Martha’s Museum: An Ode to Meaningful Collecting

(Video link here.) Last January, we wrote about our friend J. Speed Carroll’s innovative reaction to his wife Martha’s passing. To counter the many questions from friends asking “What are you going to do?” he wore a button that said simply, I don’t know.

Since then, Speed has taken another unexpected action. He made Martha’s Museum: The Precise Placement of Objects, a lovely film about Martha’s remarkable, very personal collections in their Greenwich Village brownstone. The rooms of the house remain their traditional selves; the objects within them transform them. With Speed’s narration, you enter the many stories and meanings hidden in Martha’s eclectic collections from all over the world. The films 14 minutes flew by for us but it can be viewed in chunks as you have time. It is an ode to meaningful collecting (the word clutter never comes to mind).

You could view it as a house tour of someone with original style. Or as a tour of the remarkable things to see in each part of the house and the way they resonate with each other and with the viewer.

Some personal favorites: Martha’s photograph of two cowboys hanging out in the Texas town where she was from…

Martha Carroll

Martha Carroll

And in a room full of Buddha’s and Eastern art, the dining table and chairs Martha designed in collaboration with a Greek sculptor who stood on the table’s glass top to show how strong it was…

Speed Carroll

Speed Carroll

…and these curiously modern candlesticks made from old branding irons from early branding operations in Texas…

J Speed Carroll

J Speed Carroll

One room in the house is filled with artwork of friends…

Speed Carroll

Speed Carroll

…including Sally’s, taken in her twenties…

Best of all, among the vast collection in the bedroom, are three cubes Speed made for Martha out of different metals signifying “I love you”…

J. Speed Carroll

J. Speed Carroll

…Which is the quiet message woven through Martha’s Museum.


Speed would like to collect comments on Martha’s Museum for posterity, and for his new granddaughter Clare. We invite you to do so here, or at Vimeo.


4 Responses to Martha’s Museum: An Ode to Meaningful Collecting

  1. Lonn Taylor 03.02.2018 at 3:32pm #

    Mr. Carroll,

    I am curious to know if you are related to H. Bailey Carroll, Professor of History at the University of Texas from 1942 until his death in 1966. Dr. Carrolls father was named J. Speed Carroll.


    Lonn Taylor
    Fort Davis, Texas

  2. Sondra Newman 03.20.2018 at 4:30pm #

    Martha’s Museum was wonderful – the video, the narration, the tone of the narrator, the whole gestalt. Such an inspiring tribute. You do give us such great daily gifts. Thank you so much.

  3. Sally Schneider 03.20.2018 at 7:47pm #

    You’re welcome. It’s nice to be able to watch it and remember Martha.

  4. Virginia Hamilton 10.21.2018 at 2:06pm #

    Hi-Speed, I was visiting Martha’s museum again after awile, thinking of you and Martha and missing you both ending of life is hard.your tribute to her is glorious. Je pense toujours do Les autres jours. Take care, Ginny Hamilton

    [email protected]

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