story, but the pursuit combined my two greatest interests, art and history. I am a former art and history teacher. This collection has gone on to become the core collection of the Hand Fan Museum.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PIECE? A 19th-century Viennese advertising fan with a pug on it. We were pug owners at the time.

WHERE DO YOU FIND THE FANS? In junk and antique stores, from other collectors and at auction. Drouot, an auction house in Paris, has special auctions just for fans. The museum’s collection has also grown from donations.

HAVE YOU COME ACROSS OTHER HAND FAN COLLECTORS? Anyone with an interest in hand fans can join a local group like the East Bay Fan Guild, which meets in Oakland. There are also larger groups like the Fan Association of North America that meets annually. The European group, Fan Circle International, is based in the U.K. Incidentally, a new fan company created to produce modern folding fans is just starting up here in Marin; it is called Pleat.

FAVORITE? That is like asking who your favorite child is, but a trompe l’oeil fan where mice appear to eat the fan itself, a 19th-century German ivory fan with carved lily of the valley relief, and a 19th-century large French satin leaf fan with painted roses are some of my favorites.

HIGHEST-PRICED ITEM More than $10,000


Hand fan collection

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Fan Fare”.