The Magnes Museum Collection Cradles Extraordinary Objects and Textiles
Tzedakah Boxes at The Magnes Collection

Museums Save Ordinary as Extraordinary

Museums often collect the once ordinary that has become extraordinary and revealing. To imagine that something that would have been casually used everyday, never considered special or unique, perhaps even considered temporary or disposable, has survived 50 or 100 years or more is amazing. 

On this table in the background (at the top of the photo) the staff at The Magnes were laying out items for an upcoming exhibition.


These plates (in the photo below) connect to food. The plate above (left) says 'milk' and the plate below center says 'meat.' 


Labeled plates may seem odd to us since most people use different china patterns to remember which is the milk or meat plates to keep Kosher. The staff explained that these plates were from a restaurant where they didn't want to take a chance that the plates would be mixed up. But even more extraordinary, they actually had their original plastic wrap so that everyone would know they were clean.

Imagine plastic wrap lasting decades!

The Magnes even had old spice tins ready for the next exhibition.  While not valuable in the terms of a purchase price, a tin from Horowitz Margareten (a Kosher spice company) is almost impossible to find. 

I love spice tins....and have used them to construct some of my work.

Below is another utilitarian and pedestrian object from the past. Typewriter-Underwood-Manual-Hebrew-Yiddush

High tech in1923, but out dated since, this Underwood typewriter with lettering for Yiddush and Hebrew somehow avoided reclamation for scrap metal for 90 years. 


The typewriter is creatively used to display information in the exhibition at The Magnes Collection. 


In the above photo, Dr. Daniel Viragh, Post Doctoral Fellow at The Magnes, describes how he and his students searched the archives of The Magnes Collection at the Bancroft Library.

Hundreds of hours went into research of personal papers, letters and newspaper clippings from the 1940's and 50's. Ephemera that somehow survived 60+ years and now serves to offer insight in research. I wonder what will happen in the future when personal papers no longer exist, and everything is on the "old" computers hard drive, lost forever.

This is why museums like The Magnes Collection of Art and Culture provide such a valuable role.

Saving and collecting objects representing former times can become extraordinary if they have survived to share their history.  That is what The Magnes Collection is all about.

Your work could become part of a museum collection, especially if it represents something in our contemporary culture or captures a theme of our times. 

P.S. Tomorrow I will share some ordinary objects that had a significant impact on my work.