Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Operation Deep Freeze

Early on in the process of moving textiles out of our old warehouse we found this scarf in a bright, neon color of pink. I mean this thing was like eye-searing pink. It actually kind of hurt to look at it. It said it had been worn for "Operation Deep Freeze" which apparently is the code name for U.S. missions/operations in Antarctica. In other words: dudes in Antarctica were issued clothing so pink that it just might save their lives if they got lost. One can only assume that their official motto is "Safer Living Through Fabulousness."

"Come find me in the snooooooowwwww!"

Soon after that discovery, "Operation Deep Freeze" became a fitting name for a mission I embarked on myself. While we were packing things at the old warehouse we started discovering various kinds of bug evidence. Just this week I sent these pictures to a couple of my coworkers. The response came back "Maybe you should change your blog title to 'Ways I grossed out my colleagues today'."

This is what the floor looked like when we moved some hanging garments. 
Lots of spider bits and what looks like moth cocoons

A horror on par with Snakes on a Plane: Bugs on a Collar
(luckily these were dead)

This is bad news for a textile collection. So we decided to send batches of stuff to get frozen. Just as vacuuming is a minimally invasive way to clean, freezing is the preferred pest-stoppage method over harmful chemicals. Fortunately, we have a friendly relationship with a cold storage facility so we are able to freeze entire rolling racks and pieces of furniture at once. 

Now that the first big batch is back from the freezer, the next step is to check and vacuum everything before putting it away. It is taking a long time, but if we skip this step, we might find a dead bug or a moth hole in the future and have no way of knowing if it was leftover from the old warehouse or is something new. So we are going through each item, vacuuming out any dust or bug carcasses, and making notes of any existing holes.

The fun part is that sometimes we discover other weird or exciting stuff in the garments. Last week we found documents and photographs in the pocket of a coat that belonged to a politician. This week we cleaned a hunting jacket that had feathers all over the inside one of the interior pockets (it was not a down coat). Is that a thing? When you hunt birds do you just jam the dead ones into your pocket?

One thing that I love about my job is the variety of tasks. When people ask what I did today I can say things like, "Well, I answered emails and then spent some time plucking feathers out of a hunting coat."

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