Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Beefy Arms Brigade

On Monday at the new museum, I had the exciting task of monitoring the moving crew while they worked with some of our larger artifacts. Basically that meant I was supposed to watch them with a steely, judgmental stare that says "under normal circumstances I would rip your head off for touching an artifact like that, but that thing weighs 1400 pounds so I suppose I need your help to move it." The project included taking the wheels off of a cart and reassembling it in a gallery, and moving our famous racist fish-gutting machine into place.

After watching for a little while, I realized I was actually having fun witnessing the whole process. It was just so different than my normal workday. I work mostly with women, and manual tasks are completed slowly and methodically. Fabrics get vacuumed with brush attachments that aren't much bigger than a quarter, and an entire canoe can get cleaned with a q-tip. But here was this pack of tough guys hammering axels into place, bracing things with giant pieces of wood, and using exciting tools like "winches" and "bottle jacks." For both projects they had ingenious, well thought-out plans for how to move the objects carefully and methodically, but there were still a few moments where the best option was "hand me the hammer," or "let's just see what happens if we push it really hard."

Later that week, as I was sewing padding to male mannequin arms to make them look beefier, I was struck by the bizarre presence of the faux men I have in my work life. And no, that isn't some cruel comment about the dudes who work at MOHAI-- I'm talking about this house of horrors:

That would be the mannequin that I made the aforementioned beefy arms for. How would you feel if you turned on the light in your office one morning and saw that? 

Eventually, he will have hair and hands, and will be wearing a hat, vest, tuxedo jacket, pants, and shoes. But right now he looks like some sort of pants-less, nubby-handed Frankenstein monster. 

This then brought to mind my other favorite creep-tastic collections photo:

This is Black Bart, a quick-draw cowboy arcade game from the 1962 World's Fair. Here we see him back from the conservator (where he got some face-work) and tucked into his packing crate. His shirt was removed so it could be replaced with a prop shirt.

But seriously, the whole scene with the plastic, the covered head, the tight pants, the bare chest, and the gun at the ready, it looks like he was the victim of some sex game gone awry and now his killer is trying to dispose of the evidence.

Nice arms though. 


  1. I like how you called it a "racist fish-gutting machine" as if it gutted racist fish.

  2. Why are male mannequins always creepy, with weird faces? Why do female mannequins have beautiful or abstract features and the male ones are grimacing and scowling??