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Pre-Modern High Tech

Last month the Washington Post ran a short article by Erin Blakemore on medieval scientific instruments, “Think smartphones are astonishing? Discover the ‘high tech’ devices of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.” It was a little light on details, but nicely highlighted Epact, an on-line collection of pre-modern scientific instruments. It is easy while away […]

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Corporate, Personal, and Neon Museums

For more than 500 years people, governments, churches, and other institutions have used their collections of things to assert, display, and establish their own authority and standing. Arranged in cabinets of curiosity, cabinets of wonder, Kunstkammern, Wunderkammern, or museums, the artifacts in such collections often reflect a logic of display idiosyncratic to the collector’s own […]

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Ciba Pharmaceuticals and Mid-Century Marketing

I know nothing about Ciba Pharmaceutical Products and had never heard of the company until I found this pamphlet in a box of old books. Apparently, Ciba Pharmaceuticals produced pamphlets on various topics related to pharmaceuticals and chemistry. This one contains a number of articles by William Jerome Wilson, who contributed to a number of […]

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Collecting Memo Books

Aaron Draplin has a large collection of memo books—mostly mid-century advertising material for seeds, fencing, fertilizers, and other farming related products. In a video posted at Field Notes he talks about his interest in and motivation for collecting memo books and about the arbitrariness of collecting and organizing anything. The video is at The Memo […]

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From Trash Collecting to Collection of Trash

Another article in the NY Times raises questions about the nature of features of a museum. This time, a NYC sanitation worker, Nelson Molina, has spent the last 20 years collecting things that other people have thrown away. His collection now includes around 1000 pieces of art that he has arranged in the second floor […]

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Another NY Times Article on Museums

The NY Times is once again covering museums. The latest article, “In Texas Tradition, Museums That Enshrine the Quirky,” underscores how any collection of things can be displayed and called a museum. Apparently, collectors in Texas take seriously the American Association of Museums’ criteria that to be a museum it must make a “unique contribution […]

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Collecting Everyday Objects

Related the article in the Smithsonian Magazine I discussed in Collecting Salt Shakers … is this article in the NY Times: “A Family History, Liberally Peppered. In this case, another quotidian table utensil, the lowly pepper mill, has been extracted from the world of utility and elevated to an objet d’art. For the family, collecting […]

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Collecting Salt Shakers …

An article in the Smithsonian reports on an enormous collection of salt and pepper shakers: “Would You Like Some Salt and Pepper? How About 80,000 Shakers’ Worth?.” This collection, despite receiving the imprimatur of the Smithsonian, is no better or worse than Harley Spiller’s collection of 10,000 Chinese takeout menus: Inspector Collector: Chinese Menus. In […]