Monthly Archives: April 2015

Promoting Preservation

This week and into May, cultural heritage institutions of all types will be actively promoting preservation. Even though our C2C team is always preaching preservation, we try to make an extra push at this time of year. The American Library Association has decreed the last week in April Preservation Week. We are recognizing the campaign by meeting with the Mountain Area Cultural Resources Emergency Network at NCDCR’s Western Office in Asheville on Monday. MACREN formed 15+ years ago after the Wolfe Memorial fire and has been a model for us as we’ve tried to help establish regional mutual-aid networks for disaster recovery across the state. We’re excited to have the opportunity to help reinvigorate this group and tell them about CREST’s recent deployments in the mountain region.

This year MayDay synergistically falls on Friday, the end of ALA’s Preservation Week. Organizations that promote disaster preparedness for cultural heritage collections urge staff to “Do one thing” on May 1st to improve your institution’s disaster preparedness. It doesn’t have to be huge or involve much advance planning; you can still accomplish a worthwhile MayDay task. A few simple ideas with lasting benefits are:

  1. Update your institution’s emergency contacts on MayDay each year.
  2. Tune into the Foundation for the American Institute of Conservation’s FREE webinar this Friday, from 2:00 – 3:30 on disaster preparedness.
  3. Contact local firefighters to schedule a pre-plan for your institution, if you have not already been through this process.
  4. Order a Knox Box through your local fire station.

credit: Edgecombe Community College Historic Preservation Technology Program

For groups involved with building preservation, May is Preservation Month. Old Salem and Historic Forsyth are offering a multitude of free preservation programs this month. Our state historic preservation office has organized a window workshop later in May in Black Mountain. The NC Museum of History has planned a Preservation Day for Saturday, May 9. The event will correspond with the museum’s quarterly Conservation Assistance Day and will include displays by representatives from preservation organizations from across the state (including Edgecombe CC’s Historic Preservation Technology Program) as well as special exhibits on the topic.

Does your institution have any special preservation-related activities this week or in May? How can you engage your community with this topic for next year? Take advantage of some of the programs other groups are offering now and use these ideas as a launching pad to plan next year’s preservation promotions!


Reminders from Recovery

Last week C2C conducted our 6th and final fire recovery workshop at the Fayetteville Fire Training Center. Overall, the process of setting up and burning the mock museum replicated that of earlier workshops. Our “artifacts” experienced a range of damage from a level of charring that would lead to deaccession to a light level of soot and ash to the absorption of smoky odors. The scenario gave our staff and participants a rare opportunity to witness the protective powers of various storage materials and the effectiveness of simple recovery treatments.

This event offered reminders of 3 preservation techniques we’ve discussed before, both in workshops and in this blog.

  1. ???????????????????????????????Textile interleaving helps protect artifacts. The vast majority of disasters involve water. Even fires usually end with the activation of sprinkler systems or water hoses. Although a fire’s intense heat often evaporates any water involved very quickly, bleeding dyes and sooty tide lines can remain. Participants in our “Collections Care Basics” workshops get to practice rolling textiles for storage. They are careful to interleave the object with acid-free tissue during each revolution and cover the rolled fabric with muslin, Tyvek, reemay, or tissue. In this case (shown above) the muslin cover appeared to protect the rolled textile inside but once opened, water damage became apparent. Dyes bled onto the muslin and interleaving tissue, which mitigated the damage from one layer of the textile to the next.
  2. board box after fire

    board box after fire

    plastic box after fire

    plastic box after fire

    Plastic storage boxes are a protective option—even in a fire. We previously postulated the melting fate of plastic boxes in fires as disadvantage of that storage option. However, in this fire, the plastic box protected its contents similarly to the board box. We had placed a like array of materials (8 objects) in each of 4 boxes—2 plastic, 2 board. One plastic and one board box survived well on a lower shelf. Both the plastic and the board box on a top shelf experienced destructive heat. The fire melted the plastic and caused the board to char and collapse. In both boxes most materials suffered damage but could be recovered. Once cooled, melted plastic could be pried off the surviving objects fairly easily and board dividers and tissue inside the box protected much of the contents.

  1. Gonzo is visible in the trashcan beneath the object tray.

    Gonzo is visible in the trashcan beneath the object tray.

    Deodorization chambers are effective as a recovery technique. Paper, textile, and wooden objects absorb smoky odors easily. The deodorization chamber we have recommended previously worked really well for the textile items involved in this fire. We placed two infant clothing items in the chamber overnight and all traces of odor disappeared. The Gonzo product needed recharging in the sun before the next session but then resumed absorbing effectively and deodorized two dresses that had been on the garment rack during the blaze.

Although every disaster is different, we learn lessons after each that help us mitigate risks and be better prepared. What lessons have disasters taught you?

House Calls at the Country Doctor Museum

The Country Doctor Museum in Bailey serves its rural community with mobile health units. This unusual outreach program relates to the institution’s historical content and models creative connections between common mission-driven goals: to interpret the past while building community in the present.

CDM_IllustrationMany thanks to Anne Anderson, Director, and Jennie Schindler, Site Manager of the Country Doctor Museum, for this guest post. Much of the material previously appeared as a poster session at the NCMC annual meeting March 30.

The Country Doctor Museum is a history of medicine museum established in 1967 as an effort to preserve the material culture associated with rural physicians. The Medical and Health Sciences Foundation of East Carolina University acquired the Museum in 2002, and ECU’s Laupus Library now manages it. Seeking to help improve access to health screening and education, the Museum has embarked on a program to bring mobile health units to its small, farming community.

The Museum recognizes a distinct need in its local area for access to health care screening and information.  By inviting various mobile health units to visit the museum, area residents gain access to health services such as kidney screening, mammograms and vision testing.  The visiting health units introduce the participants to health professionals who can answer their questions and guide them in the right direction for continuing care. The Museum is engaged in growing the mobile health unit program due to the success of prior events and by the encouragement of grateful participants.

As a satellite program of Laupus Library, the Museum staff is kept abreast of regional trends in health disparity, public health concerns and challenges facing the health care profession in North Carolina. Located in the small, rural town of Bailey (population 600) and situated in the southern tip of Nash County, the Museum operates in a farming community with limited access to healthcare. Only one local family practice doctor is established in the Town of Bailey and the nearest medical center is close to 20 miles away in Wilson, North Carolina.

Demographic information about Nash County and neighboring Wilson County (from which the Museum draws heavily for its programming) illustrates a rural environment with above average unemployment rates. Underserved populations include a large African American community (39% in Nash County; 61% in Wilson County from the 2012 census) and a significant Latino community.  Up to 26% of residents in area communities live below the poverty level. Nash County in particular has a decreased number of health care professionals, especially in comparison to the adjacent Wake County, and many of these health care providers work in Rocky Mount, located in the northern part of Nash County.

In the past, the historic and tourism focus of the museum’s programs has limited its contributions to the health community. However, through the use of mobile health units from medical and community organizations, the Museum has developed an approach to improve access to care and education for members of the community including breast health, vision testing and kidney screening. Mobile health groups from Rex Mobile Mammography, UNC Kidney Education Outreach Program and the North Carolina Lion’s vision screening unit are participating partners in the Museum’s effort to bring accessible health care and education to the Bailey community. The health professionals in these mobile units can advise local residents about the continuum of care for any risks or symptoms that they might present.

guest post authors Anne Anderson on left and Jennie Schindler 2nd from right

guest post authors Anne Anderson on left and Jennie Schindler 2nd from right

The Museum uses resources including its large parking lot, administrative coordination and marketing network to successfully host visiting mobile units. Community members have given a favorable response to mobile health events hosted at the Museum in the past. Appointment times for the day of the mobile units fill quickly and waiting lists are started in case of cancellations. Most women who participated in the mammography program were apt to schedule an additional appointment the following year when the unit visited again. Visits by new mobile units are planned for the coming year. Participants have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the availability of these health units and look forward to future visits.

The Museum’s mobile health program follows a recent trend in the museum field to become more active in addressing America’s health issues. In 2013, the American Alliance of Museums published a report, “Museums On Call: How Museums Are Addressing Health Issues,” detailing the collective and individual efforts of museums in meeting the health needs of the communities they serve. Participants in the Museum’s mobile health unit events reflect the underserved minority population of the area.

The mobile health units help empower and educate participants to become better advocates for their own health. Repeat visits allow participants to start implementing healthy behaviors, such as by recognizing the signs of kidney disease or breast cancer, and to regularly screen for these diseases. Mobile health units can lead to personal health improvement and enable the Museum to become a health resource in the community.

Still Standing: Evaluating Visitors’ Interest in Slave Dwellings

Thanks to Beth Bullock, Jayd Buteaux, Caitlin Butler, and Bonnie Soper for this guest post. The students first presented this information during a poster session at NCMC‘s annual meeting last week and we’re grateful to be able to share it with NC C2C’s online community.

In the fall of 2014, graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington started a yearlong project focusing on the preservation and interpretation of slave dwellings. The first part in the process was to gather information on the community’s general impressions about slavery and slave dwellings.

Slave Quarter at the Bellamy Mansion

Slave Quarter at the Bellamy Mansion

We conducted 90 visitor surveys at the Bellamy Mansion and 12 focus groups with various individuals across age groups and races within the local Wilmington community. This was done in conjunction with research on various slave dwellings, the history of slavery, and slave dwelling preservation. The data we compiled represents the largest known collection of visitor responses regarding slave dwellings and offers great insight into visitors’ interest in slavery, slave dwellings, and preservation.

Jayd Buteaux interviewing docents

Jayd Buteaux interviewing docents

Community Leaders focus group

Community Leaders focus group

We asked visitors about their knowledge, associations, assumptions, and interest in the history and preservation of slave dwellings, particularly their impressions from visiting the slave quarters at Bellamy Mansion. We also conducted focus groups with various stakeholders, including African American genealogists, historic preservation professionals, African American community leaders, African American parents, and museum docents. The small group interviews helped us gather in-depth responses about the relative importance of preserving slave dwellings and what people want to know about slavery, slave dwellings, and their preservation.

survey results: average interest in various aspects of museums

survey results: average interest in various aspects of historic house museums

Through these surveys and discussions, we found that there were huge gaps in knowledge of the history of slavery. Most visitors envisioned slavery as a Southern, rural phenomenon and pictured an antebellum plantation setting. Visitors exhibited surprise when presented with an urban slave dwelling, proving that visitors needed context on the differences between rural and urban slavery, and the changes in slavery over time. These gaps in knowledge were found amongst all age groups and walks of life. Other themes that became apparent throughout the project were the lack of awareness of agency in the enslaved community and the impact of media representations upon modern perceptions of slavery.

There was also contention over the preservation of slave dwellings and their interpretation. Some participants in the focus groups expressed concern over the authenticity of the representation of slave dwellings.

Our findings prompted research into local slave dwellings and the existence of slave dwellings throughout the Northern and Western United States. These insights will inform our upcoming public exhibit on the preservation of slave dwellings, but can also aid other museums and historic sites in understanding their visitors’ assumptions and correcting myths in visitors’ knowledge. The exhibit will open at the Bellamy Mansion Museum in Wilmington, NC next month (May 2015).