Fun at Winterthur, Week 9!

I’m back after a bit of a weird and wild weekend! I left work a little bit early on Friday to drive down to D.C. Apple Maps said it would take me 2.5 hours to get down. That might have been true if I counted arriving at the D.C line as arriving at my destination. Once I got there though, I inched through traffic for a full hour and a half before finding a spot to park and running into the game. It was a lot of fun, no thanks to the actual baseball involved! I woke up on Saturday and decided to go to Mount Vernon since I hadn’t been in a while. Alas, I had forgotten that it was summer tour season, meaning that each guest got about a half second in each room before being shoved onward by the crowds as the guides in the middle of the room shouted obvious facts about Washington. Not gonna lie, the house was a bit underwhelming since I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know and I was smashed in there with several hundred total strangers. However, the new exhibit on slavery at Mount Vernon was fantastic. It was really well executed and had great information. Unfortunately, that was the least crowded place I encountered on the estate. After Mount Vernon, I headed on down the road to Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason. I think Mason is super cool, and I read a lot of his correspondence and personal reflections on the Constitutional Convention for some of my past research. His house was the last of the big Virginians’ homes that I had yet to visit, and it was fantastic. I really liked his overall style- ostentatious, but tastefully so. The only downside of the tour was that it was populated mostly by Northern tourists (shoutout to those who have heard my earlier rant on Northern tourists). One guy liked to talk over the guide and use terminology that sounds fancy to those who don’t know anything (like himself, arguably) but are just basic descriptive words to people who actually know anything about decorative arts. After Gunston Hall, I made possibly the worst decision of the weekend- taking I-95 up to D.C from essentially Woodbridge on a Saturday night (also Nats game night). Unfortunately, my phone had died, and I didn’t want to get lost. I know Northern Virginia reasonably well, but not well enough to get back on the backroads that would get me around 95 without a GPS. I sat on 95 for 2 whole hours to get essentially 30 miles. Once I got back into the city, I got to have dinner with my Dad and brother. The next morning, we got breakfast before they left. I accidentally went to Arlington Cemetery because I got into the wrong lane, but once I realized where I was going, I was down. I decided to go to the Confederate Monument in Arlington, because I had read a lot of scholarship on it. It was nearly 2 miles (walking, since the trams didn’t go there) from the gate, but the monument was worth the walk since it was so fascinating. I decided to go to check out the Papal Tiara at the National Shrine, and walked in on a Mass, so I decided to stay for the service. After Mass, I headed out, back to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it took me almost 4 hours to get back, 2 and a half of which were spent inching from Annapolis across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Monday was relatively uneventful, but I still got a lot done. I spent my morning working on my Attic Corner/ miniatures writeup, and I’m almost done. I just need to attach some descriptions and some images, and I’ll be good to go. I wrote my meeting agenda for a meeting on Wednesday about the progress of the project and what I can do in my last week [:(] here. I spent the afternoon looking through conservation files on ceramics and uploading images of textiles that didn’t have one in the catalog. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but I felt like was helpful and that I got a lot done, so that was good.

Tuesday was my penultimate Terrific Tuesday! I was assigned to a hot air balloon project where kids used a special kind of marbling ink to decorate a wooden balloon before attaching it to a magnet and a paper basket. It was a relatively complicated craft, especially for three to seven year olds. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past month and a half doing Terrific Tuesdays, it’s that I can’t assume kids know how to do anything. I would say “dip your balloon in the water” and they would look at me like I’m crazy and the mothers would give me a look and tell me that their child hadn’t gotten there in school yet. What?! That doesn’t even make sense. Regardless, it seemed successful, and it seemed like most kids were happy with the activities. I left with paint-stained hands and a soaking wet tshirt, but that’s par for the course at this point!

On Wednesday, I started my morning off with the weekly curatorial meeting. Lois, the director of programming that I’ve been working under on Tuesdays, came in to discuss possible adult programs that Winterthur could run in the future. She was curious to see whether the curators had any ideas about how to make the collections accessible to a wider public while also making sure to satisfy their base. It was interesting to see this kind of discussion, and hear what the curators had to say about what they thought would be appealing to the public. After that meeting, I had another meeting about the Attic Corner. I wanted to see what I could do in the last few weeks that I was here. It was actually super productive. They approved of my writeup, they approved of my work on the physical space, and they approved of my suggestions on what to do in the future. I have a meeting with them and the lighting people next week to figure out what we can do to transform the actual space in order to implement my ideas or other ideas in the future. They seemed pleased and excited, so I’m happy with that and I’m looking forward to finishing up my part of the project to move this whole process forward. I spent the early afternoon going through conservation files for ceramics. Apparently, there were a ton of housekeeping accidents that damaged a number of objects in the late 1960s, so it was kinda funny to go through those files and read the reports. I came back and went to another meeting about 2020 exhibitions. We discussed the general theme of the exhibitions and discussed possible objects for different exhibition ideas. We’ve definitely decided to focus on women, which is fun and interesting for me to think about. We resolved to continue the discussion next week and bring suggestions for objects for the exhibition to the table.

Thursday was a bit slower after my busy Wednesday. I finished editing some images I had uploaded previously and I worked on final edits for my attic corner writeup. I had been asked on Wednesday to take photos for all objects in the attic corner that didn’t have one in the catalog, so I spent most of my morning up on the eighth floor taking photos. A few times, I needed to run elsewhere to find another miniature to photograph. However, there was a couple on a specialty tour that I ran into probably four or five times. It was fine the first two times, but then the guide ran out of ways to explain me away and it just got awkward. On my way back down to the sixth floor, I resorted to a back elevator to avoid them, only to run into them again as I exited. I uploaded these images in the afternoon, and spent the second half of the afternoon with Leigh in textile study getting measurements and information for textiles on our big deaccession list. I had gotten most of them the week before, but after a certain point I had gotten fed up with measuring tiny scraps and abandoned the endeavour all together. We took a lot of pictures and got all our measurements, so it was productive. I spent the rest of the afternoon uploading my attic corner photos and further editing my attic corner writeups.

Friday was also quiet! I successfully uploaded all of my attic corner photos and inputted them into my documents and spreadsheets. I took more photos of textiles and uploaded them into the catalog, and I created records for textiles that didn’t have them. I ran around a few times to help move some hard-to-reach textiles, and answered emails about thoughts about the upcoming exhibitions. I went back up into the attic corner to take the rest of the furniture photographs, so now nearly all of the objects in the room should have photos in EMu. This is a bonus for me, since now I can easily point to an object that I want to use in my vignettes and have people recognize it, rather than have to describe a miniature chair that looks the same as four other miniature chairs. They’re not professional photographs, but they’re good enough to tell what the object is, and I photoshopped them to be as clear as can be (shoutout to photography camp when I was in eighth grade for those good good skills!). I hunted down some more textiles and needlework tools for the new class of material culture grad students, and then I finished up my vignettes to send off to everyone.

This weekend should be a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to it. I am going to a Phillies baseball game with Katie and Susan on Friday, so it should be a good time. On Saturday, my friend from school is coming to visit the house! On Sunday, I’m going to tour a historic house in Baltimore with Leigh and Becca, the old curatorial fellow. It’ll be jam packed, but I’m trying to pack in as much as I can before I leave next Friday. That’s it for week nine; I’ll be back next week for one more entry!