New York City has a Garbage Museum!
Located in DSNY Sanitation Garage 11 on 99th street between First and Second Avenue, in a space deemed unsafe for garbage trucks, is a gallery filled with found objects from the city’s trash. For those of us who have furnished our apartments with cool free stuff found on trash day, this is a welcoming sign of approval. Curated by Nelson Molina, a retiring sanitation worker and Robin Nagle, anthropologist-in-residence for New York City’s Department of Sanitation, “Treasures in the Trash” is a uniquely New York space.
Nelson grew up poor in New York City. Before Christmas he discovered that he could go out on the streets and find stuff in the trash to fix up for his six brothers and sisters. “I was Santa Clause in my family.” After passing the civil service exams, Nelson could chose to work at three city agencies. Not surprisingly, he chose the sanitation department and continued his passion for finding interesting New Yorker discards.
Nelson’s route, Manhattan District 11 between 96th Street to 110 Street and between 1st and 5th Avenues results in more than 90% of the museum’s collection. As it grew, he started categorizing similar pieces together. A variety of things from door knobs to train sets, watches, chinaware, toys, paintings, and chairs are all brilliantly organized, even though they were collected years apart. Many pieces are in working condition, from an old projector of the silent films era to dolls, toy trains and the ubiquitous Nordic Tracks, of which my Martin has four.
Nelson used to document every piece by date, time and address where found until it became too time consuming. Yet, the unofficial count of over 50,000 pieces in the collection gets cleaned and fixed up before going on exhibit. “If it looks cool, it becomes part of the museum.” All of this experience gives Nelson the ability to detect just by the way a garbage bag sounds if it has anything worth checking out inside.
With Molina now retiring from the DSNY, with the building long unsuitable for its primary use, there are plans to bulldoze the current structure and build a new one. Nelson and Nagle are looking for the next home of this most unique of New York City places. Check out his story & how to visit on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RkxkFALKPc
Until next week,