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The Message in a Bottle Collection Comes to Houston

Nathan Lederman
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Nathan Lederman, Abby Cohan

Buzz interns Nathan Lederman and Abby Cohan, both seniors at The Emery/Weiner School, pose in front of the Message in a Bottle Collection at Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Nathan Lederman is a senior at The Emery/Weiner School who's interning with The Buzz as part of Emery's Senior Internship Week. 

Throughout history, secrets, love letters and pleas for help have been recorded on slips of paper and shipped via floating bottles through the depths of the world’s waterways. Whether through the work of famed writer Edgar Allan Poe, or the classic song by The Police, most people are aware of the phenomenon of messages in bottles. Mainly seen as an ancient form of correspondence, many would be surprised by the usage of messages in bottles in the 21st century.


A refrigerator door creatively repurposed as a board detailing the many items Chad Pregracke and his team pulled from rivers across America. (Photo: Nathan Lederman)

CNN’s Hero of the year 2013, Chad Pregracke, has spent the last 20 years cleaning up waste all along America’s rivers. Through his nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters, Pregracke has pulled a host of things out of our nation’s waterways such as 70 dishwashers, 84,997 tires and 121,622 bags of garbage. Interestingly, Pregracke’s efforts have also resulted in the discovery of 85 modern messages in bottles. These intimate notes from the U.S. heartland have been collected by Living Lands & Water over the course of their massive cleanup operation, and a segment of them are now on display here at The Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Message in a Bottle Collection

The Message in a Bottle Collection at The Houston Museum of Natural Science. (Photo: Nathan Lederman)

The exhibition, which began on Feb. 2, houses the assortment of bottles in custom made “shadow boxes.” Artist Becky Wren carefully carved each box from cherry, honey, and mulberry trees in order to give each bottle a unique display. The contents of these long-lost bottles prove to be even more interesting. Love ballads, strands of hair, tributes to passed loved ones and voodoo curses are just some of the items found among the floating debris. Tucked inside each and every bottle is a glimpse into the lives of a variety of Americans. Their unique backgrounds and aspirations are joined together in an exhibit which truly encapsulates the spirit of middle America.

The Message in a Bottle Collection will remain open until May 13, and is a one-of-a-kind exhibition for all ages.

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