Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You were a contender

but I'm afraid you weren't chosen, flake scraper..


(apologies for the lousy image quality. I'll blame my 6 year old digital camera.)

The flake tool above was not chosen. It was not chosen to go on display at the Wild Horse Wind Farm Visitor's Center. Many others were, however, and I spent a chunk of time last week processing these objects for a loan. I will be sure to let you all know when the exhibit featuring our lithics is available for view. Speaking of view, the one from the visitor's center is incredible, if you ever find yourself in central Washington on a clear day.

In the meantime though, I've been taking photos, entering information in the database, and making sure our loan forms are up to snuff. Loaning material is a very formal affair in the museum world - we don't just stick in a box and hand it over; we have forms and documentation and reports. It may sound like a lot of work, but it's all part of making sure that both parties to the loan (the lender and the borrower) know exactly what's expected of each and so we can ensure the best care possible of the objects we are responsible for. Documentation, documentation, documentation!

It seems I haven't been very good about posting lately. I think that calls for the return of Friday Whatzits, don't you? Something to keep me on my toes and attending to this blog. I'll have to find something nifty for this week. See you Friday!

Monday, April 21, 2008


The museum recently got a shipment of supplies! Okay, maybe this isn't really that exciting to most people, but I am the kind of person who checks the mail as soon as it comes and still gets excited by a package in the mail. So imagine my delight when my most recent supply orders started arriving in great big boxes like this:
Supplies box

Inside, were all kinds of goodies. I got a whole bunch of 2" ethafoam planks, which are great for carving out custom cavities to hold an object very securely. I did this with many of the bone and ivory pieces we have from Alaska.
Foam planks

And a bunch of foam rod which is possibly the most whimsical looking of the museum supplies we have on hand. There's about 100' of it in this picture. It's great for making pot rings (.pdf) (although I've been hot gluing the foam instead of trying out NMAI's "hot dog" method) and has many other potential uses as well.
Foam Rod

And last but not least is the sticky subject of adhesives (get it?! Sticky adhesives! I crack me up.). Adhesives in a museum setting are problematic though - a truly archival adhesive (one which will not break down over time) may never exist, but adhesives have their place and are very, very useful. Last time I ordered super long glue sticks, but this time around we're going to try their shorter counterparts. That roll in front is double stick tape which has a myriad of uses. The museum clamping devices (cough *clothes pins* cough) in the background are not from any of the most recent packages - they are from the local drug store; they're used to keep 2 pieces of glued material from pulling apart. Simple, but it works!

The packages included a few other things, but I'm excited to have the foam rod (which we didn't have earlier) and to get some more glue sticks (which we were very nearly out of) and some double stick tape (which we were out of). It's good to get supplies.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

These boots were made for walking....

but now they're in a museum so no one is allowed to use them for walking, running, dancing, or even hanging out on the couch watching tv. And they're not boots, really, they're moccasins.

Over the past couple weeks I spent some time rehousing the moccasin collection. We have 17.5 pairs of moccasins, ranging from so tiny that they must be for a doll to mens sizes, and 1 pair of child's mukluks. Some of them were pretty much flat after being in storage for years (you know how a light canvas sneaker flops over? It's kind of like that. Shoes don't always hold their shape.), while others had some paper stuffing which gave them some support.
Original stuffing.
None had storage which allowed easy lifting while minimizing physical contact. So, taking a page from the Minnestoa Historical Society (which has really excellent information on their website, by the way), I set out to make custom supports for the moccasins, both internal and external.

I started with the moccasins, like this one. It had no internal support, although the large amount of beading held the shape of the foot fairly effectively.

Then I looked at what I had on hand: Cotton stockinette fabric, polyester quilt batting, scissors, and a sewing kit. The scissors, by the way, are distressingly dull. Must remember to sharpen those sometime.

For my first try, I made a rectangular pillow:
Experiment one: Rectangles

Okay, so it was approximately rectangular. I'm a collections manager, not a seamstress. But look how nicely it supports the back of the moccasin:
Stuffed form

But, it occurred to me, feet are not rectangular. So the rest of the moccasin support inserts were made to be roughly foot shaped. Again, I emphasize roughly.
Experiment 2:  Vaguely foot shaped ovals

And check out the sole of the shoe above. Looks like it was recycled from a parfleche, or some other similarly decorated object.

And finally, after sewing 33 supports, all the moccasins were supported. I endeavored to recreate the external support which the MHS had utilized, and, ultimately, I think it worked out pretty well. Ours are made of acid free card board with a tissue paper layer on which the moccasins sit (because the cardboard is buffered and the tissue paper is not).
Top view

Top view

Side view

The freshly housed moccasins were returned to their wooden drawers where they will patiently await the move to a new facility.
Drawer storage

Ultimately, this kind of storage will reduce the need for handling the moccasins which will help preserve them for a longer time. Feels like a happy ending to me!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bloggy Recommendations

Do you like reading this blog? Wanna find some more museum-y type blogs to read? Here's are three that I'm really digging right now:

Curator's Corner. From the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum written by Curator Kim Kenney. Very chatty and a great look into the variety of projects Ms. Kenney is involved in.

The Bowers Museum Collection Blog. Profiles one object each week with really excellent information and great photos. Very interesting stuff.

Smithsonian's Office of Exhibits Central. A really remarkable look behind the scenes of how exhibits are built. Posting can be erratic, but worth adding to your feed reader when they do post.

There are loads and loads of us museum bloggers out there now. Do you read more than one museum blog? What makes a good one? Do museum blogs make you think differently about the institutions who blog?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy April Fool's Day!

April Fool's Day is a good a reason to post as any. No shenanigans will ensue, I promise. (although, check out this post from the Science Museum of Minnesota's Science Buzz Blog.)

Back in the day I would post three times a week, but now we're headed toward almost 2 weeks without a new post. I've got one in the works about the latest rehousing project I've taken on. Beaded moccasins. I won't say much about it, but I will say that I have spent much of the last week poking my poor fingers with sewing needles and pins (accidently, of course).

This quarter is going to be very very busy, I think. There are 7 (seven!!) students working with me this quarter. I foresee a great deal being accomplished.

(Why is it that blogger seems to remove the spaces between my sentences? Is it Firefox? Because I promise I'm spacing twice between each sentence and am not trying to confuse your eyes.)