// Once a year, usually at the beginning of January, my museum closes for several days to allow for a thorough cleaning of the museum, as well as the completion of some projects which are best done when the building is clear of visitors. Though many of the jobs are not very glamorous, they are necessary to keep the museum in shape for visitors and for the staff. It is at least a good excuse for dressing down for work!
Let’s take a look at some of what was done last week. One of the big projects facing us is changing our front window display. It has had the same scene depicting Mary Ann “Mother” Bickerdyke tending to a wounded soldier on the battlefield for over 10 years. This scene was inspired by the illustration “Midnight on the Battle Field” by J.J. Cade which is captioned, “It was Mother Bickerdyke, with a lantern still groping among the dead. Stooping down and turning their cold faces towards her, she scrutinized them searchingly, uneasy lest some might be left to die uncared for. She could not rest while she thought any were overlooked who were yet living.” Before we can construct a new display, the old one has to be taken out. I wonder if Tom or Katie ever thought that carrying mannequins would be part of their job descriptions? There’s always time to have a little fun on the job - I just hope I don’t see my next paycheck signed by Mother Bickerdyke! As with most big projects, there was an unwelcome surprise though. When the mannequins were inspected more closely, it was discovered that there were insects and insect damage on the clothes. It was a full “Red Alert” moment for me! The clothes were immediately taken off and sealed in plastic bags, samples of the insects were sealed in smaller plastic bags, the mannequins were thoroughly vacuumed, and the exterminator was called. Fortunately, the insects were contained to the display window; no evidence of them was found in any of the galleries or the collection room. Once the mannequins had been treated, they were re-dressed and used out at the Pry House. Mother Bickerdyke is now Mrs. Richardson, and the wounded soldier has gotten a promotion to become a wounded General Richardson. We’re still working on the new front window display. You’ll have to check back for reports on our progress! My biggest project was the installation of two new displays. You can see the new Clara Barton exhibit in last week’s post. I also switched our Civil War Sesquicentennial display in the front lobby from the Battle of Antietam to the Battle of Gettysburg. The new Gettysburg display contains a glass plate negative and photograph of a wounded color bearer, a medical case identified to a hospital steward, a tooth powder container, a portrait of a nurse, and a map of Gettysburg which shows the field hospitals. Another museum project was to replace the carpet in our second floor lobby. As you can see in the following photos, it was not a fun job! Katie pulled out the old carpet squares. April and Tom installed the new squares. There were plenty of other “dirty jobs” too. Karen collected all the recycling. The museum store needed to be cleaned and reorganized. Adele tackled the job of dusting the galleries. Kyle mopped the stairwell. Audrey cleaned the carpet in our conference room. And of course, there are always light bulbs that need to be replaced! It takes a lot of hard work on the part of the museum staff and volunteers, but the results are worth it. The museum is ready to handle another year of visitors! Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. My entire blog can be viewed at www.guardianoftheartifacts.blogspot.com .