All museums have missions.
This Museum exists to be discovered.
It’s a catalyst for surprise and wonder and community.

The wonder depends on the surprise, and the surprise depends on it remaining a secret. That’s the first paradox. I’ve been wondering how to share a work that is by nature secret, sketchy, and illegal.

The second paradox is that if you make art out of other people’s trash, well meaning citizens might throw it away. So I had considered the Earthday Cleanup scheduled for Saturday, April 19, to be a deadline: Share this work before an army of girl scouts and art critics carries it out of the woods in bright plastic bags. Where could I find a large number of people ready to take an interest in this tiny manufactured wilderness? You see where this is going…

I realized that the community I was seeking and the community I dreaded are one and the same. The people who use this stream are the ones who care enough to clean it. So I will be staffing the Museum of Natural Selection this Saturday. I’ll ask anyone who happens by to consider its natural place in the scheme of things, and to add their most interesting finds to the collection. And if no one else shows up, I’ll pick things up and make art out of them.

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This week’s acquisition at the Museum of Natural Selection:hand holding an angular bone and a piece of white plastic. They look somewhat similsr.

An unidentified bone and an uncanny plastic facsimile.

And this!

A tiny sticker that says "I (heart) dolphins, J' (heart) les daupins"

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Patina

Yesterday’s curatorial criteria for the Museum of Natural Selection may have been as simple as “round things.”

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The Museum itself is changing colors and collecting its own flotsam. If it was a mood ring it would be signaling contentment, with a passionate undercurrent.

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There’s a museum near my house now, made from an abandoned chest of drawers. It is on uninvited loan to the Maryland Parks Department, tucked beneath the bank of a small stream. The stream is fed by storm drains and parking lots. It is home to water fowl, small fish, lost soccer balls, and loose plastic bags.

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A museum is a fiction—a curated narrative that corresponds to the reality of the collector. Relinquishing control of the museum allows several narratives to collide and mix. The artist/curator Marcel Broodthaers, speaking of his own museum, said this confrontation of fictions leads to “a more vigorous consciousness of reality.”

As a guest curator of the Museum of Natural Selection, I have been collecting things that I find in this tiny wilderness and wading in to place them in the drawers. Here is a list of the initial contents:

  1. a plastic lobster
  2. a clear bottle with gold foil on the neck
  3. a small brown bottle with a label that says “Millesime by Creed Unisex”
  4. an air freshener in the shape of a pine tree that says “Black Ice”
  5. a white rock the size of a fist
  6. a smaller black rock
  7. a green ribbon
  8. a plastic dog leg
  9. a piece of sycamore bark in the shape of a face

I expect the museum’s collection to change as other curators stop to investigate, and as the water rises and falls and brings new acquisitions. Broodthaers spoke of this process:

I think that the artist will only be able to control this process for a short time and, moreover, only in a very general way. Then he loses his hold. The ideas begin to multiply themselves like living cells.

This is the goal, or at least the inevitable end, of art—incubator, lending library, archive of an unclaimed space. If you find it, stop and consider, give and take.

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