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So Much of Art Is Garbage


GARBAGE at long last seems to have a brighter future. A new approach to the garbage problem in the US is to put it in a museum. People who study garbage have suddenly begun to realize that it contains historical and social values reflecting American life. In short, it is just the sort of thing museums are supposed to preserve for posterity.

The first museum of this type would be in New Jersey, which seems logical. Sponsors of the idea apparently feel that this new departure would bring some sort of fame to New Jersey as the garbage capital of the world. New Jersey may have this title already, but not with the positive social status. The museum is expected to attract tourists and students of American culture and give them a sense of really being inside a dump.

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It is estimated that the museum would cost about $400,000 and will contain objects like rusted car fenders, old tires, milk containers, and household junk, rather than grapefruit rinds, banana skins, rotten tomatoes, and remains of old fish. Presumably this is to keep the smell factor down, although there is no reason why unusual smells in American life couldn't have a place in a museum just like other aspects of Americana.

In this sort of enterprise one has to have a rather unusual selective talent. Finding garbage interesting enough to put in a museum can't be easy.

All this will have some effect on the general disposal of garbage. At one time at least 100 communities dumped their garbage in the New Jersey Meadowland region; now the number is greatly reduced and more garbage is being trucked out of state in a selective fashion. From now on the gross and icky garbage must be separated from the artistic and durable sort.

Scheduled to open in the fall, this museum of ``modern disposal'' will be located in the center of DeKorte State Park. There is still some controversy as to what kind of garbage will be included. A plastic mask of Richard Nixon was objected to by the commission officials for fear it would be thought a political statement, but they were overruled and it was included anyway.

Will all this change people's attitude toward garbage? Will it bring art and garbage closer together?

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