#1. The man proudly displaying his vast collection (now housed in Philadephia's Mutter Museum - road trip!) is one Dr. Chevalier Jackson, who extracted these "found objects" from various Victorian human hosts where they had been placed for...safe keeping? Perhaps as souvenirs or protective amulets? From this remove, one can only speculate.
#2. Mary Cappello, who has a keen interest in objects of "disruptive beauty" currently teaches at the University of Rhode Island & recently was awarded a coveted 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship. She wrote a non-fiction book about Dr. Jackson titled: Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration & the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them. I have placed it at the top of my "must read" list, following in the steps of other scientifically macabre books I can highly recommend.
(Heather Pringle's The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession & the Everlasting Dead, & Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers followed by her book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife)
Reading reviews of her book suggested the theme of the project - to use not only a found object as the basis of the image, but to make it an object so compelling, so darn tasty, that for whatever reason, one might wish to secret it inside of one's own private Idaho.
#3. That brings me to Barry Moser, Supreme Master of Wood-Engraving. Back in the 1970's I worked with Kim Merker at the Windhover Press in Iowa City, creating (sort of) wood-engravings (sort of) on Turkish box-wood end-grain for a book translated by W.S. Merwin. Kim had worked on a previous project with Barry Moser, & still had his INCREDIBLE blocks knocking about the shop. When he showed them to me, I realized that what I had been doing seriously paled in comparison, & I really should just hang up my gravers, hang my head & return to my gouges & planks. I did this for many years, but after seeing Moser's prints for the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, I was itching to give the medium another go. Imagine my surprise to find that the end-grain box-wood blocks were a thing of the past. Trees grow ever so slowly. I then read that all 229 illustrations Mr. Moser had engraved were done on a newly developed synthetic substitute of hardened epoxy resin called "Resingrave." Yippee. It's swell stuff, available at McClain's.
#4. Finally, a plea. Would the knave who "liberated" my high magnification swing arm lamp & all my wood-engraving tools (housed in a very ancient Yardley soap box) please return them to the shop. I am bereft & bereaved, especially of my tools!