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

Chesapeake Bay Gallery update

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Removing a model

Sometimes this is what you have to do to get an object free of its case.  The model was screwed down to the case and Jeanne had to go in to free it.  Of course we all just stood around and took pictures of her legs sticking out.

Despite the difficulty in getting this model free, the deinstallation of the Chesapeake Bay Gallery is going well and the majority of the objects have been removed and put away in storage.  We’ve been working slowly on purpose so that we can keep track of everything as it comes out so nothing gets mixed up or put in the wrong spot.  Taking down a gallery can be a lot of work.   More updates to come soon!   Read more

Where did I put that?

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Yorktown Bottle
Yorktown Bottle

One of the major tasks associated with having such a large collection of objects (about 32,000!) is keeping track of everything’s location.  Every object in our collection has a number so that we can track it, both digitally in our database and on our paper location cards.  What I want to talk about in this post is how we number an object because of how important this little task is.

The bottle (ca 1781) pictured above was recovered with numerous others in 1934 from the York River.  We have 71 of these bottles or bottle fragments in our collection.  When we pulled it out of the Chesapeake Bay Gallery last week, we discovered it was numbered incorrectly but, thankfully, renumbering the piece is an easy process.   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

Steam Locomotive Print – Artifact of the Month

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Steam Locomotive Print

One of the unfortunate circumstances of a museum is that in most cases only a tiny fraction, about 3% in our case, of the collection is able to be displayed at a given time. To help combat this, we’ve decided to include an object of the month blog post that will highlight artifacts not on display in an effort to allow our readers to become more familiar with our collection. Besides that, all of our objects deserve to be in the limelight at some point!

For our first object of the month, I have chosen an eye-catching lithograph print showing a steam locomotive of the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad Company, ca 1859-1860. The museum purchased the piece in September of 1945, and it appears that the print has only been on display once, for a quick exhibition on October 6-7, 1956 that honored the visit to The Mariners’ Museum of the Mid-Eastern Region National Model Railroad Association (what a title!) convention.   Read more