Harry Smith is a wildly fascinating man. He was a filmmaker, painter, musicologist, but he defined himself primarily as an anthropologist. Throughout his lifetime he collected numerous items. What remains one of his most mysterious collecting endeavors is his extensive collection of paper airplanes. Over the course of 20 years Smith collected these airplanes, annotating the date and street where it was found along the way.

This book documents the entire collection which Smith donated to the Smithsonian in 1984. Flipping through the pages of each carefully photographed paper airplane it is such an odd glimpse into the life of New York City. Planes made from flyers, homework, grid paper, pages from a spiral bound notebook, magazine pages, a manila envelope, takeout menus, phonebook pages, instruction manuals, pages torn straight from a book. Each one is so different from the other but somehow they are all part of a common thread that runs throughout this period. What was Smith really trying to say with his collection. Was it merely a hobby or is it by focusing in on a small recurring detail of ordinary life you can then gain a greater understanding of that time period.

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