Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, March 19, 2016

What It Says On The Tin

Most of the time, re-boxing items and organizing shelves is deeply satisfying. But sometimes I am a little sad to say goodbye to ridiculousness of the old boxes. As annoying as it can be, you sort of have to laugh when you discover aging boxes helpfully labeled "miscellaneous feathers and fur bits" or "stuff from green table, moved 4/22/72."

This week I said goodbye to a personal favorite.

There is a section of accessories that is sort of a big mess, but which a few volunteers are helping to inventory. It includes a mix of archival boxes and boxes that were made long before anyone had an inkling that "archival" was a thing. On one of those shelves was this box:

Ok, sure, I thought to myself the first time I spotted it. Could be a muff with some pheasant feathers. Could also be something completely different and it is an old label. Let's find out...


THAT BOX DELIVERED ON ITS PROMISES. It is basically just AN ENTIRE PHEASANT that you can put your hands inside.

It is SICKENING, both in the traditional use of the word, and the drag queen use.

So now it has a better box and a label with its picture on the outside. Which is better for it, but there was something about the old box and the WHOA THE BOX DIDN'T LIE surprise that every time had me like:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Quagmire Surprise

One of the tough things about collections work is that you can have a great plan for what you want to get done that day, and then just unexpectedly wander into a giant project that takes multiple days to resolve.

This week I was looking for interesting deaccessioned artifacts for a hands-on activity I'm doing at the museum. I wanted to show some examples of different kinds of damage (fading, bug holes, silk shattering) and I remembered seeing some boxes in storage labeled "examples of deterioration." I found them and brought them into the conservation lab to take a look. Sure enough, the boxes contained a bunch of super sad, damaged, crumbling-to-bits objects.

As I began looking at them I started to see accession numbers and I got nervous. These items were deaccessioned right? I mean everything is jammed together and there are like three dresses just wadded up in the bottom of this box. These aren't STILL ARTIFACTS ARE THEY?!?!?!

Oh yeah. They were artifacts.

I was reeeeeelly close to just closing the boxes back up, putting them back on the shelf, and pretending like I didn't see anything.

But no. I was in this mess and the only thing to do was to take the time to properly sort it out. I got out new, bigger boxes that would fit the items more comfortably. I re-packed everything and wrapped the boxes for freezing (since some of the "condition issues" were bug damage I wanted to be safe). Once they are out of the freezer I'll go through them more carefully, officially proposing some for deaccession and do my best to stabilize/clean/take care of anything we really should be keeping.

Once I went through everything, I actually discovered that the two items that were in the worst condition had already been deaccessioned.

...but one of them had a Seattle label.