Gil Sperling

video, stage and music

DSNY museum – ideation

March 4, 2020 by gilsperling

Consider a story or group of stories that you think would be interesting to tell as part of the New York City Sanitation Museum client challenge, and structure some thought around how it can be expressed as a museum, part of a museum, or an exhibit. Think big! And be prepared to discuss the narrative theme and your top two to three ideas in class next week.

Goals for audience experience by age group


  • Get excited about reducing waste/recycling
  • Look up to and recognize SW’s for the important work they do


  • Embrace their personal role in managing and reducing waste as an essential part of being a modern urban citizen
  • Spark innovative thinking about future solutions around waste and sustainability


  • Understand the history of NYC sanitation, its complexity and impact on public health
  • put DSNY work and current waste reduction efforts in a global environmental context

Museum Design Concepts

Making that which is hidden visible

We want to know as little as possible about what we throw away, including those tasked with taking care of it for us. The museum will bring to light these invisible layers of urban life that are essential to its existence. Living with the realization that waste does not actually “go away” at all is a first step toward committing to waste reduction.

The life cycle of material

Look at an object and follow its path, from extraction of raw materials to production to sale and use, to discarding, waste removal process, to landfill/pollution/recycling/energy source. DSNY work is a critical link in a chain, but the full cycle context is important.

Understanding the present, imagining a better future

What would living in a zero waste city look like? What changes does that entail in how we consume and use products, and what we do with them when we are done? Interactive exhibits will allow visitors to see the effect of individual-level decisions and city-level policy decision on future amounts of waste and environmantal effects

Implementation ideas

  • extensive use of AR as a main tool for making things visible. Examples: A 3D physical model of a NYC neighborhood, with an AR layer showing all the trash being put out on the street and being collected by DSNY trucks; a clean city street, to scale, with AR layers showing the accumulation of garbage if DSNY work were stopped.
  • All waste and recycling bins are transparent (clear colored plexiglass)
  • The museum itself is zero-waste, and involves the visitors in the effort
  • Construction materials and objects made out of reusables


If trash bags could talk – unlocking the stories inside and around a bag of daily trash of a residential building in NYC. What does its contents tell us about the lives of the people who filled it, who is the sanitation worker who picks it up and throws it in the truck, what happens to it as it joins thousands of other bags towards its final destination

The Mobro 4000 – The infamous barge carrying Long Island trash in 1987 that no one was willing to accept. A symbol of the waste problem, inciting early public awareness about waste reduction, but also an opportunity to discuss current landfill practices.

“I always describe waste disposal as dynamic” (Martin Bellew, former Director of the Bureau of Waste Disposal) – presenting the history of waste management in NYC as that of dramatic change, with incredible consequences for quality of life and environmental impact. Begin with the transformation of New York streets from their 19th century conditions, and end with a vision of the future, 2030 (zero waste goal post) and beyond.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Comments are closed.