Author Archives: collectionsconversations
The hands-on training and opportunities for networking and discussion that C2C offers in regional workshops are important collections care resources, but more and more collections professionals look to the internet for answers. Our team also strives to act as guides for our NC cultural heritage community in navigating the vast tangle of resources available online. In this vein, we urge you to check out a new website http://stashc.com/. Weeks ago the Connecting to Collections online community hosted a free webinar in which Conservator Rachel Perkins Arenstein introduced this new resource and highlighted some of the storage solutions she considers to be the most practical. You can view the archived version here.
The acronym STASH stands for Storage Techniques for Art, Science, and History. This effort represents collaboration across the disciplines and those of us working in history organizations perhaps have the most to gain/ learn from our colleagues in these other fields. Science museums, especially, have developed storage systems that allow both preservation and access. Researchers analyze collection specimens in those institutions as evidence of ecosystem changes and/ or species-specific evolution. Storage systems must allow close inspection of specimens, while minimizing handling and providing thorough support for artifacts that are often very fragile. Many of these solutions are great examples for cultural heritage collections to emulate.
Of the three types, art museums are often the best funded and individual collection items typically boast a much higher monetary value than do historic artifacts. As a result, these institutions can more often afford professional conservation staff who have set professional standards for all types of museums, especially in climate control, filtering systems, lighting, and exhibition mount-making.
Our favorite examples from the STASH website include a discussion and list of disaster recovery supplies for every institution and a nearly comprehensive list of collections care supplies, along with suggested sources. Several of the specific storage solutions are low-cost and simple enough to recommend to the cultural heritage institutions we work with. For instance, check out a quick and easy-to-construct tray system made with corrugated polypropylene board here. This system would work well with many types of lightweight artifacts and help maximize shelf or box space.
What storage techniques are successful in your space? STASH also includes an option for submission so you can share your ingenuity to a broad collections care audience. And of course, we’re always happy to provide a smaller-scale forum for your collections care stories here.
When we bought our first house, it was directly across the street from a fire station. My boys, ages 6 and 10 at the time, thought that the firefighters were the best neighbors we could have had. Anytime the boys had friends over, it always included a visit to “the fire guys” and a display of lights, hats, sirens and such. Soon my boys knew all of them by name and by shift. Now some people might not like living across from a fire station. However, it was great fun for us and they were the BEST neighbors. I love to bake and firefighters love to eat, so we had a great symbiotic relationship. We felt safe, secure, appreciated and were entertained by their comings and goings. And no, they did not use the sirens at night – they were very respectful of the entire neighborhood. We were always impressed with their willingness to help anyone in the neighborhood whenever they could. Those firefighters helped get cars started, changed tires, put luminaries out at Christmas, opened locked doors, cut trees after a storm, and displayed many other examples of their willingness to help their neighbors.
So, when I learned from the NC fire fighters we’ve done workshops with about their “pre-plan” program, I guessed the plan would be thorough and reasonable – but I did not expect it to be so incredibly easy. All it takes is one phone call to your nearest fire station (volunteer fire stations included) and they will come to your site and do a “pre-plan.” The firefighters bring the forms, they fill out the forms, they measure, inspect, add details, and do it all for you. They make detailed notes of priority artifacts, structure issues, storage placement and fragile items that need to be protected or handled with care. They are especially interested in historical structures and artifacts. Firefighters are eager to learn how to respond so that these treasures are preserved for future generations.
Do you have any of the following: antique glass in the front door or windows, stained glass windows, hand carved banisters, cemeteries, cupolas, wrought iron gates, or other special architectural or landscape features? What are the priority artifacts that need rescue in case of fire or flood? The firefighters will mark and document all of these special areas so that when they arrive on the scene, they can react in the best way possible to save and protect our historical treasures.
One phone call is all it takes. You make the call; they come and do the work. So, how easy is that? In addition, just for their tireless efforts, bake a cake and give it to them when they finish.
For another opportunity to discuss pre-plans, come to C2C’s next fire recovery workshop in Greensboro, where we’ll hear from battalion chiefs and other departmental leaders.
–Lyn Triplett, C2C Disaster Planning Coordinator
Have you ever wondered why the biggest carbonated beverage companies (Coke and Pepsi) originated in the South (Atlanta and New Bern, respectively)? In the years before air conditioning, the longer and hotter the summer months, the more customers might seek out variety in thirst quenching. Also, suffering through days of high heat and humidity can squelch appetites. Dyspepsia, something we’d call general indigestion today, was a common diagnosis in the 19th century. So it’s no accident that pharmacists, especially in the South, developed appealing concoctions, often with medicinal ingredients, to entice customers. In fact, the name “Pepsi” came from pepsin, a digestive enzyme that was a primary ingredient in the New Bern-originated drink.
What do North Carolinians call carbonated beverages like Pepsi? There’s no consistent answer, although this study of over 5,000 people found that the majority of North Carolinians ask for “soda,” with the brand name “coke” used generically as a close second, followed by “soft drink.” Pepsi did not start out as a soft drink, since alcohol was another ingredient in its 1893 drug store recipe.
Prohibition, which North Carolina adopted in 1908, forced alcohol out of legally sold carbonated beverages and meanwhile encouraged the development of new varieties. Pepsi became the most internationally renowned soft drink with origins in North Carolina, but several others came along in the early and mid 20th century and garnered loyal consumers—even fans.
Created in 1917 in an empty whisky distillery in Salibury, Cheerwine’s name and redwine color nodded deliberately at the new alcohol restrictions. The Carolina Beverage Corporation, still based in Salisbury, is the oldest soft-drink purveyor continuously in the hands of the same owners—the Ritchie family. Distribution of the drink has expanded greatly over the past several decades, beyond western North Carolina and into 12 states. Cheerwine now boasts something of a cult following.
Similarly named, the Bludwine Bottling Company also began in 1917 as an independent soft drink bottler on Main Street in Gastonia. Decades later, in 1953 the proprietor developed Sun Drop. The brand’s official relationship with NASCAR boosted sales throughout the greater Charlotte region and beyond. The Gaston County Museum showcases more artifacts and details about Sun Drop here.
Does your institution contain soda bottles or related artifacts in its collection? We have started supplying Cheerwine for our workshops and found it to be the most popular canned drink among C2C participants. What brands are most popular with your community?
Since dogs are traditional hunting companions, it may not be surprising to find an embossed dog motif on this leather shot flask. Accession records indicate that this example was found near Raleigh during the Civil War. The North Carolina state dog—the Plott hound—is a renowned hunting breed. 5 years ago Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center produced an exhibition on the the Plott hound. This show continues to travel (most recently to last year’s Plott Fest) and could be a popular and low-cost option for educational programming at your site. The Center’s museum sales division produced this t-shirt for the exhibit and online merchandise.
In addition to hunting, dogs have filled other domestic roles. Perhaps this dog (above) alerted its owner when Fred Olds, founder of the NC Museum of History, visited the Cherokee reservation in 1908. As part of his basket-collecting mission, he had a photographer record this scene of “Aunt Lydia” Sands, whom he described as “the best woman fisher,” making fishing baskets on her porch. At the time of the photo, Sands’ dog “Surlagoochee” rested on the steps below. Dogs also provided affectionate companionship and could possibly (as in this advertising print above right) help with child rearing. Above left Governor Luther Hodges (1954-1961) pets his cocker spaniel.
Some craftsmen recreated dogs in objects ranging from decorative to whimsical. Woodcarver Jack Hall, who studied at the John C. Campbell Folk School, created this dog (left) in 1947. Annie Eaton Brower of Cary made dog cookies with this cutter (right), made by Moravian tinsmith G.A. Boozer in the mid 19th century. The retired proprietor of Hinshaw Yarns of Alamance County, Walter Hinshaw, fashioned the ornament below by sewing loops of machine braid together in the late 20th century.
For disaster recovery workshops, we’re following the lead of emergency responders by promoting START: simple triage and rapid treatment. However, while those professionals are focusing on human victims, our participants deal only with the much less urgent and less significant needs of artifacts.
Upon relocating the artifacts to a safe work area (using as limited and safe handling procedures as possible), the next step in recovering artifacts from a fire is triage. For our last workshop, we modified emergency responders’ START tags for artifacts.
- Green: Undamaged artifacts have usually been housed securely enough to protect them from soot. After careful inspection, these can be rehoused in clean containers for a return to storage with no treatment necessary.
- Yellow: these objects require simple treatment techniques before they can be packed up for long-term storage.
Conservators recommend a strict progressive cleaning procedure that begins with vacuuming and moves to soot sponging and then to wet-cleaning, if necessary and safe for the material. These techniques enacted quickly after the fire will guarantee the highest degree of soot removal for most objects.
- Air dry if necessary. Find a shady place if outside or use electric fans to promote air flow inside.
- Vacuum: conservators recommend vacuuming in place before relocating the object, but after a fire it is more likely that the contents of a burned structure will be removed before artifact recovery can begin. Brushes should not be used in the soot vacuuming process. If a nylon screen or old panty hose is available, it can be used to cover the nozzle only and should not be pressed against the object. If not, place a thumb on the edge of the nozzle as a bumper to space it a short distance from the object.
- Soot sponge: remember to use a dabbing motion, rather than rubbing, which will may grind the tiny soot particles into the object.
- Wet cleaning:
- Ethanol wipe/ dab for metals, also useful on glass and high-fired ceramics
- Squirt bottle rinse with weak detergent solution (select one with low levels of dyes and perfumes such as Palmolive free and clear.)
- Blot with damp cotton swabs or rags
- Avoid immersion but this may be necessary as a last resort
- Red: objects may be packed for relocation to a conservation studio right away, or they may go through the simple treatment techniques outlined above before going into this category.
- Black: objects that seem too damaged to recover or not enough of an institutional priority to warrant conservation costs go into the “morgue”—a holding area to await the formal deaccession process before disposal.
We’re working though this START system for artifacts in workshops and so far it’s been a useful approach. We plan to train our Cultural Resources Emergency Response Team (CREST) in its use for future actual disaster recoveries and will practice it again at our next fire recovery workshop in Greensboro.
State and local identity is key to the appeal of cultural heritage institutions. The forces of globalization and mechanization seem to push communities toward standardization. Yet, for most of us, our ties to specific places remain important and historic preservation and historic sites can serve as a kind of “antidote to anywhere,” helping localities maintain their distinctiveness. Often state, regional, and local identities depend upon boundaries, whether geological, cultural, or a mixture of both. In the past few years North Carolina and South Carolina have worked jointly to re-delineate their shared boundary, using new surveying techniques, like the global positioning system. Like all resurveys, the process involves hardships as well as surprises. (You can read more about the fascinating resurvey here.) It turns out that some people living on or near the border of the Carolinas are now undergoing an identity crisis, along with logistical hassles. And, though the revised-boundary residents are not always happy about it, North Carolina has begun to welcome most of them into our state’s fold.
The blurred line between the two states has been problematic before. For instance, both states claim the 7th U.S. president, Andrew Jackson, as a native son. The resurvey reaffirmed that his family home was in North Carolina, but the Andrew Jackson Historical State Park is in SC, on the site of a relative’s house where he may have actually been born. Prohibition presented another point of controversy, since NC became a dry state in 1908–8 years before Prohibition in SC. Stores near the state line dispensing alcohol in those years had financial incentive to be on the southern side of the border. The resulting questions may well have been the impetus for the first NC-SC border re-survey completed 1928.
Before the current GPS-fueled resurvey effort, surveyors marked boundaries by geological features. They blazed trees, carved rocks, and documented existing natural features such as rivers and ridges, as well as man-made ones like the Salisbury Road or the Catawba Nation. The North Carolina Museum of History and the South Carolina State Archives house artifacts that testify to both the initial 1735 colonial survey and the early 20th-century re-survey.
The two cross sections of a longleaf pine came from the border of NC’s Columbus County near Tabor City. The brass plate affixed to the surface reads: “Section of long leaf pine exposing blaze made A.D. 1735 marking N.C.-S.C. boundry [sic] discovered in re-survey A.D. 1928 standing alive, 34.07 miles from the Atlantic ocean” (See a better photo of SC’s specimen here) According NCMOH collections files, by the time of the 1928 resurvey Tabor City area residents knew the old pine as the “state line tree,” long after the original blazes had healed over. Based on this community knowledge, Surveyors investigated the claim and cut down the dying tree, sawed it into blocks, and split the blocks until they located an old blaze within the tree. Evidence from the tree rings corresponded to the original 1735 survey. It was one of only two original landmarks found that allowed the original line to be remarked. The investigators also found evidence that the tree survived forest fires, turpentine tapping, and re-blazing by local landowners once the original marks had been obscured by new growth. Tree ring data indicated the pine originated in approximately 1570. Surveyors placed a stone marker in its place (below left).
What’s next for the NC survey work? State commissioners will look toward the other “mountain of conceit” in 2015.
Does your collection contain artifacts dealing with the boundaries of the locality it represents? If so, how do they correspond to notions of community identity?
If scrapbooks are an important component of your collection and you’d like to learn more about their preservation, consider the NC Preservation Consortium’s workshops. An upcoming scrapbook workshop is on July 25th at Elon University and though registration is currently full, NCPC promises to schedule more on this needed topic. If you are not able to attend, online learning can offer some guidance. The American Library Association recently sponsored a free webinar on scrapbook preservation during 2014’s Preservation Week. You can access the recording here. Melissa Tedone, Conservator at Iowa State University Library, shared several helpful tips, including:
- Staples should be removed if possible when they are showing signs of corrosion/ rust. If they have been holding other items in place on a page, a loop of linen thread can replace their function safely.
- To help preserve acidic papers, whether newsclippings or scrapbook pages, now crumbling, interleave with acid-free, lignin-free bond paper, such as permalife. Lace or post bindings may need to be loosened before interleaving, as the additional paper will add bulk and stress a tight binding.
- “Magnetic” pages, popular in the 1970s, pose particular problems as a result of the material compositions of both the adhesive and the plastic film covering sheets. The plastic can be removed and replaced by interleaving with permalife sheets.
- If disassembling the album appears to be the best solution, thin metal spatulas can help pry photos off deteriorating adhesives. Waxed dental floss, used in a sawing motion, has also been effective for removing adhered items.
In addition to these kinds of preservation tips, NCPC workshops promise much more. Exhibition techniques, numbering methods, physical access measures, and best cataloging practices are a few of the areas workshop participants will be able to explore. Contact Executive Director, Robert James, if you would be interested in attending a future workshop on this topic.
As residents of one of the original thirteen colonies, many North Carolinians have celebrated and commemorated the involvement of their progenitors in the push for independence from England. Community leaders in the Coastal Plain as well as the back country resolved to fight for independence from the crown unless Parliament remedied colonial grievances. Disgruntled property holders in Mecklenburg County were the first to draft such a document in May 1775, though questions about this early revolutionary activity have lingered. Local leaders in New Hanover, Cumberland, Pitt, and Tryon counties soon followed suit in the summer of 1775 and later those in Halifax drafted an even more strongly worded petition in April 1776. Our state also boasts 3 representatives to the 1776 Continental Congress in Philadelpia. Read brief biographies of the North Carolina signers here.
Since the 1890s, at least, state residents have commemorated these events and heroes of the revolutionary era by paying homage to their houses, erecting monuments, and honoring their descendants. The Hooper-Penn monument at Guilford Battleground was created in 1897 upon re-interring the remains of John Penn of Granville County and William Hooper, who died in Hillsborough. (Hewes’ grave is in Philadelphia.)
A Fayetteville parade in 1909 celebrated the Liberty Point Resolves and included a float with young women, most of whom were descendants of the signers of that document. Nearly a decade later, the newly formed NC Museum of History collected objects from one of Hooper’s daughters (right). During the 1930s (at least) the town of Edenton organized a children’s pageant honoring Hewes.
Throughout the 20th-century and into the 21st, some NC businesses have featured the signers’ names to both commemorate and capitalize on patriotic sensibilities and local pride. The John Penn motel built in Oxford, NC in 1954 evoked Mt. Vernon with its white paint and cupola. Edenton Brewing Company (now Big Boss) of Raleigh once produced a “Joseph Hewes revolutionary ale.”
Does your collection include objects commemorating the pre-revolutionary resolves or the signers of the Declaration of Independence? If so, are these commemorative objects useful for exhibits or engaging to researchers?
During hands-on practice at our fire recovery workshops, we try to implement the Incident Command System (ICS) and assign section chief and team leader roles to coordinators and participants. To explain why it’s an important structure for cultural heritage practitioners to understand, we’ve posted some excerpts below from archivist David W. Carmicheal’s great book, Implementing the Incident Command System at the Institutional Level: A Handbook for Libraries, Archives, Museums, and other Cultural Institutions. The Connecting to Collections online community also featured this topic in a webinar last spring. Click here to view the archived version.
ICS is of particular interest to libraries, archives, and museums because any disaster can have disproportionate consequences for cultural institutions. ICS provides a standardized way to manage incidents, regardless of how large or small, even if responders approach the incident from many different jurisdictions and disciplines.
In simple terms, what ICS does is create an organization chart that supersedes the organization charts of all the responding agencies. Instead, the people who respond fill positions that don’t exist in their normal day-to-day administration; positions such as Incident Commander, or Operations Section Chief, or Liaison Officer. Each ICS position has clearly defined responsibilities, meaning that if someone who is conversant with ICS arrives at the scene of the incident and is asked to assume the role of Planning Section Chief, she—and everyone else—knows exactly what her responsibilities and authority will be. ICS has spelled them out in advance.
In addition to positions, ICS spells out facilities that will be used to respond to the incident—places like the “Incident Command Post” and “staging areas.” All the responders who have been trained in ICS arrive on the scene already knowing that the building with the symbol on it is the Incident Command Post, and they know what is going on inside that building. They already know, too, how to fill out the forms that will be used during the incident. They know how information is distributed, and they know that they should report certain information to their supervisor alone and no one else. ICS is important for those who work in cultural heritage repositories to understand because it is:
- Standardized – Everyone learns to operate within the same structure; one that supersedes the hierarchies and plans that the responding teams bring with them. No matter what their day-to-day management structure looks like, all responders understand how assignments, resources, and information flow within the ICS, and they adopt that structure until the crisis passes. Because ICS is standardized, everyone discards acronyms and “insider” lingo for the duration of the response. Everyone needs to speak the same language. And because it is standardized, anyone can learn ICS: firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, even librarians, archivists, and museum curators.
- Scalable – The ICS can be applied to incidents large and small, from hurricanes that carry a multi-state wallop down to a single broken pipe that floods one level of a collections storage area.
- Used “on scene”– Management of the incident takes place as the crisis unfolds, right at the scene of the incident, or very close to it. Managers have timely information on which to base decisions. Commands don’t come from bureaucrats operating from Washington, D.C. or the state capital.
- Multi-jurisdictional – ICS provides a single management structure for responders from multiple jurisdictions (different fire districts, counties, or states, for instance) and, as a result, is effective at managing a response by people who report to different bosses, have different equipment, or possess different skills. This means it works when response must be coordinated across multiple departments on a college campus, for instance, or among several divisions within a museum. In addition, it eases coordination between the staff of the affected museum and those who may respond to the incident from outside the institution, such as firefighters.
- Applicable – It is effective for not only fires, floods or terrorism but for all hazards, natural and human caused, large or small, urban or rural.
As soon as an incident occurs and the response is initiated a command structure begins to grow, beginning with the Incident Commander and unfolding downward. The ICS has its own rigid hierarchy, and a unique feature is that ranks and responsibilities within ICS may differ markedly from familiar hierarchies. During a crisis, the day-today way of doing things must give way to special management. Not only does knowing ICS make interaction with outside responders easier, ICS also helps a cultural institution break out of its own hierarchy during times of crisis, a step that may be essential to success. ICS starts at the top, with the Incident Commander.
Implementing the Incident Command System at the Institutional Level is available for purchase or via inter-library loan from the State Library of NC. It explains how libraries, archives, and museums can adopt ICS as a temporary management structure whenever ‘business as usual’ won’t get the job done. ICS is a proven tool that helps safeguard lives, property, and priceless collections. Familiarize yourself with it for the benefit of your repository.