Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Brave New World

On Monday, one of my coworkers sent me two amazing photographs.

This is our old storage warehouse on the day we swept the floor and handed over the keys. It is surreal to see it like this. In January, when we started the process of moving out, the task seemed insurmountably big. This was a 10,000 square foot space that was absolutely crammed with stuff. Row upon row of shelving, objects in the aisles, things filling available floor space, and a back corner crammed with wood logs which we couldn't identify because they were blocked by several layers of tall furniture. Many jokes and comparisons were made to the final scene in that one Indiana Jones movie.

Although that is ridiculous because that space had wide, easy to navigate aisles

It was a storage space that MOHAI moved into in the 1980s, primarily to hold the furniture and the costume and textile collection. A lot of things were good about it-- it was secure, temperature and humidity controlled, and the company that owned the building was easy to work with. But no matter the best intentions, when a storage facility is off-site, it is too easy to just leave things there to be dealt with "later." We found notes left on things that were dated to the 1990s, post-its on boxes that said "infested with bugs!" and a giant ship's mast with no identifying information whatsoever.

But now, after seven months of planning, packing, unpacking, cleaning, freezing, organizing, and researching, the storage space is empty. Everything isn't "done" (I've got acres of follow-up vacuuming to do and will be working on inventorying stuff for the next few years) but it is on site and in front of our faces.

I had my last day in the old place the week before last, when I took my turn being the MOHAI representative during a craigslist sale of shelving and various unneeded items.  Our moving company partners helped negotiate the sales, and I carried around the cash in a little "True Value Hardware" apron that we had found among the supplies. Even with all the artifacts moved out, I still found myself instinctively protective of the space and its former occupants. Inquiries from potential buyers of the shelving went like this:

"So what did you keep here?"
"Like, stuff that you sold?"
"What did you sell?"
"What, like online or in stores?"
Eventually one of them was so puzzled that he pointed at my apron and asked, "so you work for True Value?"
"Hahahaha NO."

Don't be fooled by the ponytail and jeans sir, if you saw my glamour shots you would be embarrassed to have asked that question

When I started my current job, I was plunked into the middle of this massive museum relocation project. After Grand Opening my department jumped right into this next move project. Since day one everything move-related has been the priority. For over a year I've been splitting my time between two locations. Starting this week, I was at my desk every day, could schedule meetings whenever I wanted, and had the deep comfort of knowing that everything in the collection I oversee is here in the same building with me. I've done a lot of fun, important things over the last two years, but right now it feels like the real work is about to begin.

And I'm head over heels excited about it.

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