Imaginary Museum of Obscure Objects

While ArtYard is closed for social distancing, we are creating a virtual museum of beloved intriguing, peculiar, obscure and mysterious objects. If you have an object you would like to submit, please follow the instructions below and we will feature it in our imaginary collection, shared on our Instagram and on this page.

Please note that we are no longer accepting submissions via email. We invite you to continue this project by sharing your objects on Instagram with the hashtag #museumofobscureobjects and tagging us @artyardcenter. Learn more below:


Step 1
Photograph your item(s) on a neutral, clean background, if possible in natural light. Please make sure to center the object and leave enough space around it.

Step 2
Post the picture(s) on your own Instagram using the hashtag #museumofobscureobjects. Please tag us at @artyardcenter. ⁣Include a brief story if you have one about the context, where you found the object, or what it means to you.

THERE IS NO DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS. THIS PROJECT WILL REMAIN OPEN INDEFINITELY Please note: this is not a call for artworks, but rather found or collected objects. We will be announcing a series of projects in the coming weeks that engage artists in making and call for artistic submissions, so if you wish to submit original works, please hang tight for those. ArtYard reserves the right to use any image submitted to The Imaginary Museum of Obscure Objects for future use on marketing, social media platforms, our website, and future printed materials.
Old Figurines

Submitted by Rane Stark-Buhl

 The attached image is of figurines from a display at the Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco’s World’s Fair of 1939-40. These figurines were part of an exhibit depicting the settling of California and life on the western frontier. Their exact use is a bit of a mystery and we only have bits and pieces in our collection. They are treasured nonetheless!

Magical Whale Vertebrae

Submitted by Susan Palmer

I love it because no human could make something so beautiful.


Miniature Baskets Carved from Peach Pits and Other Seeds

Submitted by Renee Soto

I love miniature objects, and I like to think about the person or persons who carved these so carefully.






Submitted by Andrew Wilkinson

Chocolate Mold

Submitted by Andrew Wilkinson



Cigar Box

Submitted by Andrew Wilkinson





Old Dish with Barnacles

Submitted by Jill Kearney

Ivory Hand

Submitted by Annie Porter
This object came from my father-in-law, Ivan Cousins.  He was an antiques dealer and had a shop in Sausalito, California for many years.  After retiring, he became an actor. 



Eternal Repose

Submitted by Donna Hays

I call this “Eternal Repose”. I found this in a thrift shop years ago and was equally appalled and intrigued by it and ultimately decided it had to come home with me.





Boot Sculpted from Macerated U.S Currency

Submitted by Renee Soto
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, all kinds of souvenirs were made of recycled cash. The tag on this boot reads: “Made of the U.S. Bank Notes redeemed and macerated by the U.S. Government at Washington D.C. Estimated at $2,000”

Folded Hairnet Made if Real Hair

Submitted by Renee Soto
@moirenee ⠀
I am submitting this once-common object that has become obscure over time, as styles and standards of personal grooming have changed. This is a hairnet made of real hair. The packaging describes it as a “self-conforming cap shape” and “special size for bob hair.” It is also described as “invisible” and ” light brown, double mesh, triple strength.” I found it in its original envelope, folded in a piece of tissue paper. I don’t believe it has ever been used. The manufacturer’s name is “Venida” and it says “This Venida net has been sterilized.”



Comb Carved from Natural Horn

Submitted by Renee Soto
This horn comb, in the shape of a leg, is from Mexico. I love how the natural dark making forms the dainty shoe.





Bee Wax

Submitted by Camille Cunningham
Instagram: @totsieturvey

I am a beekeeper and the wax is from one of my hives.


Unknown Oklahoma Animal Skull

Submitted by Camille Cunningham
Instagram: @totsieturvey


Lotus Pod

Submitted by Camille Cunningham
Instagram: @totsieturvey




Old Glove
Submitted by Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick.
Instagram: @eileenhohmuthlemonick An old glove found 40 years ago.    
Vessels from Deer Trail
Submitted by Bhadra.  
Hickory Nutshells
Submitted by Mare McClellan.
Instagram handle: @mare_mcclellan This time of year I find stashes of empty hickory nutshells. I like observing the varied shapes mice gnaw in the shell to get to the nut. Some make one big hole on both sides. Some make two holes on each side. Same mouse responding to the thickness of the shell? Different mice using different nut mining methods? I pile them on a table and admire the evidence of their efforts.      
Rescued newspaper
Submitted by Louise Strawbridge A friend saw this on the street & knew I would love it:  a newspaper still folded up with its red rubber band that cars have run over & over & over until she “rescued “ it for me.  
French Metal Thumb Contraption
Submitted by Vasiliki Katsarou
Instagram: @cineutopia I’m the oldest of two, and I traveled to Greece for the first time with my parents when I was a toddler to visit my grandparents. An avid thumb-sucker, they worried I’d pick up germs along the way, so they purchased this miniature French metal contraption for my thumb. I don’t remember really using it, but they saved it anyway and gave it to me once I became an adult with my own toddler. Needless to say, I never used it on my son.  
Top of a powder box
Submitted by Ana Julia Instagram: @yoquierolaluna  My mother gave this to me. It’s the top of a face powder box, very dear to her. She brought it with her when she left Cuba in 1969.
Wave Hair Curler from the ‘50s
From Jill Osgood‘s collection. “I found it on a city beach in Portland, Maine. My mother was a hairdresser, and she did the hair of many of the ladies in my small N.H town right in our kitchen. I remember loving to play with these curlers when I was a kid.”  
Foot of a snowshoe hare
From Jill Osgood‘s collection. “I found this while tracking Canada Lynx in Northern Maine. It was at the very top of a little mountain – a kill site. The Lynx had brought its dinner up top for the view, and safety, I suppose. All that was left of the unlucky hare were two feet, and I gave the other one to the 8-year-old boy I was with.”  
Precious box of rocks and minerals
From Jill Osgood‘s collection. “I bought this at a yard sale in Maine. I like to imagine it was the treasured collection of some little boy or girl.” 
Old eye doctor board
From Jim Hirsheimer’s collection.  
Old lab tools
From Jim Hirsheimer’s collection.  
Old rusted pistol
From Jim Hirsheimer’s collection.
Hank of hemp
From Jill Kearney’s collection. I found this hank in an antique shop in Adamstown, PA. I thought it was human hair, but it is wound hemp threads from the 19th century. In the textile industry, a hank is a coiled or wrapped unit of yarn or twine. Something about the way it is wound makes it seem as though it could spring into action and come to life. It reminds me of Victorian mourning jewelry and worms, and the braid my mother cut off my head when I was six, and stored in a box. Opening that box evoked so many disturbing and touching emotions: that my mother loved me, that she expected to lose me somehow and prepared for that loss by storing this memento, that we had both already lost my childhood, and that she had severed the braid when I was too young to grant my permission.” This object has what photography collector and curator W.M. Hunt says is the requisite combination of elements for an arresting image: a mixture of “Balance and secrets.”  

Glass cullet
From Elsa Mora’s collection. Vintage blue milk glass cullet from the Westmoreland Glass Factory.
Glass eye collection
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Communion plate
From Elsa Mora’s collection. communion plate is a metal plate held under the chin of a communicant while receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Its use was common in the last part of the nineteenth century and during most of the twentieth.

Botanical model
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Cigarette card
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Anatomical model
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Knife sharpener
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Fossilized whale ear bone
See more images here. From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Carved wooden scissors
From Elsa Mora’s collection.

Metal doll head

I bought it at a flea market from a man who found it at the beach.   From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Cigarette card
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Cigarette card
From Jill Kearney’s collection.

Tree bark
From Jill Kearney’s collection.


  1. Avatar

    i thought the rusted pistol was cool.

  2. Avatar

    My favorites are the masticated money boot and the botanical model. But I have the “Hank of hemp” echoing in my head. Would be a cool title.


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