Today I offer a murder mystery for your consideration. On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found dead in their Fall River, Massachusetts home; a murder for which Andrew’s daughter Lizzie Andrew Borden would be charged and later acquitted. Whether or not Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother remains a question to this day, with scholars and armchair detectives eagerly debating their opinions. I won’t offer an opinion on her guilt or innocence here. But I will offer a connection between artifacts in our collection and the infamous Lizzie Borden.
It begins with Colonel Richard Borden from her paternal grandfather’s side of the family. Only three generations separate the two relatives. but unlike Lizzie, Richard seems to have been universally liked and respected. Accounts of his life describe him as honest, self-reliant, intelligent, steadfast in his convictions, physically strong, charitable, and possessing the highest moral standards. He also didn’t mind a bit of hard work.
Today I offer a true “behind the scenes” look at our museum world. Welcome to our workroom. A small, but vital area that sometimes looks as if a tornado blew through it and other times it looks so pristine that you would swear we probably don’t do any actual work here. The ambiance of this area depends on who is using it at the time, whether we are expecting a visit from a donor or researcher, and which projects are underway.
This is the place objects moving in, out and around the museum make a stop during their journeys. Shelving and closets house new artifacts, incoming and outgoing loans, and artifacts being moved on and off display. Items we are trying to identify or research will also find a temporary home here. The length of time an object will stay in the workroom ranges from a few minutes, a few weeks, months, or as long as a year (or more), depending on what needs to be done. It could take just a few minutes to replace an identification tag that was removed before exhibition and a year to complete the extensive paperwork and processing for a donation consisting of hundreds of items.
A couple months ago, Captain Jim Bailie of Norfolk Fire-Rescue called us to ask about items in our collection related to Thomas Kevill. Kevill was the first paid Fire Chief in Norfolk and a Civil War veteran who served on the CSS Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads March 8-9, 1862 as the officer in charge of gun #9.
Thanks to the generosity of Kevill’s descendants, we have two portraits of him, his artillery belt and buckle, a certificate of his military service and a commemorative fire badge.
The Artifacts in the Park campaign rolls on and so do our anchors. Some of them recently took a ride down Jefferson Avenue to Davis Boat Works in downtown Newport News.
Thanks to a generous offer from Senator Frank Wagner, our process has changed dramatically. Wagner donated the services of his marine repair facility, Davis Boat Works. With their expertise, staff from Coastal Cleaning and a blasting process involving recycled glass media, a job that would take us months to complete by hand is now reduced to just a few days. When the cleaning is completed, each piece gets coated with an anti-corrosive product and a polyurethane finish that will protect the artifacts for at least 20 years.