World’s Smallest Museum

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Collector’s Weekly has a fascinating article about the world’s smallest museum, called Museum, in Manhattan. It’s only open 16 days a week, but you can look through the windows on weekends, and call a toll-free number to get an audio tour through your mobile.

Most of the items in the museum would seem like junk on their own, like a collection of money so mutilated is has been taken out of circulation, or a collection of toothpaste tubes from around the world. However, Alex Kalman, one of the curators, says that while things like newspapers and films are one way to learn about a culture, it’s possible to get a great insight from looking at “the smallest things that cultures create and seeing the similarities and differences between them.”

Here’s a snippet from the interview:

Of course, there’s that fine line between collecting and hoarding. It’s important to understanding where you stand on that and to make sure to limit yourself as well as others. But most of these collections don’t come from an endless desire to have. The Museum comes from a desire to create narratives through the collections. Definitely, when you think about the items individually, you can say, “Oh, this is junk.” But if you take a step back and view the collection as a whole, then suddenly it becomes easy to find meaning. Once you start looking at the packaging of Japanese toothpaste versus Italian toothpaste versus Russian toothpaste, it becomes very interesting quickly.

Another point is the way the collections are presented, the way we display them. Right now, we have 15 collections in the Museum, making up a total of about 200 objects. Each one has a story posted on the wall behind it. When the museum is closed, you can access the story via the audio guide. And when you enter the space, even though it’s in an unexpected place and at an unexpected scale, it feels like a museum. It feels as though you’re walking in the Louvre, expecting to see the “Mona Lisa,” but instead you’re presented with this toothpaste collection. And that’s to impose the clear value that we see in these objects, and that we treat them as seriously as one might a historical piece of art.

We’re trying to remind people to see the inspiration or the absurdity or the beauty in the everyday, and to be able to see it when you walk to work. Or when you go to the deli, the way someone has displayed sodas in the refrigerator can be meaningful and beautiful. After all, somebody spent time and energy to think of a considerate way to display those sodas, the same way somebody thought about, “How do we display the Queen’s jewels?”

World’s Smallest Museum Finds the Wonder in Everyday Objects   [Collector’s Weekly]

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