Science in the Field – Measuring Your Soil Acidity

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Forester of The Mariners’ Museum and Park employed 1930-1935

One of the coolest things about working at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is seeing how science has been, well, a thing, since the very beginning.  The fact that we were doing soil pH measurement as early as the 1930’s is something that deserves a little more discussion.

A Little History

Early in the creation of the Park, our forester George Mason (shown below) and consultant Ralph Hayes, a professor at North Carolina State University, conducted a pH (acidity) soil survey of the grounds at the direction of the Museum’s Garden Committee. Mason and Hayes performed tests to ensure the success of 3,920 azaleas and rhododendrons on Lake promontories. Over time, the plantings disappeared through natural forest succession. However, that early soil testing was vital in the planting of the entire Park.   Read more

How Does Your Garden Grow? 

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Side view of the Pollinator Garden at The Mariners' Museum Park
Side view of the Pollinator Garden at The Mariners’ Museum Park in April, 2020. (Photo credit: Graham King)

Gardens and our health

It seems these days many communities around the world are passing the time by unearthing and reimagining their lackluster yards, gardens, and other shared green spaces. Whatever your tabula rasa might be, it’s undeniable that gardens offer an approachable avenue to enhance aesthetics and reduce food insecurity in urban centers, and improve human health in numerous ways. Gardening not only connects people with the fertile ground they toil, but also creates links and connections between community members, whether it’s swapping tips, tricks, and plants with neighbors, or being part of a larger network like with the Master Gardeners or Master Naturalists. Even in the Tidewater area, surrounded by brackish water and the threat of hurricanes for six months, luscious gardens are part of our landscape, and we have some beautiful historical gardens in this area to show it! Erica Deale, the Park Stewardship Coordinator, often remarks that The Mariners’ Museum Park is, “one of the most well-planned and well-documented parks that I have ever seen.” The plants, trees, shrubs, and everything in between, were planned out extensively in the 1930s, and many of those plants are still in their original locations!     Read more

Happy Birthday to The Mariners’ Museum and Park!

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Did you know that our most beloved Museum and Park were incorporated, born, let’s say born, on June 2, 1930? We’re old. 90 years old, next week, to be exact! Our body – buildings and grounds – may be a little worn, but they’ve been well taken care of over the years by our loving Museum team. Our inners – our object and living collections – are strong … and maybe growing a bit (our trees are definitely taller!). Our brain – the staff and volunteers – is sharp, and our heart – our fantastic communities, members, donors, and YOU! – could not be stronger, healthier, or more supportive. 

Upon incorporation, our charter stated that we were to be:   Read more

Paper and Water – Friends or Foes?

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Making paper by hand. The wooden vat contains cotton fibers suspended in water. I am holding a wire mesh mold which was dipped into the vat to pick up some fibers. I am shaking the mold back and forth to get even fiber distribution while the water drains.

We all know that paper isn’t exactly one of the most waterproof materials out there. In fact, water exposure is one of the most common causes of damage to paper objects that I see as a paper conservator. It can cause major issues such as distortion, staining, loss of media, and mold, just to name a few. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, then, that water is a crucial part of many types of conservation treatment. People are often a bit shocked that bathing paper (yes, it’s what it sounds like) is a common practice with positive results! In this post, we will explore a few ways in which water interacts with paper on different levels, how conservators harness and leverage these interactions to treat condition issues, and how, if left unchecked, these interactions can cause major and irreparable damage.

Papermaking – Wet Beginnings

To understand paper’s relationship with water, we have to go back to the beginning – papermaking. True paper is defined as a non-woven mat of fibers formed by draining water from a slurry. The water holds the fibers in a suspension into which a screen called a mold is dipped and drawn upward, allowing the water to drain and the fibers to settle into a layer over the screen. To ensure an even distribution, the mold is shaken back and forth while the water drains, causing many of the fibers to orient in the direction of the movement before coming out of the water. This causes a characteristic called “grain” in a finished piece of paper.   Read more

Conservators at Home

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This Monday marks eight weeks since the museum staff started working from home. For the Conservation Department it’s been an interesting transition. The majority of our daily life is spent treating objects, constructing object housing, and running analytical equipment. None of which we can do from home. In fact, professional museum bodies frown on conservators taking their work (aka the objects) home with them. Fair enough, but it does beg the question: what have you all been doing?

I’m so glad you asked. Paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. We’re finishing reports, catching up on research, and organizing object files. Also watching webinars, completing training, and planning for the future. It has been nice to have time to devote to the things that are usually relegated to the back burner.   Read more