Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, April 7, 2012

This is outside my area of expertise. I love it.

I am glad I have a specialty. When someone has a question related to clothing or textiles, they come to me. I have my own little room where the mannequin dressing gets done, and in our new location there is going to be a separate room for the costume collection. So far, having a niche interest has served me well.

But I also feel very lucky to be working at a museum that isn't only focused on clothing and fabric. My classmates who got jobs at the Met Costume Institute or the Museum at FIT clearly have awesome gigs, but when was the last time they watched a crane lift a 4,500 pound historic object out of the second story of a building? Well, I did that on Tuesday.

These days it seems like every other week some major artifact is getting moved out the door. First it was ship's figureheads. Then it was a giant neon sign. Most recently we had some plane people come in to take down and move the Boeing airplane that has been on display for the entire history of the museum. (Side note: every time someone would refer to the "plane people" I would think "plain people" which is a term for the Amish. Then I would be sad that Amish people weren't coming to help with the airplane). Taking the plane down took about a week, and every time they took off a wing they would enlist the help of everyone in collections to carry it into the conservation area. They would assign us all to a spot and remind us to stay quiet unless there was a problem. If there was a problem the only acceptable word was "stop," not "whoa" or "wait". We sucked in our waists as we went around corners and discovered arm muscles that we didn't know we had. It was sort of awesome.

I'm glad I'm not in charge of any massive artifacts, but it is fun to have a job where in one week you get to see a boat "fly" out the side of a museum and an airplane fuselage go rolling through the galleries.

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