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21 Collections at the Los Angeles Central Library

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With a mind that is currently focused on finding ways to play, I was excited by an open afternoon I recently had in Los Angeles. Since I was staying downtown, I decided to take a walk and get to know the neighborhood.

In the middle of my explorations, I saw a sign that read “21 Collections: Every Object Has a Story.” Intrigued, I decided to walk into the building.

As it turns out, the building was home to the Los Angeles Central Library. Now, as an avid reader, I’m a big fan of libraries. This library, however, was really special, complete with vaulted, tiled ceilings, and oh so many books. And, to make it even better, there was a museum space in the middle of it. I was pretty much in heaven.

21 Collections at the Los Angeles Public Library is, as the introduction states, an exhibit that examines “the role collections play in telling our stories and those of our communities and Los Angeles at large.”

Basically, the library was interested in the things that people collect. While common items include baseball cards, stamps, coins, and the like, Curator Todd Lerew wanted to find more unconventional items. After taking a look through different libraries, museums, homes, and other public buildings, he pulled together 21 unique items that he felt told compelling and memorable stories.

Walnut Elephant – LA Chamber of Commerce

The moment you walk into the museum space within the library (which is located on the second floor), your eyes are instantly drawn to a large elephant that occupies the middle of the space. Borrowed from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, this elephant – which is entirely made out of walnuts – was built for the Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. It was a symbol of Southern California’s prosperity and simply marvelous to look at. I spent a lot of time simply gazing up at it and examining it from all of it’s sides.

There were so many fascinating parts of the collection, but outside of the elephant walnut a few of my favorites were:

Straw Horses – Morgyn Owens-Celli

Borrowed from the American Museum of Straw Art, these straw horses were beautiful and so detailed! You almost expected them to come to life in front of you.

Typewriters – Tom Hanks

I’m a big fan of Tom Hanks as an actor and it was fun to see behind his characters and into his personal passions. There were some detailed notes about how he fell in love with typewriters and the jewels of his collection. It made me think of You’ve Got Mail and how ironic it was that it is Greg Kinnear’s character that is obsessed with typewriters – though I wonder it Hanks inspired the trait? Hanks actually published a collection of short stories entitled Uncommon Type that were inspired by his machines.

And apparently I was too absorbed by the collection to actually take a photo.

Candy Wrapper Museum – Darlene Lacey

I love a good candy bar! This personal collection showed how different candy bar makers have evolved their wrappers since the 1970s. It was a fascinating look at the history or marketing and what things have lasted (and which have not!). Though I felt like I needed some chocolate afterwards.

African American Museum of Miniatures – Karen Collins

This collection was full of dioramas of different moments in African American history. Created by school teacher Karen Collins to make sure her African American students were being taught their own cultural history, the dioramas are full of exquisite detail and important storytelling.

There are so many other great collections to explore, including paper airplanes, scents, audio collages, doll hats and much more. You can check out all the collections (including a video of the exhibit) here!

Are you a collector of unusual items? Share what you collect in the comments below!

Another great pin for my travel map!

San Diego push pin map

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