Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, June 30, 2012


If you want to work with artifacts in a museum, you also have to be ok being a mole person. Light is bad for the collection, so storage areas are ideally windowless. Collections staff usually work near the collection, so it usually doesn't work out architecturally to have an amazing view office adjoining a storage space that doubles as a fallout shelter.

I am now splitting my time between my charming elevator-adjacent office at the "old" museum and a climate-controlled room with the windows blacked out at the "new" museum. As a person who cares about artifacts, I love that room. It is temperature and humidity controlled, and the dim lighting protects the objects from all those harmful UV rays. But as a human being I sort of hate it. Normally I'm not one of those people who gets upset when they don't see the sun for a few hours (or months--I am a Seattleite after all), but that room is dark and I often wear my coat all day because the thermostat is set at like 67 degrees.

This week I came in for work and found out the mount maker was out sick. Basically the whole reason I am reporting to the new museum is to babysit a room of artifacts while the mount maker builds things and goes in and out installing stuff in cases. If she isn't there the door stays locked and I don't need to be there. I could have hopped back on the bus and gone back to the old museum for a vacuum-a-thon, but I had a bunch of work I had planned to do on my laptop and the gassy smell in the conservation lab has been making more appearances. So I decided to stay at the new museum, but move myself to a warm sun-dappled conference room that overlooks Lake Union. It was AMAZING. I can't believe how productive I was. I created this spreadsheet about our stock of mannequins and which ones had necks or not and it was like THE MOST RIVETING THING I HAD EVER WORKED ON.

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