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The world’s smallest Mmuseumm! (Language level B2-C1)

Marzo 2016
In soli 3 metri quadri a New York si trova il museo più piccolo del mondo. Ricavato in un vecchio montacarichi in disuso, Mmuseumm ospita dal 2012 oggetti davvero singolari provenienti da tutto il mondo: pezzi di vita con una storia da raccontare.

di Laura Giromini | www.vivereny.it

File audio:

Some of the collections at “Mmuseumm.”
Some of the collections at “Mmuseumm.”
Sofia Bonami
Sofia Bonami

Cortlandt Alley is a small alley in downtown Manhattan. At night it looks like a scary place and for this reason it’s often used as a location in crime movies. But if you go there during the day, you can find a unique cultural attraction: the world’s smallest museum! “Mmuseumm,” as it’s called, is located in a converted elevator shaft and has been in operation since 2012. As Sofia Bonami, a volunteer at Mmuseumm, explains, it was the brainchild of three film-makers, Josh and Benny Safdie and Alex Kalman. Their philosophy is explained in one of the few captions on the museum’s small walls: “Life exists around us. And the proof of our existence is both beautiful and absurd. Our footprint, which is often overlooked, dismissed, or ignored, is intriguing, and always worth exploring. This museum boasts an assemblage of assorted collections from around the world. Each item has its own story.”


Many of these collections are unusual, but one that stands out is artist Anne Griffiths’s corn flake collection. This  consists of numerous samples of the famous Kellogg’s breakfast cereal. When The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece on Mmuseumm last year, Ms. Griffiths told reporter Ralph Gardner, Jr.: “It started off as the most ridiculous thing you could think of, but then it turned into really looking at things and how something that’s man-made in vast quantities turns into almost some organic species.”  The success of Mmuseumm is such that there is now a Mmuseumm 2... in the same alley!




Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

Sofia Bonami is a volunteer at a museum in New York – no, not the Guggenheim or the Natural History Museum, but a place that is a bit smaller than that. In fact “Mmuseumm,” as it’s called, is located in a disused service elevator in an apartment building in Lower Manhattan:

Sofia Bonami (Standard American accent)

You’re here at Mmuseumm, a(n) installation space in Lower Manhattan. It’s a one-room museum considered to be the smallest museum in the world. Each shelf is an exhibition of a different part of our contemporary world represented through different artifacts, and all the pieces are donated from different visitors that have come over the years that have had their own collections, like an index of various corn flakes, or a collection of styrofoam rocks. Lots of the shows explore these kinds of themes of technology in our world today, and this year we’re kind of looking at the dynamic between power and protest and creation and technology. We have lots of different pieces from different inmates that have created little objects, with found materials in their cells, like pens and wires, they make like hot water makers, in the prison.

a great idea

So how did this unusual idea come about?

Sofia Bonami

There are three guys that started this three years ago. Well, all three of them are film-makers and they travelled for many years and just were fascinated by different objects that they found. Last season we had like international toothpastes, they had like the shoe at the protest that was thrown at George Bush, and they just were kind of fascinated by those kinds of things and thought to create like a small museum that celebrated these little pieces of life. And when the elevator closed in this building, they contacted the building and decided to see if they could get a space, and they didn’t tell them at first what it was going to be for, they just asked for a storage space, and then, once they realized what they were doing, they kind of got on board with the idea of making it into an open public museum.

The best bits

So what is Sofia Bonami’s favourite exhibit?

Sofia Bonami

My favourite part would be these faces that are on the lower shelf that were created based on the gum off of the sidewalk that the scientist took from the street and, basically, from the saliva, the DNA he created, what their faces would look like. And then another really great piece is the incubator case on top that has about 12 eggs that will hatch and, hopefully, give birth to little baby chicks!


Mmuseumm is at 4 Cortlandt Alley, between Franklin Street and White Street, in downtown Manhattan. It is very close to Broadway, between the neighbourhoods of Tribeca and Chinatown. The nearest subway station is Canal Street. Mmuseumm is open on Thursday and Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. On the other days, when Mmuseumm isn’t open, you can look through the window! There is no entry fee but visitors are expected to leave a $5 contribution. 

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Donated from. Donati da. In realtà sarebbe più corretto dire donated by.
They kind of got on board. Loro (in questo caso gli amministratori del condominio) hanno accettato l’idea e sono diventati parte del progetto. To get on board significa letteralmente salire a bordo ma si usa nel senso figurato per dire entrare nella squadra ecc. Infatti quando una persona viene assunta da un’azienda spesso si dice “welcome aboard” (“benvenuta/o abordo”).

The gum off of the sidewalk. Si capisce subito che questa è una frase americana. Perché? Perché off of è una costruzione americana (nell’inglese britannico si dice semplicemente off) e sidewalk (marciapiede) è una parola americana (nel British English si dice pavement).