Cool & collected

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Over the years, Ohio State University has amassed the world's largest collection of first editions of Don Quixote, the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. School collectors have also kept Dust Bowl photographs by Walker Evans, taxidermy of the extinct ivory-billed woodpecker and a pair of Miss Piggy's sunglasses.

She preferred shades small, pink and shaped like hearts, if you're curious.

The Columbus Museum of Art is betting you will be and invites you to peruse Objects of Wonder, a wild bunch of curiosities brought from Campus archives into the hallowed halls of East Broad Street.

In all, more than 600 objects were plundered from places like the Orton Geological Museum, Cartoon Research Library, Byrd Polar archives, Department of Athletics and Historic Costume and Textiles Collection. More than 34 of Ohio State's 300 libraries and collections - each a depository of peculiar knowledge - participated in the show, running through Jan. 11.

"Arts institutions working together can bring more to the community," said Karen Bell, OSU's associate vice president of arts outreach, at a preview event last week. "This is one example of that."

Together, partners brought oil paintings of former OSU presidents, ancient slices of Roman frescoes and rocks that glow in the dark. Also along for the ride are a goalpost fragment from the 1955 Rose Bowl and a small white pump organ kept aboard The Nautilus submarine during its Arctic travels.

Interest still not piqued?

Peep the green-room door of the local Players Theatre, which famous actors signed from 1923-1993, or a wedding gown made from a World War II parachute sent from an American soldier to his fiancee.

"For this show, I'd like everyone to find their own way through," lead curator Melissa Wolfe said. "You find your own way through because you find an object that fascinates you, draws you in."

At the outset, staff curators asked to see 20 favorite objects from each participating collection. Objects were photographed, and images were used to arrange the nontraditional show. Curators, who made more than 100 trips uptown, stopped adding oddities only when they ran out of space.

A cell phone tour and a handful of touch-screens feature prominent Ohio State figures discussing where objects came from, why they were kept and how they're used today.

"This is truly an exhibit that could not have happened without the cooperation of OSU," said Nannette Maciejunes, the museum's executive director. "It's a show that draws on the riches, the vast treasures of OSU."

Those treasures are testament to Ohio State's scope, breadth and history - and provide a giddy look at the things man makes, collects, displays and gawks at. The objects' museum treatment challenges definitions of art while causing viewers to laugh, ask questions and occasionally scratch their heads.

Consider it God's garage sale.

Anticipating outcry about putting a worn brick mold next to the industrial paintings of Roy Lichtenstein, Wolfe argued that, regardless of monetary value, objects in archives have history and context. Like paintings or sculpture, these objects exist as sources of creative development, ways to better understand the world.

Her team of curators hopes that putting items in new contexts - a vintage corset in a room full of simple machines, for example - inspires dialogue among different areas of study.

"I always imagined the objects up there having a party," Wolfe said. "They don't get out of their usual context very often."

Alumni obsessions

Got every Pez dispenser ever made? How about a hundred boxes of baseball cards? In conjunction with Objects of Wonder, the Columbus Museum of Art wants to find out what OSU alumni collect. To share your stuff in the Community Collections exhibit, send photos and info to

"Objects of Wonder"