Choosing One Out of Many Thousands

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How do you pick a  favorite artifact when our collection contains over 30,000 of them?   For me, it was love at first sight.   Or maybe it was awe at first glance.

When I arrived at the museum over 8 years ago, one of the first projects I worked on was a complete inventory of the collection.    I had the joy of opening all the boxes, folders, drawers, cabinets, mysterious rolled objects, and so much more.   And each time, there was something amazing, beautiful, unique, compelling, ordinary or strange to see.   Read more

"I Think We Found Bigfoot"

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Our "Bigfoot"
Our “Bigfoot”

“I think we found Bigfoot in the Chesapeake Bay Gallery”. As much fun as that would be, I knew it wasn’t true. But after hearing this comment from a coworker, I still went running out to the gallery with a camera. And I found this…a big, hairy looking beast, but one made from a large pile of fiber optic cables that were once part of the interactive displays. Our “Bigfoot” is another sign that the deinstallation of the gallery is progressing nicely.

Right now the room is a mess of sawdust and chunks of plaster where the walls are coming down. As soon as an area is cleared of artifacts, the Exhibit Design and Facilities Management teams step in to take out the cases, walls and murals. The gallery is constantly changing and without all the design walls in place, the room looks twice the size it did before.   Read more

Museum Mysteries

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“ARGH!!!!” “AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!”  “WHAT THE HECK IS THIS NUMBER????”  “THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A LETTER ‘R’ ????”   (Some of the phrases I have been known to say while working with artifacts)

 All part of a normal work day in an institution that has been collecting objects for 81 years.  81 long years full of many thousands of artifacts that came in and various directors, curators, conservators and collections staff members that have come and gone.   Read more

Mysteries in the Collection

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From time to time, we deal with items that are considered “Found in Collection” pieces.  This doesn’t mean that we never knew these items existed and just came across them suddenly.  (Although this does happen occasionally) Typically these things were dropped off by an anonymous donor or left behind after a curator moved on to retirement or another institution.  So we end up with things without a history of ownership or use. Sometimes, we don’t even know for sure what the heck the item is and have to spend a great deal of time doing research to figure it out. 

 Recently, 32 World War II posters became the latest Found in Collection items to gain our attention.  For the last 59 years they have been stacked in drawers and labeled “unaccessioned” or non-collection pieces.  They originally were donations from the Virginia War Museum that we received in 1954.  Over the years, curators knew they existed, but no one considered them good additions to the collection.  Probably because some were duplicates of posters we already owned.  Or maybe because of the fragile nature of the paper and the large sizes involved.  While some posters were as small as 8 x 10, others are larger than 40 inches tall.  It may seem strange, but the long term and undisturbed storage is one of the best things that could have happened to the posters.    Read more