The Miracle of America Museum
I have many more photographs of this wonderful playground of historical items — some more controversial than others. The MoAM is a fascinating collection compiled by two history lovers; they claim to have at least a million items in their museum and I would be inclined to believe them. The museum consists of a main building with exhibits that are separated by subject matter — pre-1880s, domestic issues, a case full of old eyeglasses, doorknobs, WWII memorabilia and propaganda, weapons and artillery, an extensive collection of early bicycles and motorcycles and cars — and at least forty outbuildings that have their own exhibits, including a barber shop, schoolhouse, one building of women’s fashion filled mostly with old irons and wigs, a general store, a fishing boat, and then randomly some reconstructed flying saucers, and a sheet-metal alien.
The MoAM is why I love museums — the time invested into compiling these items has taken not just one lifetime, but two. When I heard that the owner’s wife passed away in August I was more upset than I had predicted I could be (I had only met her once on a previous trip). The owner, Gil, was eager to talk with me during my visit and asked if I had noticed anything change, or if I saw anything different from the first time I visited. For a minute I was confused; had he anticipated I had seen everything and remembered it all from two years ago? but I realized that he must know every single item in that collection. He’s touched every one, looked at them, accepted them into his culmination. Of course he would know them all — he looks at them every day. And I was struck with that sudden sadness again for the loss of his wife, and inevitably the loss of half of the information about all of the items they had spent their lives collecting together.
I got very existential and left kind of abruptly. It was one of those moments when I realize in a rush that all we leave behind are the items we collect during our lives. So many artifacts in their collection were donated by people long dead, or belonged to others who haven’t been mentioned on this earth in decades. And in a weird, excessively self-affirming moment, I decided that it really was some kind of miracle that all of these items came to be in one location for whatever brief amount of time. The entirety of time spent manufacturing, processing, and housing each and every part of their collection is some kind of weird human miracle.
I’m aware that I spend a lot of time around dead animals, but for whatever reason they don’t seem like items to me — as if the amount of time devoted to creating each and every living creature is less than the time it takes to make the plastic to mold into a doll which is painted with pigments possibly ground from lead mined from the earth. In summation, life is short, and I hope to make something more out of it than the items I end up leaving behind.