Utility boxes display the “Curiosities of Lyndale”

Credit: Artist Carly Schmitt sifts through objects submitted by Lyndale School for the "Curiosities of Lyndale" community art project. Photo by Michelle Bruch

Teachers at Lyndale Elementary recently filled a room with mementos. The objects included a musical instrument, a keepsake dating back to a first year of teaching, and a stuffed alligator used to teach “greater than” and “less than.” Artist Carly Schmitt photographed the objects and catalogued the stories behind them. It’s a second phase of last year’s “Curiosities of Lyndale” project, in which Schmitt wrapped utility boxes across the neighborhood with photos of neighborhood artifacts.

At 33rd & Lyndale, for example, you can find 1800s-era journals and ads found in the floorboards of a remodeled home. At 34th & Nicollet, there is a brick from Nicollet’s former streetcar track. At 35th & Stevens, there is a homer hanky from the Twins’ 1987 World Series win.

Much of the new artwork will line Grand Avenue this fall. Each object is shot from all four sides, giving the boxes a three-dimensional look.

“It’s like you’re looking at a clear curiosity box,” said Mark Hinds, executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association.

A QR code for each box links to the stories behind the objects. The stories are also available at lyndale.org/curiosity.

The neighborhood was asked to submit objects that best represent themselves, their stories, or the community. 

For one box, Schmitt photographed a $2 bill that a Lyndale woman carries for luck. It was given to her as consolation when she lost her wallet.

Schmitt also photographed a flask of whiskey from Vietnam. The flask recalls one resident’s story of his father, a Vietnam vet. The father asked his son to bring him a bottle of mud from the Mekong Delta.

“He took a huge whiff and was at peace,” Schmitt said.

The Lyndale School teachers’ mementos will cover a utility box near the school.

“As much as possible we have boxes represent the people who live and work closest to them,” Hinds said. “It maps out the neighborhood in a really unique way.”