Every semester that I teach museum anthropology we begin with few weeks of discussion and analysis of collecting and value. During this period we look at the impulse to collect, the way objects are given value in sociocultural contexts and how this happens through social practices. This past weekend I came upon a great little short documentary which tells the story of a discerning sanitation worker—a connoisseur of trash—who rescues pieces he identifies as potentially valuable, and brings them together in a collection that he has elaborately stored and curated. The assemblages have grown in value as he has added objects over time—even as some of that collected value has rubbed off on individual objects.
And, of course, the filmmakers documentary (and even this short blog post!) contribute to the practices that are further enhancing the value of the garbage through the fantastic alchemy of collection and display.