here, here, and here, for instance) who would disagree. And they all have the cool stuff to prove it.
I’m not sure about the psychology of a collector, whether it’s sheer greed (I want that), childish wonder (I want that), whether they’re building a comfortable nest or a wall of separation, but each one believes that the planet is not glass case enough and dedicates large parts of their lives and finances to gathering stuff within a delineated area, where, under ideal conditions, it is catalogued, displayed, cared for, and regularly appreciated.
So on to a guy that collects bizarre taxidermy and human body parts.
Trundle Manor is located in Swissvale, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, at 7724 Juniata St. It’s a private collection in a private residence that only in the past year and a half or so has been open to the public. There’s no entry fee, but donations are accepted. Dead animals don’t come cheap, except when they do.
Of course, since the collection is displayed in the curator’s own house, visits are by appointment only. That sounds pretty formal, but all it takes is just a quick text message to see if your would-be hosts are in. Their contact info is right on their website and they’re pretty laid back and eager to show their collection. For me it was a brief email a night or two before. And then a day or so of the usual worry about entering a stranger’s home. Especially this time, since it was a stranger with a cleaver collection.
I just kept telling myself that Leatherface never made a website.
Now, anybody with a credit card can collect mass-marketed, factory-produced, officially licensed merchandise. But Trundle Manor houses the type of collection that takes more effort and soul-investment than the mere filling up of an Amazon.com cart. This kind of collecting has a tradition that goes back hundreds of years to the teen centuries of Europe. In Germany, it was called a Wunderkammer (or wonder chamber) and in England it was known as a cabinet of curiosities.
The man responsible for the Wunderkammer that is Trundle Manor is Anton Miriello, although he goes by the name Mr. ARM (I didn’t ask about the acronym, but I assume it’s his initials). His girlfriend Rachel Rech, who curates alongside him, goes by the name Velda von Minx. But don’t let the nom-de-guerres put you off. The manor isn’t awkward theater. They’ve merely adopted quirky personas to fit a quirky collection. It’s subtle showmanship. They’ll certainly have a normal conversation with you. Well, as normal as it can be when the topic is infant speculums and mummified cats.
The collection is pretty far-ranging, but definite themes, or sub-collections, are instantly recognizable. One of the first we noticed was the taxidermy. And that’s because they have a stuffed black bear in a top hat on their dining room table large enough to make eating off said table awkward. Or at least difficult. Although relating the boring events of your workday to each other is probably a lot more fun through a bear’s crotch.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long enough to do any of that. We had to be four hours away before bedtime, and they had tickets to a Tim and Eric show. They gave us certificates that officially acknowledged our visit to Trundle Manor, as well as two small vials of liquid, each with a baby octopus tentacle in it. They were meant to be keepsakes, but I think they’re going to be piece one and piece two of our own imminently begun Wunderkammer.
Anybody got a spare tumor that you’re willing to part with?