Campus & Community

One person’s trash …

2 min read

At the Peabody, an emphasis on reinvention

Children around the world turn trash into toys — from cornhusk dolls to scrapwire matchbook bikes.

On Aug. 20, that’s exactly what the young participants in “Trash Tales” will be doing at the Peabody Museum. For a few weeks, said museum education specialist Andrew Majewski, staff members have “rallied together” to compile a supply of cleaned trash to be fashioned into toys, bringing in items from home. People “have a shared desire to create, and kids in all cultures will use whatever they can find,” he said. “This commonality is one of the messages we hope the children will come away with.”

The project is a timely one, given recent sustainability efforts at Harvard, and connects the museum and participants with cultures in which finding a second (or third) use for trash is a time-honored tradition. For example, people in many countries make sandals out of tires, just like the pair on display in the Trash Tales Discovery Room, where the event will take place.

Trash is a “prominent but unseen part of our world,” said Pamela Gerardi, director of external relations, and what we do with it is “an interesting conversation we could have at the museum that involves people from all fields: engineers, artists, historians, anthropologists, architects, and even the Harvard School of Design.”

Among Americans, attitudes toward trash have changed in important ways in the past century, from the “waste not, want not” view of the Great Depression to the wastefulness of today. Recycling programs in the United States are not as advanced as those of many other countries. Gerardi and Majewski expect participants in “Trash Tales” to have so much fun in the moment that only later will they realize how much they learned about sustainability and cultural awareness.

The gathering is part of a series of drop-in family events scheduled for the third Saturday of every month. It will serve as a family-friendly parallel to lectures for adults scheduled for the coming year. The lectures will be set up in a semester schedule, with a focus on anthropological and historical aspects of refuse in the first semester and a closer look at Harvard’s approach to trash and recycling in the second.

“Trash Tales” from noon to 4 p.m., Aug. 20, Peabody Museum. Free with admission. Recommended for ages 5 and up accompanied by an adult.