In late June, the fields of the Indre et Loire are full of the bobbing red ruffles. Here are a few caught against respectably worn buildings and perpetually gray sky of medieval Loches.
Does a battle assume there has been a victory?
Writing has a threshold that must be crossed, marking the departure from everyday life and its patterns. The space writing affords can be threatening to the underpinnings of everything else. Writing lives within a separate space that I must single-handedly fill. She is lazy and indolent. She crabs snittingly how little I visit. Is it ennui? Do I no longer care? Will I abandon her in this space with only the occasional roses and rumpled sheet? She doubts my constancy. I do as well, but I ascribe it to caring too much.
Let me not give you the impression that the room is empty every time I enter it. Greeting me are previous strings of letters, the past that distracts. Those old efforts sing their song, don’t create something new, play with our shapes that are so set, edit us and continue to luxuriate in our fixed plots. Those same old tunes are so difficult to alter, so difficult to amputate and create anew. They are the sirens in the room, the familiar bosoms of women you know are bad for you, dead end girls. Still, maybe something can be found there. You tarry. The clock hands move.
Business Writing is analytical and conniving. He is communication. That one there, he wears sleek worsted suits effortlessly, with fluid silk ties that are never stained. Struggle is barely known to him, except for those passages that must be massaged to convince, to not inflame. Those formulas, his connections, he keeps them in a little book in his pocket. His puzzle pieces convince the naïve, the unaware. He coaxes the reader into a deep stretch; they cannot sense the coercion and reflexively open their wallets. Then he’s onto the next thing. He is not made of acid-free materials. That glass has been cleared and bill flaps in the breeze. This writing has a short life and checklist purpose, and is swiftly abandoned to obscurity. The file drawer will be emptied in a few years, and his existence forgotten.
You might have had it happen. You are working in the gallery, grimacing at the amount of dust that’s built up, gently stroking a brush across an object’s surface with vacuum in hand, and a well-meaning supporter or visitor mouths at you over the noise of the machine: “can you do that at my house?” It’s a great opening to talking about the bigger picture of collection care (read my post on museum dust). It’s worth stopping. But in five minutes it can be hard to talk about risk assessment, collections project management, preventive conservation, integrated pest management, and so forth. The visual of you dusting is lasting.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Our supporters deserve a full explanation instead of a sanitized (ha) version of museum work. They can’t be expected to fund those activities of which they are not aware. Here’s a short post on the Denver Art Museum’s website about gallery maintenance. If anyone needs to understand collection care and its necessity in preservation and continued access to collections, it is our supporters. But how do we get that message across in a way that doesn’t make their eyes glaze over or confuse them more?
We need to practice.
Collection care is the big picture of all those things we do to prevent damage. It can be difficult for those people not charged with it to understand its purpose.
Humans are by nature reactionary, not proactive. Curatorial projects generally take place over a few years, while collections managers’ work, while daily in nature, results in impacts over a hundred years. It’s difficult to institute proactive systems without knowing exactly what you are putting in and what you are getting out (and how that improves on the current system of just get it clean).Without education of our staff and supporters, they can only react to the dust they see, and naturally, we think “it’s dusty. It must be dusted!” Dusting artworks that get dirty is a necessity, but why did they get dirty in the first place? Are they under an HVAC diffuser not fitted with a filter? Do they have a fragile surface that would be better served under Plexi-glas, or at least a low plexi rail that prevents dust rising from the floor onto the platform? Is there carpeting in the gallery? And ultimately, how much ongoing damage is being caused by repeated brushing of dust from the surfaces of fragile works? Without proper documentation, we can’t see “is that red pigment in that photograph from 40 years ago? I don’t think that exists today,” because it was lost to the dusting brush.
Administrations like to staff problems (someone to protect liability, someone to fix the HVAC when it breaks) rather than hiring people to plan to avoid problems through research, planning, and assessment. Here, I’m speaking only about dust. But collection care incorporates mitigation strategies to myriad risks, including pests, environment, physical forces, light, proper documentation and security controls, and so forth. Without mitigation of any one of these risks, loss to collections, and our ability to interpret them and present them to the public, occurs.
Taking a post-Thanksgiving break. In the meantime, check out the very appealing coffee info graphic visuals at Foodbreak.
I don’t shop Walmart any day. I’m asking you not to shop it today.
In 1995, I started a personal boycott against Walmart that lasts until this day. If you revere small town America, then cut back on spending at big corporate America. It’s true that much of our choice in local retailers was obliterated by decades of white flight to the suburbs, the mall-based chain store, and mergers of large retailers. People liked parking lots for their cars and one stop shopping. It’s true; you will pay more at independent stores. But I’ve balanced this by buying less and trying to select companies that have fair worker compensation and a blue profile. Are we really getting back something good as a country by saving a few dollars at Walmart?
No. We are decidedly allowing Walmart to suckle local resources through tax breaks, welfare and food stamps for their underpaid staff, and road improvements to reach their stores. Don’t be fooled. This isn’t good business for our communities. This is destructive. Recently, the news of a Walmart-hosted food drive – for their employees to bring in food to donate to other impoverished employees – has kept the spotlight on their poor employee compensation. Stephen Colbert put the icing on it.
“Some critics out there say Walmart isn’t doing enough, but they’re wrong, because Walmart isn’t doing anything,” he said. “These bins are for Walmart employees to donate to other employees. And where can Walmart’s low wage workers find cheap food to donate? Walmart.”
Watch Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price for more information. Try to feel good handing over money at Walmart after watching.
Don’t knock it: sauerkraut is great on the Thanksgiving table. And it’s a tradition that falls almost exclusively within Maryland’s borders.
When I moved away for my first job in Boston, I was surprised that Thanksgiving sauerkraut horrified my colleagues and housemates. Sauerkraut certainly horrifies a fair amount of people on an everyday basis. I’ve asked a number of Marylanders whether they also have sauerkraut at Thanksgiving, and the answer is almost always yes, even if the response is “yes, but I don’t eat it.”
Certainly, preserved fermented cabbage is a worldwide tradition, including 18th-century sailors that took it on board so that its vitamin C could help ward off scurvy. My great-grandmother made her own in a crock that now stores magazines. We prefer just to grab a can of Silver Floss this day and doctor it with caraway and brown sugar for the table. Like cranberry sauce, sauerkraut is another source of tang and sour to cut through some of the otherwise more bland and rich dishes on the Thanksgiving table.
Read more about Maryland’s Thanksgiving sauerkraut tradition in this Bon Appetit article. I might not care so much if the turkey didn’t turn up at Thanksgiving. But I would miss the sauerkraut.
If this post already sounds familiar, see my post on the 1811-13 watercolor by Secretary to the Russian Consul-General Pavel Petrovich Svinin (MMA 42.95.37) of crossing Wright’s Ferry, near Columbia, Pennsylvania.
While at Winterthur this summer for a research fellowship, I came across a travel journal by Samuel R. Fisher (Mic. 296.1 See the Finding Aid here. The original is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania). The series of journals include trips to England, South Carolina, and a “Horseback Trip in ‘Back Parts’ of Pennsylvania, with John Townsend. Also – South to Winchester, Va. Journal 4 Month 12th, 1787 to 6 Month 3rd, 1787.” I was looking for descriptions of women’s dress in the back country communities he visited, but Fisher is most descriptive about the topography and Quaker meeting houses on his way through the piedmont and mountains. He travels by Fort Necessity, noting George Washington “had a battle with the French & Indians & near this place” and the Youghiogheny River.
Today, there are myriad ways to cross the Susquehanna whenever you wish. Wright’s Ferry was established early in the 18th century and operated until 1901. In 1787, Anderson’s Ferry opened and lessened traffic at Wright’s Ferry. In previous years, it could take several days for your turn to cross the ferry. Fisher, crossing in 1787, had only to wait for a few hours for the wait for the various canoes and flatboats that made up the crossing.
4 mo: 14 Rose early, sat out & reach Lancaster 18 ½ Miles by 9 O’Clk where breakfasted, calld on Charles Hamilton, Mathias Slough & Myers Solomon on some business, abt 11 O Clk sat out in Co. with Daniel McPherson, his Daughter & Son Isaac – reached Wright’s Ferry abt 1 OClk here dined. I calld to see John Townsend at the Widow Barber’s a friend close at hand, where had just been a Meeting & found him with J Scattergood & sundry other friends. D Mc Pherson Son & Daughter proceeded over the ferry. I waited for Jn Townsend parted with J R Elam who returnd to Lancaster & crossed Susquehanna in Co. with J Townsend , J Scattergood, P Yarnall T or J Speakman reached Yorktown 10 Miles about SunSet. J Townsend & J Scattergood lodged at Elisha Kirks, D Speakman & self at Peter Yarnall’s where were kindly entertained.
When the Washington Metro was built in the 1970s, it was planned and built as a wagon wheel. Upscale malls and subdivisions far-flung from the city center were considered posh and the main purpose of the Metro was to deliver suits to government offices and their suckling contractors. In the evening, it would deliver them back to their comfortable suburban existences. If this was the ideal, it was not how real people lived. Anyone who tries to drive east-west across Montgomery County between the spurs of the transit line knows it’s a time-draining snarl. It’s one of my least favorite places to be. Recent streetcar and light rail initiatives around DC, the city is trying to knit its neighborhoods back together again. The 16-mile Purple Line will also connect several other transit systems together
Interestingly, the Purple line is using a joint public/private arrangement to fund construction and operation of the system. It feels kind of throwback. Nobody is made happy about the use of imminent domain to acquire lands, especially business owners, home owners, and the posh golf course that the line is planned to pass.
Here is some information and viewpoints on the project at the MTA website, Purple Line Now, and opposing voices at Gazette.Net (which has an interesting if problematic interactive of sites that will be impacted by the construction of the line).
My post from last year, “What Is A Collections Manager?” is, by far, the post for which I get the most views. It is read at rates almost twice that of the next most popular post, which is on assembling Downton Abbey looks for Halloween.
I could hypothesize why “What Is A Collections Manager?” is so popular. Partly, I think this is due to the lack of information on the profession. Collections Manager, as a title, has also been misused and shaped to encompass what varying institutions wish to accomplish with this person. So I assume readers are looking for information.
But I would rather know directly from you why I have so many people looking for information about collections managers. Who are you? Are you a curator, a conservator, a student looking for information about museum professions, a collections manager looking for assistance explaining your role in a museum? Do you find it difficult to find collections care resources? Are you curious about what sort of training you need, or advancement opportunities you’ll have in the future?
I’m the Vice Chair of the Collection Care Network of the American Institute for Conservation. We promote preventive conservation and collection care systems and staffing through programs and projects. If there are needs you perceive in better understanding the role and the practice of collection care and collections management, let me know. If you like Museum Monday, read more posts here.
Otherwise, keep enjoying The Still Room. Thanks for reading.
My Harford County, Maryland family could never be described as prominent. They are not historical figures. Certainly, the family names are ones the people know, interwoven through local people’s memories (read about how interwoven my family is here). They, like so many others, were farmers, soldiers, and later, civilian employees of Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Fortunately, the arrival of inexpensive cameras appealed to my family and they started snapping images of their everyday lives. Cars, dogs, and family members standing on the lawn after dinner were the general subjects of many photos from the early twentieth century. I posted this previous 1920s hunting dog image a few weeks ago from a different branch of family in Delta, Pennsylvania, just a short way up the Susquehanna from my Harford County family. Here, my grandfather, Sappington Lee Bowman, and great uncle, Robert Bayless Bowman, are captured with their hunting dog. I’d like to imagine that my great-grandfather took this photograph while hunting with the boys. He died of colon cancer in 1934.
This image is likely in the environs around Aberdeen, Maryland, as they grew up on a small farm in the general vicinity of the now heavily developed area around Target and Beards Hill Plaza. The scraggly trees and heavy clothes on the kids denote the fall or winter setting. Interestingly, the breed of this dog is very similar to that in the other image I posted, an English Pointer with maybe a little Beagle mixed in. He’s very interested in the the pile of rabbits accumulated with who knows how much help by the adult holding the camera. My grandfather kept a hunting dog most of his life, the last a beagle named Scholtzie, who would help find ducks and geese after they were shot out of the sky.