Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Thursday, April 19, 2012

An emotional, smelly day

This morning, I was extra excited to go to work. Instead of reporting to my regular desk at the old museum, I got to go to work at the new museum. I had only been there once before since I started my job. The construction was still in full swing, it was cold, and I was forced to wear an orange vest and a hard hat. Not a good day.

But this morning it was lovely out. I took the bus part of the way and walked the rest. I walked through the revitalized South Lake Union neighborhood, passing lots of hip workers on my way. As I approached the park, I almost got choked up with giddy tears.

The building is beautiful and the setting of the park, the water, and sky is really breathtaking. I felt so, so lucky to be part of the transition to the new space.

The main task of the day was to set up the room where all of the artifacts will be unpacked and organized before they get installed. Myself, three other members of the collections staff, and several members of the packing company arranged tables and talked logistics. Once we had a plan, we set to work. One of the tasks was to cover each table in a padded blanket. It would later get covered with a thin sheet of ethafoam, creating an archival-safe, soft surface for the objects to sit on. Us collections people were a little wary of the blankets since they were just regular moving blankets, not some acid-free, bleach-free, chemically inert, Oddy tested, blessed-by-the-director-of-the-Smithsonian product that we are used to using. But, figuring the ethafoam would provide a safe-enough barrier, we went on our merry way. That is until we started discovering that some of the blankets smelled musty. Some of them reeked, and some of them only stank softly. Were all of them bad? We couldn't tell. Before we knew it we were sticking our noses in each blanket, calling people over to offer second opinions, debating which part of the blanket was best for smell-testing, and eventually confusing our noses so much that we couldn't tell if the smell was on everything or if we had just gone crazy.

The final assessment? We had a big batch of musty blankets that could absolutely not be used with artifacts. Instead we ordered thicker ethafoam to cover the tables.

But that was all beside the point. The point is, in a few weeks I am going to be showing up regularly to install artifacts here:

So awesome.

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