Monday, May 28, 2012

Adventures of an Intern, Part Two

By Alyssa Hickey, Collections Intern and Elmira College student

My next mission had to deal with the priority boxes. Priority boxes are the boxes we grab in case there is a fire. They have nice bright pink labels on them and they are near the door. I had a list of the items that should have been in the boxes but weren’t. So I went on a quest to find the missing objects and return them to their rightful home. On my journey I had to find a particular vase. There are boxes everywhere in Collections. Everywhere. These boxes are brown, unsuspecting and NOT acidic. I see these boxes all of the time and none of them have ever threatened me….until that day. While searching for the vase I almost died of a heart attack. I innocently walked over to the brown box that the vase was in and lifted the lid. Like in a horror movie I turned slowly to see a World War I gas mask staring straight into my soul. If I was a lesser woman I would have screamed but instead I jumped in the air and yelled, “GAH!” With my heart beating out of my chest and my pride slowly dying on the ground, I managed to calm myself down enough to carefully pick up the gas mask and put it to the side in order to search  for the vase. I hope that someday that mask will scare another unsuspecting intern because after thinking about what happened I can’t help but laugh. Plus, it’s always funnier if it happens to someone else. My only regret is not being there when it happens.

My final project dealt with textiles, the hanging clothing. I never knew how much museums had in their storage rooms. I remember going to museums as a child and seeing a multitude of objects on display and now I know that what I saw was maybe 1/4 of what the museum owns. There are lots and lots of clothing in Collections. All of the hanging clothing needed to be photographed and entered into the database, pretty much the same thing that I did with the paintings. However, the clothing posed a different challenge because black clothing is extremely hard to photograph without it looking ugly. In order to take the photos I grabbed the clothing off the rack and hung it on a golden hook, in front of a blue sheet. Then I recorded the ID number of the article of clothing and removed the plastic covering. After snapping a full length photo of the piece of clothing I wrapped it back up and put it back on the rack. My favorite was a fuchsia dress that came in three parts. The first piece was the silk slip dress, followed by the soft floor length over dress that had a sweetheart neckline and the last piece was a floor length matching jacket that delicately draped from the hanger. It was so elegant and pretty that I wish to have a replica of it someday.

After the process of cataloging the hanging clothing I decided to go one step further.  During the project I kept hearing people wishing that the hanging clothing was in chronological order so they could just go into the back room of Collections and pluck a tuxedo jacket from the 1940’s out of a line-up with ease. This intrigued me. So I asked if I could organize the hanging clothing chronologically and I was happily given permission. Before touching the clothing I made hundreds of charts (or it at least seemed like it) for the hanging clothing. Eventually I organized my data enough that I could finally transport the clothing around.  After switching around the clothing from place to place I catalogued their new locations and now I have to place new labels on them, to indicate where they need to go after being put on display. I’m not done labeling everything but soon my mission will be complete and then I can go home feeling a sense of accomplishment.

These were my adventures at the Chemung County Historical Society.

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