Monthly Archives: January 2015

Our State Now Digitized

A rich resource of North Carolina history and culture is now easily accessible online. The State Library of North Carolina has recently completed a collaborative digitization project with Our State Magazine, Digital NC, and additional partners. Staff scanned over 102,000 pages of a comprehensive set of issues from 1933 – 2011. (Our State’s website includes archived issues from the present through 2009.) Not only is the site searchable by key word and subject, but it also has a convenient “page flip view” feature, which allows viewers to peruse any issue, page by page, and pause for more in-depth reading with a click. Browse through and land upon topics that interest you or have potential to engage your community.

theState1p2June 1933 marked the first issue of The State, which began as a weekly news magazine and evolved into the monthly features publication Our State is today. That first issue referred to local particulars of significant national pressures such as the Depression (1933 was the most intense year) and the end of Prohibition. Interestingly, The State’s coverage indicated that community leaders were relieved the repeal had not increased public drunkenness or crime, but that some business owners were disappointed that beer sales had not yet boosted the economy.

courtesy Orrin Scott

courtesy Gary N. Mock, textilehistory.org

The State provided a forum to discuss and promote North Carolina businesses. The 1933 inaugural issue included an advertisement for Chatham Blankets (right), a product of the woolen mill which was once the primary employer in Elkin, NC. It’s laudable that the Chatham Manufacturing Company supported the new Raleigh-based publication with an advertisement touting the industry’s role in sheep raising in the NC mountain region. Meanwhile, the company produced large, colorful advertisements for national audiences in prominent magazines like Good Housekeeping and Life (as in this 1947 example on right).  The current issue of Our State brings the subject of Elkin’s renowned factory full circle by profiling a town pharmacist and local historian, whose grandparents worked at the mill and who now collects Chatham blankets and other local memorabilia.

What 20th-century topics are relevant to your community’s history? If you work with an NC institution, there’s sure to be some useful text and imagery in this treasure trove. So–ready, get set, GO explore Our State!

Further Debunking the Myth of Artifact “Rest”

AnneLaneNorth Carolina’s Anne Lane initiated a discussion several months ago on an international blog—“Registrar Trek” about light damage and the usefulness of exhibit rotations for preservation. [We also picked up on this idea in one of our posts last spring.] Our whole C2C team is a fan of Anne’s; she is an extraordinary collections manager who is currently working at WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center and previously devoted many years of her professional life to the Charlotte Museum of History. She combines broad preservation knowledge with impressive hand skills and a helpful spirit, and we’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from her as guest poster for this blog, as well as an instructor for C2C box-making workshops. Anne’s Registrar Trek post elicited two useful responses from preservation experts. Both stress the need to assess of a variety of risks more holistically, rather than a singular focus on light damage. Instead of leaving them embedded in the comments section of Anne’s post, it may be helpful to our readers to see them up-front here.

1. Mark H. McCormick-Goodhart, Director, Aardenburg Imaging & Archives: I don’t know of any materials that rejuvenate from light induced damage in dark storage. I do know of materials that continue to degrade due to light-induced damage after removal from display and subsequent dark storage. I also can cite materials that can recover from some discoloration by fresh exposure to light, but it’s kind of a catch-22 as some components (e.g., inks on paper) in the artwork are being further degraded while other components (e.g., color of the media) are being improved by further exposure to light.

The key knowledge to be acquired by curators and conservators is not easy to gain in many instances, but it is how the light fade resistance compares to other degradation pathways. When a material is very light sensitive, it’s pretty much guaranteed that light exposure on display will be a major factor of concern, but with materials of moderate or high light fade resistance, then other weak links like gas fade resistance, thermal and humidity degradation, etc., may prevail in such a way that worrying about amortizing the time in the light on display may be totally irrelevant. Policies for storage and display need to be decided based on better understanding of all the likely variables of decay and not just one variable only since the variable in question may not be anywhere close to being the weak link in the chain.

2. Robert Waller, Ph.D., CAPC, FIIC, President and Senior Risk Analyst for Protect Heritage Corp.: Mark makes an excellent point about needing to evaluate light damage relative to other risks to the collection in order to understand its importance. It would be a shame to keep objects from view only to have them degrade in other ways or be lost to fire, flood, or theft long before their useful display life has been used. Recognizing the importance of considering risks in context is the driving force behind leading institutions now embarking on comprehensive collection risk assessments. If there are one or more risks other than light damage that dominate the risk profile to a collection then there may be little point to rotating which objects are on exhibit.

It is also important to realize that rotating objects from the collection on and off exhibit does not reduce light damage to a collection as a whole but simply alters its distribution. In some cases distributing light damage more broadly through the collection will result in greater loss of value from the collection. The change in object value seldom has a simple, straight line relation to extent of light damage. Usually the change from a “pristine” state to a “just noticeable change” results in a much greater loss in value than a just noticeable change step somewhere in the mid-range between pristine and completely damaged. This is generally recognized by herbaria who, knowing that dried plant specimens are extremely light fugitive, will choose only one page of a bound herbarium to be opened on exhibit. In this way light damage to the contents of the book is restricted to a single page. The remaining pages remain in the near pristine state for occasional viewing. In contrast, if the book has 100 pages and a different page is displayed each month then it would only be a matter of decades, if not just years, until every plant specimen in the book was severely faded.

Agnes Brokerhof and colleagues presented this issue well in their 2008 paper, now available in book form.

Thanks to Anne for getting this conversation going, and thanks to Mark and Rob for such an insightful discussion and their willingness to share it with our audience.

Urban League Grants for Senior Employment

Most cultural heritage organizations need more funding to accomplish more of the mission-essential work on their to-do lists. The Winston-Salem Urban League administers a grant program that has already helped several arts and humanities organizations in the Triad region and beyond build their capacities. By providing funds to hire older adults, this program offers sets of experienced helping hands to (often cash-strapped) nonprofits. The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and the Delta Fine Arts Center have both been beneficiaries of these grants. The Winston-Salem Urban League also operates a satellite office in Burke County and has extended its funding program to western NC counties. The History Museum of  Burke County has taken advantage of this program for several years now with great success.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) assigns lower-income older adult workers to local nonprofit and government agencies and pays them minimum wage for 20 hours of work per week. Additional benefits to the employee include sustained independence and on-the-job training to enhance their opportunities in the local job market. Read more about the senior community service employment program here.

Why hire senior citizens when so many volunteers and board members are already part of that demographic—many serving on the front lines of visitor engagement like this docent at Tryon Palace (left)?

  • Seniors’ life experiences can be wide ranging enough to allow them to think more comprehensively and creatively about the range of possibilities. Encore Awards honor great examples of community leadership among seniors and one recent recipient was a Baptist minister in Conetoe, NC. His story is inspiring and involves the kind of community engagement to which museums often aspire. By refocusing his congregation on healthful living and growing food, he has nurtured members’ physical and economic well-being, as well as spiritual.
  • The Urban League senior employment grants target lower-income seniors as employees. This demographic focus may help bring diversity into the organization’s group of stakeholders, ultimately helping to construct new bridges to under-served segments of the community.
  • For some, decreasing family responsibilities at this stage of life allow seniors more availability to work after regular office hours, at night and on weekends. This coverage can help relieve regular, full-time staff.

Ask yourself what jobs seniors could be good at in your organization; you’ll likely create a long list that the Urban League (or one of the additional 4 SCSEP partners across the state) could help with. Why not take advantage of this potential reservoir of helping hands?

Thanks to C2C workshop participant and History Museum of Burke County board member, Robert Paganuzzi, for this post idea.

2014 Blog Retrospective

In our efforts to nurture a sense of community across our statewide network of cultural heritage practitioners and beyond, our C2C team has bravely plowed ahead into the social media realms of blogging and Facebook. By offering preservation tips and sharing stories from NC’s cultural heritage collections, we have carved out a fairly small online niche. We have 240 followers and another 30+- Facebook followers view our posts each week. Followers’ online addresses suggest that about 2/3 of them hail from NC. Though small, our audience extends across the globe, with over 3 thousand views in 2014 from other English-speaking countries and scattered views from 112 additional countries on every continent. We appreciate all of our readers and especially those who take the time to offer feedback and share any useful or interesting tidbits they find on these posts with colleagues.

The wordpress forum provides quantitative information about blog use by tallying the number of times viewers click on a given post. Sometimes we can infer more qualitative data about topics readers found the most helpful. As a result, here are some superlatives for posts based on views during the past year.

  • Most curious: “Beware Carpet Beetles” received a tally of 3,500 views. Although it is important to learn about these heritage eaters for integrated pest management and collections preservation, it’s astounding that this post [from 2012] has been our most popular this year. Also perplexing is that there are rarely corresponding referral links or signs of readers clicking on a link the post provides. These statistics lead us to wonder whether the high number of views is the result of human activity or whether instead, the post has gotten attached to some kind of repetitive robo-visitation.

The following superlatives only had views in the hundreds, not the thousands.

  • Sophey's QuiltBest preservation tips: “Pros and Cons of Plastic Storage Containers” and “Sealing Wood for Storage and Exhibition“—a guest post by conservator Marc A. Williams went live in 2012 and 2011 respectively and address essential preservation concerns, applicable for even the smallest museums. This quilt from an NC county historical museum is a good illustration of the importance of sealing wood before using it to mount artifacts–especially textiles and paper. The yellowish, brownish lines on the quilt are the result of acid migration from a wood frame behind. A plexi cover over the quilt trapped the acidic vapors inside a narrow space. Although we can’t all have the in-depth preservation knowledge that many conservators–like Williams–have accumulated, we can learn enough to avoid such errors and strive to “do no harm” to the artifacts under our care.
  • Cross-disciplinary: “Mineral Hazards” is a guest post by Chris Tacker, who is a curator at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, published in spring of 2013. That it is our 4th most viewed individual post in 2014 is a testament to the usefulness of Chris’ knowledge and the power of reaching out to colleagues outside our history discipline.
  • Most popular 2014 posts: Both “Thinky-Drinky” & “Expendifacts” earned this title and both deal with hands-on experiences in historic houses and sites.
  • Most collaborative: “Sleep Tight,” another guest post published this year, was written by a public history graduate student from the UNCG program who worked with staff from the High Point Museum to re-string a period bed at Blandwood Mansion. The group of four used a video that colleagues from Historic Hope Plantation developed for guidance. That’s a total of 6 NC cultural heritage practitioners and 4 allied institutions involved in the project that our blog has the privilege of showcasing!

We hope to continue to provide sometimes exciting and always informative content in 2015, so stay tuned and keep us posted on the challenges you’re encountering as well as what’s working for you.