The Museum of Nothing–Beta Test

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Date & Time

Thu, Jun 22 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM

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Nothing Is Something at The Museum of Nothing

by Neil List

For 36 years William Davies King has had a career at UCSB as a professor of theater history and dramatic literature. But along the way, in fact, through his entire life, he has cultivated a fascination with collecting. In 2008 he published an essay/memoir, Collections of Nothing, about his preferred mode of collecting things of “no value,” stuff that is usually not considered “collectible.” His collection is vast and multiform and valuable in ways that sneak up on you.

In 2019 he laid out his entire cereal box collection (ca. 2300 boxes) as a giant mandala, which he called his Tree of Life™, with Life cereal as the trunk. He has also written and performed two dramatic sequels to the book, including Collections of Nothing Enough Is Enough, which can be found on YouTube.

The pandemic closures made it nearly impossible to see his 2020-2022 exhibit at the UCSB Library, called The Creative Edge of Collecting, but a video tour of it can also be found on YouTube. Then, too, for more than a decade he has offered a Discovery seminar, called Collectors and Collecting, for first-year students at UCSB, possibly the only such course offered at any university in the US.

Now, as he approaches retirement, he has set his sights on creating a Museum of Nothing, which, as he puts it, will be “a metaphor you can walk around in and take pictures.” The museum will have its “Beta test” this summer in the Red Barn Gallery on the UCSB campus, opening June 22, 4:00-7:00, with a re-opening on July 7, 4:00-7:00.

King hopes to find a “permanent” home for the Museum in the near future, though he adds, “Nothing is forever, which can be interpreted however you like.” The show will focus on his so-called “kitchen collection,” which consists of the most ephemeral of the ephemera. He estimates that some 10,000 discreet items will be on display. The A side will be visible on June 22, and the B side will appear on July 7—free of charge. The two exhibits will be entirely different but equally nothing.

The Museum of Nothing could be called “a collage of what we hardly ever notice.” King added; “Nothing is a concept I have nurtured and borne, and it’s deep in the plentiful stuff I can show. It might leave you profoundly unchanged and gloriously ready for less.”

The Red Barn Gallery is adjacent to the bus loop near the center of campus, alongside the university swimming pool. The nearest parking areas are #18, #27, and #29. More information about Prof. King and his various endeavors can be found at

For more information, contact William Davies King at or at (805) 453 3331


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