Record Shop Hosts a Museum in a Box

My Vintage Vinyl store manager Steven Bieber flips through the mobile exhibit Wearing Our Label on our Sleeves. Photo: Susan Nolan.

By Susan Nolan

In a tidy vintage record store, a plain wooden crate would be easy to miss. The eye is naturally drawn elsewhere—to the neatly arranged bins of albums from the 1980s and ‘70s and even earlier. The music of James Brown catches the ear and a sense of nostalgia sets in.

“Once customers know what’s in the crate, they look and are excited by what they find,” says Steven Bieber, manager of My Vintage Vinyl Store in Arnold.

The crate is a museum in a box. Specifically, it’s The Record Museum’s debut traveling exhibit “Wearing Our Label On Our Sleeves.”

“It’s small but it does what a museum is supposed to do. It’s educational,” says Bieber.

My Vintage Vinyl has been buying and selling used LPs for two years. Their clientele of music lovers and record collectors come from all over Maryland.

The exhibit is just one more way to bring vinyl lovers in. “We are happy to be offering our customers a broader experience,” says Brian Hoffman, store owner.

A former history teacher, Hoffman he is impressed with the quality of work that went into creating this mobile exhibit. “History disappears if we don’t keep it fresh in people’s minds,” he says.

The concept behind the exhibit is simple—a portable gallery that doesn’t take up much space. Inside the wooden crate are 25 LP (long play) album sleeves, all carefully selected and framed by the exhibit’s curator John Hamilton. You flip through the exhibit much like you would flip through the bins of albums bought and sold at any record stores. A laminated, annotated guide helps to identify the sleeves. 

A lifelong music collector with an affinity for museums, Hamilton created his musée dans une caisse and selected record sleeves as the theme of his first traveling museum in a box because “sleeves are ordinary items, but so much more.” The exhibit details the evolution of the vinyl album sleeve from a plain paper envelope to advertising space. “The artistic elements deserve appreciation.” 

A New York City resident with family in Annapolis, Hamilton frequently visits the Chesapeake Bay area. He plans for “Wearing Our Label On Our Sleeves” to be the first in a series of mobile exhibitions, and he looks forward to bringing more of his work to Anne Arundel County. 

Find The Record Museum’s “Wearing Our Label On Our Sleeves” at My Vintage Vinyl until Dec. 28. 10am-7pm, 1244 Gov. Ritchie Hwy, Ste 13, Arnold, 410-960-2919; Facebook @myvintagevinyl.