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Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling

October 27, 2019 - April 26, 2020


On view October 27, 2019 – April 26, 2020


A peddler calling “Junk man! Any rags, any bones, any bottles today?”

The clatter of cans pouring into a baler.

The grinding of a building-sized car shredder.

The whistle of a cargo ship carrying obsolete computers to sorting facilities around the globe.


These are the sounds of scrap recycling: an industry that turns waste into raw materials, has given millions of people a livelihood and a community, and has propelled American industry and innovation for centuries.


Scrappo in Salem, Oregon, 1942. From the Extension Bulletin Illustrations Photograph Collection, OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University.


For over 200 years, discarded metals, rags, paper, and animal hides have provided economic opportunities for immigrants and native-born Americans who collected, stored, brokered, and sold them – scrappers. The work was grueling, scrappers were stigmatized, and the industry was criticized as a source of social and environmental ills. Still, generations of individuals and families gravitated toward the work—including many Jewish scrappers, who made up seventy to ninety percent of the industry for at least half of the 20th century.


Come explore this hands-on exhibit where you’ll encounter not just the tools of the scrap yard but the people who built and run a global industry.


You can also extend your learning by visiting our Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling website here!



Educators: Check out information on our Scrap Yard-related education programs and book a visit here!



Public Programs for Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling


Born Into It: Members-Only Opening Celebration for Scrap Yard

Saturday, October 26, 2019 at 7:00pm


Curator Talk

Sunday, October 27, 2019 at 1:00pm


New Communities from Old Iron: Jewish Immigrants and the Scrap Industry, 1890-1924

Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 1:00pm


Secondhand Travels of a Global Scrap Man

Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 1:00pm


A Greener Hanukkah

Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 11:00am


Lives Built on Scrap: A Family Biography

Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 1:00pm


View the full public programs calendar here.


Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is made possible in part through the generous support of our donors:


Institute for Museum and Library Services

National Endowment for The Humanities

Boston Metals Co. in Memory of Morris Schapiro


The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries

David Berg Foundation

Baltimore Scrap: David, Larry, Ken, and Joe Simon


The Gershowitz Family and Gershow Recycling

Integrated Shredder Technology


Diamond State Recycling Corporation

Commercial Insurance Associates

Arnold and Joyce Fruman

The Sandy Shapiro Charitable Fund

Sue and Jerry Kline


Additional support provided by:


Deborah Zager, in loving memory of my father, Sammy Kahan, founder of Ansam Metals Corporation; Ray Aizen, Maryland Core, Inc.; Pinkert Family Foundation; ABC Box Company; Melvin A. Lipsitz Family Foundation; J. Solotken & Company; Ellen Kahan Zager and Jack Zager Philanthropic Fund; Robin Wiener and Roger Nehrer; Davis Industries; Howard Fields, in memory of my Pinkert grandad and uncles; ScrapWare Corporation; Atlantic Recycling Group; Dan Pinkert and Freddi Greenberg; Brian Shine, Manitoba Corporation; Kripke Enterprises; Neal Shapiro; Dale and Betsey Pinkert; Anonymous; SH Landsman & Sons; Ray and Nadine Weinstein; Jerome Kurman; and Richard Friedman.


Media Sponsor: 





October 27, 2019
April 26