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Life Along the Curb: Inside the Department of Sanitation of New York

August 17, 2015 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm


Keeping New York clean has always been a daunting challenge. The city generates close to 40,000 tons of garbage every day – and yet New Yorkers are not buried by their waste. Who picks up all that trash? Who sweeps the streets? How is the work organized? And where do all those discards all go? Drawing on several years of ethnographic and archival research as well as her own experiences as a municipal sanitation worker, anthropologist Robin Nagle explores some of the political, infrastructural, economic, and cultural complexities that shape the dynamics of solid waste management in North America’s largest city.

Robin Nagle is the author of Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City (2013). She is the anthropologist-in-residence with New York’s Department of Sanitation. She also serves as a clinical associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies at NYU, where she runs the Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Arts and Science.

At 8:00 pm, we will screen the 2015 short documentary film, “One Man’s Trash” (17 mins) by Kelly Adams.  Synopsis: For 34 years, Nelson Molina has worked for the NYC Department of Sanitation, developing a unique relationship to the objects that fill the garbage bags lining the streets. With a keen curatorial eye for finding treasure in household trash, Nelson has created a collection of found objects in a sanitation garage in East Harlem, which he refers to as a museum of “Treasures in the Trash.” As the film follows Nelson on his route and through his collection, he encourages us to see the things that we encounter in daily life anew.

This is the third and final event in “Garbage and the City: Two Centuries of Dirt, Debris, and Disposal, a program series presented in collaboration with The New York Academy of Medicine, and ARCHIVE Global, and supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.


Free event, but pre-registration is required.

Photo Credit: Museum of the City of New York


August 17, 2015
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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Museum of the City of New York
(212) 534-1672


Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, 10029
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