If, like me, you live in New York City, you’re confronted on the daily with mounds of trash on the sidewalk. While the appliances, antique furniture, clothing, and houseplants are a passing novelty for pedestrians such as myself, for Nelson Molina, what’s in the trash was his daily focus for 34 years. The veteran New York Sanitation worker, who retired in 2015 from his East Harlem route, has collected over 45,000 items of interest, all culled from his professional immersion in what New Yorkers discard.
His curatorial efforts have been widely chronicled over the years, including a 2012 profile in The New York Times, and particularly at inflection points when the collection’s future is uncertain. A new short documentary film by director Nicholas Heller meets up with the contagiously enthusiastic Molina for a look inside his curatorial process and the current state of the collection. There is currently a fundraising effort to create a permanent home for Molina’s ‘Treasures in the Trash,’ which you can contribute to here. If you’re interested in more anthropological trash projects, check out Jenny Odell’s Bureau of Suspended Objects, an archive created out of Odell’s time as an artist in residence at a San Francisco dump.