Nothing really prepares one for the experience of entering the Huckleberry Explorer’s Club (HEC), a small museum in a duplex in Detroit’s burgeoning Core City neighborhood whose ground floor houses a general store full of secondhand oddities for sale at throwaway prices. The project is a collaboration between author and artist Stefany Anne Golberg and her husband, Morgan Meis, who met nearly two decades ago during college in New York City. But the concept of the Huckleberry Explorer’s Club is Golberg’s own and predates the physical location, or even the couple’s move to Detroit in late 2015.

“It began out of my longstanding habit collecting things that aren’t collectible, including experiences and photographs and in creating little writings, and also a sort of terror that I have of discarding things,” said Golberg on a tour of the museum with Hyperallergic.

Golberg gestures to a ring affixed to a cardboard stand in a cardboard niche of a cardboard wall. The museum falls somewhere between a meerkat habitat and grotto: a cozy, low-lit womb of custom displays for Golberg’s ephemera.

Stefany Anne Golberg considers the wedding ring that started it all.

One of the items on display is a wedding ring that Golberg discovered inside a desk she found on a street in Brooklyn. An inscription on the ring reads, “Steven and Julie” with the date February 12, 1988.

“I just felt so moved by this object, thinking through all of the different possible scenarios as to how that ring got to be inside the desk; it felt like this object had so much aura around it,” Golberg said. “More and more as I started, these sorts of things came into my life, and it wasn’t just about the things themselves or the picture [she took], but the relationship between two of us. It was kind of like I was marrying this moment.”

Golberg began marking her objects with little tags that offer context, dates, or adjacent experiences.

Flowers from Nama. Hamtramck, 2016.

“This is when we were living at the Detroit Zen Center in Hamtramck,” she said, gesturing to a cardboard tray housing a collection of dried flowers.

In some way, the museum’s aesthetic was inspired by a cave outside a monastery in Bulgaria that the couple once visited.

“People would put little objects in the right recesses of things; that experience informed this space,” Golberg said. She gestures at a drip of wax, presented off a cardboard column in a cardboard jewelry box.

A trace of Rabbi Alana.

“That’s when Rabbi Alana borrowed my car. When she returned it to me, there was this piece of wax that was obviously from some Shabbat candle,” said Golberg. “That’s for sure a Huckleberry Club item.”

An item sold by the HEC General Store. Golberg hand-labels all the items with their own stories.

Golberg and Meis are anachronistic, eking out a modern existence without the use of phones (a Google Maps search for the club somehow has their hours, and their “website” is basically a holding page with Golberg’s email). It is possible to talk about one without the other, but their lives and the HEC are generally intertwined. Days are filled with reading, writing, and working in the adjacent Huckleberry Club Garden, a volunteer-built community garden over a set of city-granted lots that includes a meditation garden, a series of stick gateways that resemble the cardboard museum, and a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven.

Huckleberry Gardens, on a summer day in 2022

In addition to developing the museum and staffing the adjacent general store, Golberg is an essayist and book author, currently making her way through a three-volume salvo of writings, the first of which, My Morningless Mornings (Unnamed Press) was published in 2020.

“I had in mind a book that would be much more essayistic, about different ways that people thought about the morning or how the morning appeared in poetry or paintings, and so I started writing some of that stuff,” said Golberg. “But I realized that first of all, I didn’t really want to write essays anymore, and that what I really wanted was to try as much as I could, in words, just capture that experience of morning, the felt experience of it.”

A glove that became a house for a mouse

Paradoxically, Golberg ended up writing about dropping out of high school in her native Las Vegas to care for her father — a period demarcated, for her, by staying up all night and sleeping through the morning. Much like the museum, Golberg’s diverse creative efforts are dedicated to monumentalizing the bits of existence that linger beneath the quotidian.

“I guess, it’s a way of capturing what would otherwise be the throwaway moments of my life,” she said. “But actually, it’s those moments, oftentimes that I feel are most illuminated and they’re the ones that are happening all the time.”

“How often do we really have a big party or a big event?” she asked. “Those are the things that mark our lives, but what about all that other time? All those other moments?”

Golberg in the Huckleberry Club General Store
Golberg indicates the size of the little microcosm of frozen earth found in Schwenksville, PA on the last day of 2013.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...

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