This month our patient spotlight is Mark Kelehan. Mark, a Creighton alum, has collected around 1,000 lunchboxes, which is currently on display at The Durham Museum through September 3, in an exhibit called "The Lunchbox: Packed with Pop Culture."
Mark's lunchbox collection started in 1994 while walking around a flea market in Radial Social Hall near Saddle Creek. As Mark began to build his collection, it became more than just a hobby, it ran much deeper than that. For Mark, it symbolized the American pop culture his childhood lacked.
The exhibit at the Durham shows not just his collection of lunchboxes and art, but it shows the endless hours of research that he has done to explain the history on lunchbox creations, marketing research, licensing rights, and production.
Mark knows there is so much more he can do with this, both his knowledge and the collection itself.
He is now in talks to create a book or two on the topic of lunchboxes. Possibly a colorful coffee table book. Or perhaps one delving deeper in the history and inner workings of the lunchbox industry. Or maybe both books.
Many of you are probably wondering if Mark has a favorite. To answer that, he does not have a particular favorite one, but favorites. The one that may have the most meaning would the Pac-Man lunchbox. The lunchbox that started it all. At the Durham, this lunchbox sits in its own display case, paired with a brown bag with "MAK" and "8-17" written on it. Those are the initials of Mark's mom, Mary Ann Kelehan, and the date she passed away, August 17,2020.
The Lunchbox exhibit is perhaps as much as anything a tribute to her. Mary Ann was an avid collector of all kinds of things who loved taking her sons to scour thrift stores and flea markets in search of hidden treasures.
On the eve of his exhibit's opening, Mark and his father (who is also a patient), honored Mary Ann by placing a version of her own favroite lunchbox as the final piece on the wall of 500. It was a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Double R Bar Ranch metal lunchbox that Mary Ann had growing up in Omaha.
"She was the one who got me into collecting," he says. "So much of this collection is for her because she made me want to do something with this thing that I was so passionate about and not just let it sit in my garage or basement never to be seen by anyone. I wanted to share this with the world."
"All you can do is take what you care about, tell the story of it the best you can and see if it resonates with people. I think this will."
Mark's collection is one of a kind original and we encourage everyone to get down to the Durham Museum to check it out. It will be on display through Sunday, September 3. We appreciate Mark sharing his story and collection with us, and we hope you do as well!
If you would like to read the full story on Mark's collection, the links are attached below:Mark's CollectionLunchbox Collection