Fun at Winterthur, Week 8!

Well, my weekend was a colossal failure! I was supposed to work all day Saturday at a regatta in Middletown, DE, but that was called off because of the heat. Instead, I decided to go to Lancaster PA to see the farmers’ market and the historic area. I went on an hour-long scenic drive through the southern Pennsylvania countryside. When I got to Lancaster, I discovered to my disappointment that the farmers’ market was closed! As was the Lancaster historical association! Fortunately, the James Buchanan national historic site was open, so I took a tour. It was a bit odd, but it was good to check another presidential site off my list. I drove home far earlier than I expected to. On Sunday, I tried to go to Dover, DE. I got there only to find that Dover was a) tiny, b) deserted, and c) mostly closed because of the heat and because it was Sunday.

delstatehouse  The Old Delaware State House (closed!)

I decided to hit Odessa, famed for its historic houses, on the way back. Shocker, it was closed! I drove back in disappointment and hunkered down in my air-conditioned room for the rest of the afternoon, reading some books on decorative arts I’d checked out from Winterthur’s library. Monday was a bit of a slow day. I spent the morning filling in measurements on our spreadsheet for textiles that didn’t have information in EMu. I did more research for my miniatures writeup, and uploaded more records to the catalog. During my lunch break, I went with Leigh to Janssen’s, a specialty grocery store reminiscent of a Trader Joe’s/Earth Fare hybrid, where I impulse-bought a pound cake. I spent the afternoon filling in condition reports, researching miniatures, and working on my writeups.

Tuesday was my fourth (!!) Terrific Tuesday! I thought I sort of had the routine down at this point, but there’s always surprises. I was running a station where kids got to put together big wooden puzzles of the unmarked United States. At first, they were extremely bored. Geography tests? This wasn’t school! Then, I decided to make it competitive by timing them and having them race each other to see who could put the puzzle together the fastest. All of a sudden, kids wouldn’t leave! There were many renditions of “The Fifty Nifty United States” as kids tried to remember all the states and their capitals (the pieces had the capitals on the back, so knowing them helped a lot). Ironically, this was the one activity where parents were hard-pressed to help their kids. The kids knew more geography than the parents did, especially the ones who had just learned it in school. Parents would try their best, but then realize they only knew a few state capitals and quietly step back. It was a little sad, but also kind of funny because they’re the same parents who have been snobbish to me the past few weeks. My favorite interactions were those with parents who tried to tell me that I was wrong, that Albany was not the capital of NY, or that the Iowa piece was actually Arkansas. Some ideas are debatable, unfortunately, state capitals are not among those.

On Wednesday, our morning meeting was cancelled, which was a shame since I always love going to those. I spent the morning working on my writeups and helping Susan move a whole bunch of textiles in anticipation of their use by some researchers that afternoon. They were scattered in textile study, textile storage I, textile storage II, and textile storage III so it was a bit of a hunt to track all of them down. In the afternoon, I went back to the Gray Building. It was as dusty and sweaty as ever! I spent time down in ~the cage~ measuring and taking photos of furniture for deaccessioning. It was a lot of lifting broken tables and chairs, moving dusty bureaus, and avoiding rusty nails. It was an all-around exciting time! This time, I have photos so you can see what I’m talking about. Parts of the house are glamorous, and parts of it are the precise opposite. You can take a guess as to which one this is!

gray_building1  The glamorous view from inside “The Cage”

On Thursday morning, I was supposed to have a meeting with Linda and Leigh about textile deaccessions. It unfortunately got cancelled. Instead, I spent the morning looking over conservation files in the research building. While I was there, the head furniture conservator wandered in looking for some Christmas (in July) cookies. I had never met him before, so we started chatting about Williamsburg and Charleston and work. It seems that within the museum studies field, my hometown and my school are easy touchstones to start up small talk and little conversations, which is a good thing to know. He offered to take me on a tour of the furniture conservation labs, which I accepted of course. It was super fascinating! He told me all about the work he was doing on a table and some chairs and on a very cool Eastlake secretary. We talked for a little bit about Japanese influences in British and American furniture design in the late 19th century. Who knew that my term paper on the cultural significance of Western-influenced architecture in Japan that I wrote for Modern Japanese History (100% not my favorite class) would come in handy several months later? Certainly not me. After chatting with him for a while, I went back to my research. It wasn’t very exciting; not many of the textiles I needed to research had files or files with relevant information. I came back and uploaded a ton of images to EMu before lunch. I had been invited to attend a lunch with some college juniors and seniors from the Lancaster Historical Society, so I walked over to the visitors’ center. It was nice to get to talk to them, although I didn’t feel as connected to them as I thought. I could relate more to the masters students and the Winterthur fellows more than I could the Lancaster students, which I thought was odd, since I was in the same boat. I am an undergraduate who has yet to figure out her life’s trajectory, just like them. Yet, I still felt like I had a leg up. I hope that it is the experience Winterthur is giving me and the experience of working in a big museum that gives me confidence, rather than my own pretension. However, when everyone was asked to give life advice to the Lancaster students, I listened rather than offer my own (reasonable, I thought, but not what another Winterthur intern my age did). I decided I was way underqualified to answer that question, and enjoyed listening to my friends give their advice. After lunch, Susan and I took some researchers around the house to look at prints and textiles. We looked at the bedhangings and curtains in most of the 6th floor bedroom. Alka, the researcher that I’ve been helping, is mainly interested in the physical composition of the textile (linen? Cotton? cotton/linen mix?), so she looked at everything under a mini-microscope lens. It was super cool to watch and to hear her observations. After we got back, I finished out my day by cataloguing more images. Not exciting, but necessary!

money  A funky wallet (helpfully labeled Money) that I found on the seventh floor

Friday was insanely quiet. All of the curators except for Ann were out, so there were only five of us on the floor (there are usually 11!). I spent my morning resizing and uploading images of textiles to EMu. Some of them were for deaccession, and some of them were just for the older grant projects. I went to move some textiles for lab study just before lunch, and then had a nice lunch outside by the reflecting pool with Katie and Susan. After lunch, I went around the house again with Alka. This time, we went up to the seventh and eighth floors. I discovered a room that I’d never seen or heard of on the seventh floor. Just when I thought I knew the house super well, there was this! It was called the Newport room and was actually super cool with a great view. We went to drop Alka and her textiles off at the textile lab where she needed to do some testing, and then I went back to finish cataloguing some more objects. I needed to get things done quickly so I could leave to drive down to D.C! I’m headed to a Nationals game (it’s W&M night woo!) with friends I haven’t seen in a while, so I’m so excited. It should be a fun weekend!