One Person's Trash
March/April 1998
by JK
"I wore them seeing Janis Joplin," Brigid Dougherty wrote in 1973 about the patched bellbottoms her mother wanted to throw out. Instead, the younger Dougherty gave them to the Smithsonian, and the jeans now appear in "Revealing Things," a prototype of an online Smithsonian exhibition, where her explanation of the jeans' importance is set to Joplin's trademarked rasping vocals. Culled from "basements and back drawers," as exhibit curator Judith Gradwohl explains, the show, which only exists virtually, takes the stuff of everyday life and encourages visitors to rethink it.
Designed by New York's Razorfish and Plumb Design, "Revealing Things" even has a customizable interface. A web of related words floats on the left, where viewers can click to expand their exploration and then use the slider below to further hone their search. Thus, the exhibit of 35 items offers an elegant design history of the everyday. To expand the prototype that can now be found at, Gradwohl hopes visitors will submit photos and stories of their own possessions. Then we can see everyone's private treasures.
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