A Museum Of Personal Failure

Americans, it turns out, are not only in habit of establishing durable monuments and institutions commemorating their success and achievements, but also their failures.

Located in the Bucktown neighborhood, American Mini-Storage is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets, but don’t expect it to stay that way for long. The self-storage facility houses what is arguably the nation’s most impressive collection of personal items accumulated during periods of failure.

A whole museum dedicated to failures. Not by accident many say that we learn more from failures than from successes. Some think that personal failure “becomes not an indicator of personal inadequacy, but a sign that you are expanding your horizons and making progress.”

“There are 250 storage units here, and each one has a different pathetic story to tell,” said Carlos Garcia, one of several client-relations managers at American Mini-Storage. “They run the gamut—from libraries of unread college textbooks to abandoned bolts of canvas to half-restored antique chests of drawers. Each storage locker is like a window into a separate life of disappointment and inadequacy.”

American Mini-Storage opened on Armitage Street in autumn of 1996. Despite being relatively new to the market, facility managers have amassed an impressive collection, thanks to location, word of mouth, and generous contributions from anonymous donors.

It also seems that many people, while not at ease with their present and past failures, still prefer to store or keep these somewhere – perhaps out of their sight – where they can mingle from time to time and be reminded.

“This is the Mueller space,” Garcia says. “It holds a crate of five partially written detective novels. And over here in the Sherman room, we have one of my favorite collections: the leftover inventory from a failed salad-dressing business. Oh, and take a look inside the Curtis collection. It boasts the decaying remains of an entire family’s failure, including a sixth-place intramural-tennis trophy, a moth-eaten gymnastics uniform, and a file cabinet jammed with overdraft bank notices.”

Gymnastic uniforms and overdraft bank notices and everything in between. Imagine that now this entire “wealth” of personal failures of countless types of human endeavors, thoughts and ideas is open to the public. What will be the long-term impact of such an exposition: failures exposition? Would we learn something new?  Or would be be reminded of our own well-hidden failures?

While the storage facility is by no means the only one of its kind, several factors have contributed to the breadth of its fascinating collection.

“Part of the reason for our success is that the neighborhood itself has been in drastic flux over the past 15 years,” Garcia said. “As a result of Bucktown’s gentrification, the Puerto Rican population has been displaced, followed by the artists and musicians, then the people on the first steps to their career. Everyone who has come and gone has needed a place to store painful reminders of the past. We are not just a storage facility, we are a repository for every imaginable setback a person can experience.”

Here is the entire The Onion article.

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