The fruits of that labor can be found (by appointment only) in a Manhattan sanitation department garage on East 99th Street, called Maneast 11. The sprawling second floor of the space—which sits within an active hub for 60 sanitation workers and numerous garbage trucks—is filled with an ineffable array of thousands of objects, collected by Molina over roughly three decades on the job, beginning in the 1990s.
The sheer quantity of objects is jaw-dropping. Molina says the collection, which he dubbed the “Treasures in the Trash Museum,” now comprises somewhere in the region of 40,000 things.
As I walk through the collection with Molina (it consumes multiple large rooms and decorates other spaces, like a locker room), every twist and turn reveals something unexpected. I see countless postcards, coins, books, statues, and posters (one honoring the famed “Dream Team”), along with one-of-a-kind objects like war medals, a church’s stained glass, and a photograph signed by Jackie O. Molina, gesturing to various objects recovered from Hurricane Sandy and train tracks from defunct subway lines. There are also myriad typewriters and DVDs, a nativity scene, a small greenhouse-like space with chirping bird sounds (seriously), and a silent film you can watch, courtesy of a working projector. I could go on.