The Unknown Museum, which lived at the same space at 35 Corte Madera Ave. across from City Hall from 1974 to the mid-1980s (as did upscale gardening shop Smith & Hawken after it), was Mickey McGowan’s packed-to-the-hilt homage to pop culture in all its forms, from toys and knick knacks to art and thousands of items that you haven’t thought of in decades – surely one of the world’s largest private collections of vintage pop cultural artifacts.
While McGowan briefly relocated the Unknown Museum “to a private home he rented at 243 E. Blithedale Ave., lining the roof with old TV sets and decorating the rooms with his amazing amalgam of Americana, what he calls his assemblage of American life,'” according to the Marin Independent Journal, much of it now lives in a 4,000-square-foot, nearly century-old house he bought beside a freeway on-ramp in San Rafael.
But while the Marin IJ last checked in with McGowan’s collection in 2006, few have seen his massive vinyl record collection.
Eilon Paz, the Brooklyn photographer whose Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting is a “photo and interview project documenting vinyl collectors in their most intimate environment: their record room,” tracked down McGowan in August 2014. He visited him in his San Rafael “record room,” taking some fantastic photos of McGowan and his collection, and interviewing him in the process.
If you’re interested in learning more about one of the quintessential characters from Mill Valley’s more colorful and eclectic days of yore, check it out by going here.
Paz used a successful Kickstarter campaign to turn his project into a 436-page coffee-table book, and its just-published second edition features McGowan. The book is divided into two main parts: the first features 250 full-page photos framed by captions and select quotes, while the second consists of 12 full-length interviews that delve deeper into collectors’ personal histories and vinyl troves.