The Perot Museum of Nature and Science will be a temporary home for 10 people's "stuff" for the next several months, but it isn't the kind of junk they normally keep in boxes in the garage. These people are enthusiasts in the best sense of the word -- they are collectors, experts in respective fields of fandom from the Dallas Cowboys and Star Wars to vintage bikes and ornate jewelry.
Their treasure chests, some of which boast hundreds of thousands of items, will be open and on display for Dallasites to see April 16 through Sept. 5 as part of the Perot's Eye of the Collector exhibit.
Eye of the Collector is the Perot's first self-curated show and one Dr. Anthony Fiorillo, chief curator and vice president of research and collections, described as one of the most humanizing in the museum's history, as it provides a platform for patrons to connect over a shared interest and the memories tied to it.
"It's really cool to find something that belonged to somebody you know or admired in history," Fiorillo says. "These guys have so many stories."
Eye of the Collector opens Saturday, April 16 and features a wide variety of collections, including African-American dolls, duck decoys and Ballet Folklorico costumes. Here are the trinkets and attractions you don't want to miss.
Dallas Cowboys rarities
Like many locals, Bob Bragalone eats, sleeps and breathes America's Team. But unlike many fans, he has spent his entire life (and not to mention plenty of pocket change) buying up artifacts that tell of the Dallas Cowboys legacy.
"I really, truly started collecting when I was 7. For me, Santa's wish list was easy -- I would just go to the old Sears wish book and flip to the NFL section," Bragalone says. "Now I look for more one-of-a-kind items."
That includes eight flashy championship rings. Seven of them are "salesman samples" Super Bowl rings, meaning the exact design but sans real diamonds, while the last is an authentic NFC Championship Ring from Ralph Neely and Super Bowl V. Another jaw-dropper is the Tom Landry fedora, which Bragalone has certified was worn during the legendary Roger Staubach Hail Mary pass of 1975. (The collector has three other Landry fedoras in his basement where he houses he rest of his keepsakes.)
One unusual featured item is a Cowboys megaphone. Bragalone found a woman selling it on eBay, claiming it belonged to a male cheerleader. A farce? Not quite -- through his research, Bragalone discovered that in the early '60s, male and female high school volunteers helped the cheerleaders out using none other than those blue and white megaphones. He now owns two of them.
Star Wars memorabilia -- and lots of it
Former journalist and longtime Lucasfilm employee, Steve Sansweet, owns the world's largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia and the Guinness World Record to prove it. Sansweet spent 40 years gathering more than 350,000 authentic and fan-made pieces that are on display at an open-to-the-public gallery called Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma, Calif., but he brought a selection of of his favorites to Dallas.
"I have objects that were from the year before Star Wars came out to whatever came in the mail today," he says.
What are likely to be the big talkers at the Perot? A uniform worn by the director of photography in the filming of the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, which was filmed in Norway on a mountain so high ski rescue team members were recruited as part of the Hoth army, and pieces of the Death Star from various movies, including the original Star Wars and Return of the Jedi.
Shrine to The Beatles
Plano resident Gary Wieding bought an upright piano in 1991 and spent 24 years transforming it into one of the most intricate and eye-catching tributes to the revolutionary rockers we've seen. The piece, which houses more than 180 items, was so impressive, in fact, it beat out others in the Perot's open call for collections to be featured alongside the museum's other curated exhibits.
The piano stands about eight-feet-tall adorned with Beatles album covers, figurines and cut-outs, many of which Wieding built from copper and wood. The first things he ever decorated were sliding doors that expose the key hammers, where he painted a mural of the Yellow Submarine. Slide the doors open and inside the submarine's vibrant underwater world comes to life in neon, lit by black light.
The piano works and plays CDs, but won't be musical at the Perot. But Wieding believes Beatles fans will simply go gaga over the opportunity to get back and take a stroll down Penny Lane.
Fun PEZ dispensers
Carla Hartman certainly boasts one of the brightest collections in the exhibit, and one that sure to speak to your inner child. Over the years, she's amassed more than 900 PEZ candy dispensers in seemingly endless colors and themes, including Disney characters, superheroes, animals and a variety of Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse models. Hartman even has all 43 presidents.
Cave bear fossils
If there's one thing Randy Best wants viewers to take away from his collection, a massive stockpile of worldly artifacts and fossils, it's the concept of extinction. Perhaps no piece better illustrates his point than the cave bear skeleton, brought from his house and reconstructed as one of the focal points of the Eye of the Collector. The bear, which went extinct 10,000 years ago, was excavated by archaeologists in Siberia and came into Best's possession via auction, and what drew him to it was the discussion about how it went extinct after the Ice Age.
"Thirty or so big animals just vanished, so I'm curious why," Best says.
"The climate was changing rapidly then, did that have something to do with it? Must have. And does it have any lessons for our current consideration?"