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Coker Arboretum houses an eclectic home for forgotten relics

In the shadows of Davie Hall lies a shrine. 

A shrine of collected toys and other objects gathered on a steam vent, under an overhanging tree branch. 

Decorated with items ranging from pacifiers to an Ed Sheeran CD, the shrine provides an opportunity for forgotten goods to find a new home. There are a plethora of different items ranging from masks, jewelry, sunglasses, figurines, mugs, keychains and books. 

Margo MacIntyre, the curator of the Coker Arboretum, said that the shrine was started by accident when she found a giraffe teething toy left behind in the garden.

“We found it and we just sat it down on this steam vent,” MacIntyre said. “Over time, it grew some mildew, mold, and moss grew around it.”

MacIntyre said that she and other staff members started gathering items that were left behind in the Arboretum and collected them on the steam vent.

“There have been Barbie doll shoes, and dolls, and pacifiers, and stuffed animals, and you know if you leave a stuffed animal out long enough it gets kind of creepy,” MacIntyre said. “So that was part of it was to let it morph into whatever it did and then when things got really gross we’d de-accession them and throw them away.”

Over time, children began to take items from the shrine and replace them with their own items, almost as a “lending library of toys.” MacIntyre said the shrine seems like a way to get the most use out of once cherished and now discarded items.

Jeremy Lamb, a sophomore at the University, first noticed the shrine when he was walking back from Franklin Street in November of last year. 

His sight was caught by steam rising up from the vent, leading him to think that Davie Hall was on fire. He did not know that he would stumble into one of UNC’s hidden treasures. 

“I love the shrine. I think it's a really cool part of UNC campus just because it's in such a random place and not many people know about it,” Lamb said. “It's cool to see over time the little additions come into the shrine.”

Lamb said that his favorite item on the shrine is Ed Sheeran’s “÷ (Divide)” CD, calling it the most random item he’s seen.

“It doesn't make sense why it's there,” he said. “But I think it’s such a good representation of the shrine because like, none of it makes any sense. But that's kind of what's fun about it.”

Junior Izze Steinke is a gardener at the Arboretum. They believe the shrine is a core part of the space, especially for the gardeners and curators. 

For them, the shrine represents people coming together to create a community surrounding the collective piece of art and it is one of their favorite things to show visitors on campus.

They said that they have a personal attachment to the shrine because it provides them a sense of home.

“It reminds me of Asheville and reminds me of my family and the environment,” Steinke said. “It's kind of always shifting, always changing, and as you know, people add to it and take away from it.”

As the Arboretum’s leaves grow and fall, so do the objects that can be found on the shrine. 


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