Jun 05

Introduction

Summer 2012 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Collections Management Internship

Introduction:

My name is Becky Bacheller and I have just completed the first year of my Museum Studies Masters program at George Washington University. That year included multiple courses in Collections Management, Preventive Conservation, and Decorative Arts (both European and American).

Outside of the classroom I spend most of my waking hours in various museums. I typically devote 2 days a week to volunteering at NASM, either downtown helping curatorial with an upcoming exhibit or out at Garber (their collections facility) helping to rehouse a historic collection. Then 2 to 3 days a week are spent at my part-time job service as a Visitor Services Associate at the New York Historical Society. And yes, I am from NYC so I usually spend my weekends up there. Don’t worry, I stopped for the summer! I could post my entire resume but let’s get to the important part: this summer and how I will be spending it.

I have enjoyed my experiences at NASM so much that I was accepted a full-time, paid internship for the summer. It is primarily located at the Garber collections facility but occasionally we go to the Hazy facility (NASM’s new collections facility) by the Dulles Airport to unpack objects. My hours are generally 8:30 to 3:30. On the days we go to Hazy, the hours are usually 7 to 3:30. Hence I will not be keeping track of the total hours for this project since it clearly exceeds the minimum for an internship.

The main purpose of this project is to prepare for shipment and long term storage the small object collections of the National Air and Space Museum currently located at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, MD. These small objects will be relocated from Suitland, MD to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (UHC) in Chantilly, VA. These artifacts may include but are not limited to civilian and military uniforms, space program tools and accessories, models, trophies, three dimensional art, memorabilia, and toys.

Activities during this internship will include but not be limited to:
1.    object handling
2.    creating and inserting interior and exterior storage supports
3.    creating handling trays / containers
4.    packing objects into shipping containers
5.    assisting with the relocation of objects from shipping containers to final destinations at UHC storage

 

Jun 08

Week 1 – June 4-8

Monday, 6/4:

My first day was Monday, June 4th. I arrived downtown at the main museum building and began to meet my fellow interns of the Summer 2012 intern class. After introductions we went downstairs to begin our orientation. This was fairly brief and mostly consisted of filling out paperwork and then receiving more paper and information about NASM. Then we got a mini tour as we dropped off various interns at their departments. The majority of the interns (27 in total) are posted throughout the downtown museum so towards the end of the tour, the 4 Garber interns were sent off to find the shuttle.

The shuttle leaves from various Smithsonian (SI) locations around the Mall and goes back and forth between the Mall and the SI collections facilities in Maryland. Since I don’t have a car, I am very familiar with the shuttle. We arrived around lunch time and spent the rest of the day familiarizing ourselves with our new areas.

I am part of the Garber Move Team (GMT) that consists of 3 contractors (Steph, Katherine, and Ashley), 1 lead contractor (Amelia), my supervisor (Sam), and my co-intern (Megan). Sam is the only permanent NASM employee of the group and we are just one of the groups of contractors she supervises so she joins us when she can!

Tuesday, 6/5:

When I first discussed this summer’s projects, I was told we would be working with the Fur and Leather collection for the entirety. Fortunately the team wasn’t quite there yet so I got the chance to help prepare and unpack spacesuits! The team had already processed most of them so I didn’t get the chance to create interior supports for them. On Monday morning they had packed a load of suits into the truck at Garber. Fortunately NASM has their own trucks who then drove the load to Hazy for us to unpack on Tuesday morning.

A coffin box containing one spacesuit and Sam unstrapping it

The process involves using a forklift to remove each box from the truck, wheeling it over to our workspace. It is then lifted so we can unstrap it, open it, and examine each suit for any damage. Each suit has its own board with custom foam bumpers to keep it in place.

Once unstrapped, each board is transferred from its box to a shelf on one of the rolling racks to be transported upstairs to its new home! Today was the first time I had been to the new collections facility (Hazy) so it was fascinating to see the multiple levels of security for the various rooms. While I have my SI badge already, permissions for the various doors at Garber and Hazy still have to be added. This meant that Megan and I couldn’t go anywhere by ourselves or open any doors. Hilariously enough, the bathroom also has a sensor so we had to ask one of the contractors each time we wanted to use it!

The early morning was spent unloading the truck. Once that was finished, we spent the rest of the day moving the suits into their new home. Best part of the day: getting to see Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. It had already been moved but the team was nice enough to show us that and other Apollo suits.

Wednesday, 6/6:

Today was a packing day. Before I started my internship, the team had been so busy with processing the suits that they were mostly ready to be moved. So the majority of the day was spent looking over each suit and adding any finishing touches. This usually included an additional foam bumper here, a twill tie there to keep a sleeve in place.

Foam bumpers ready for a suit

Suit ready to move

The above pictures show how we prepare a board. Our full length boards are all the same standard size. So the bottom of each box has ethafoam blocks glued in place to keep each board secure and is reused each time we are ready to make a shipment. Each board is customized for its suit because the boards are not only used to ship them but will also stay with each suit in their new storage location. In this case we used backer rods pieces as bumpers to keep the suit in place.

The second photo shows the suit in place on its board within the box. I would then cover it with a large piece of muslin cloth (to shield it from dust, light, and moisture). Then two straps that go under the board would be buckled across the suit to secure it to the board for its move. Strips of volara are put under the straps to add extra cushioning In some cases we might add extra bubble wrap as an extra precaution to keep a sleeve from moving but this suit is so flat we didn’t have to.

Then the lid is put on and it is ready to go. The team is so prepared that they already have slips printed out for each suit that includes its number and new shelf location. That strip is attached to the top of the box and each suit is marked off on another list that details all of the objects going into that move. Lastly one of us goes into The Museum System (TMS), NASM’s collections management database, and updates the location. This is of course done whenever the object is moved, even if it is just sitting in a truck for one night. I’m still learning TMS so just watched it done this time.

Packing in progress! Amelia positioning the box

I’m told that I will learn to drive the forklift soon!

Thursday, 6/7:

Since yesterday was a packing day, today is an unpacking day! Since there is no shuttle out to Hazy (it is all the way out near the Dulles Airport), I have to wake up earlier and get picked up at the Rosslyn Metro station. Not having a car can be frustrating but my supervisor was aware of this when she hired me. The contractors are great about taking turns to pick me up. No one will accept gas money so I try to bring treats. We arrive in time to meet the truck arriving at 7am and begin unpacking.

Spacesuit boot supports

This is an example of external supports that were created to keep the boots upright and in place. It is carved out of a block of ethafoam and then tyvek is put on any surface that would come into contact with the object. This is because the foam edges are rougher than tyvek so would damage the object overtime.

Fully loaded rolling racks

The loading dock is on the first floor and the storage for the small objects is on the second floor. Here is most of today’s load in the freight elevator. Each suit keeps its board and muslin cloth when it goes into storage. And yes, we made a lot of jokes about how it looks like we work in a morgue.

Friday, 8/8:

Our alternating location days have taken a break for now and I am at Garber today. While there are still more suits ready to move, we didn’t want to pack them today and leave them in the truck over the weekend. So today is a break from packing/unpacking but I’m told we will do more next week. Today I continued to familiarize myself with the Garber facility and TMS and learned more about how to process various objects. Now that the suits are done we are moving onto smaller objects – mostly boots and gloves right now.

This first week has been amazing. We really started off with an active week! Megan and myself are exhausted. We both talk about how we would be so tired at the end of the day that we’d take naps as soon as we got home. It is exhilarating but definitely an adjustment period for me. My previous jobs were primarily sedentary so it is different to be on my feet all day and lifting things. But this is exactly what I wanted as I’ve been specializing in collections management in hopes of landing a more active, hands-on job such as this.

Jun 16

Week 2 – June 11-15

Monday, 6/11:

Today was a packing day at Garber. We pack most of the bigger suits in air trays (the boxes that look like coffin boxes) and the smaller pieces – like pants or very thin suits, in mannequin boxes where sometimes we can fit two objects per box. For the air trays, there is always only one in each box.

Me cleaning an air tray

Here I am cleaning out an air tray before we secure the top on it and it is ready to go on the truck! Some of these suits have been on the same blue board for a significant amount of time. So I am using the vacuum to clean up dirt and debris before it ships.

This is a shot from inside one of the Bally Boxes where we store objects and looking out into the building where we work (Building 24). We were trying to test the security announcement system today to see if we could hear them while inside the boxes.

Tuesday, 6/12:

Today was another early day at Hazy. Since we packed yesterday that means waking up early and carpooling to Hazy. Then at around 7am we meet the truck and begin unpacking.

Transferring to its shelf

This is after we unpacked everything on the loading dock. We have enough large rolling racks that we can fit the entire load from the truck on them. Then we bring the racks upstairs to the space suit storage room. Each suit has already been assigned a shelf. So we match the numbers with their location, double check that it is the correct number and shelf, and then transfer it to its new home! Later one of the contractors will update the location for each object in TMS.

This is just two rows within space suit storage. Each suit keeps its board (to provide a layer between the object and the metal shelf as well as make handling easier) and a piece of muslin cloth to protect it since it is open shelving. I can never get over the morgue like feeling in here!

My pallet jack action shot!

We had more people than usual today helping with the move. So we finished early and had time to unpack some PSCs (plastic storage container). These black plastic containers are used to ship smaller objects like belts, shoes, gloves, etc. This was my first time with them as some had been brought to Hazy in a previous load and left to be unpacked when we had time. Well today was that day, I used a pallet jack to take 2 boxes at a time upstairs. Then we would unpack them (so much bubble wrap and tape over everything!), check them against the shipment list to make sure everything was accounted for, and then take them to the fur and leather storage room. All the packing materials and now empty boxes used were put back into the empty PSC to be taken back to Garber and reused for the next shipment.

Wednesday, 6/13:

So while my position is with the Garber Move Team (GMT) and we primarily work in Building 24, we aren’t the only group working there. Across the building from us is the CCPF team. Their job is to survey and rehouse objects. Well, the contractors survey and their 2 interns rehouse objects. Today they hosted all the Garber interns for a rehousing lesson.

They pulled an array of boxes for demonstration. While I have had some box making experience, I had never made a clam shell box (like the above example) and have limited experience making boxes with shelves inside. They also spoke about internal supports they crafted to properly house each object. For example the above box has multiple supports on the inside lid of the box. So they recommended making a clam shell box that would ensure the supports always properly line up since the lid is attached.

Box making

Patrick is their intern in the background here who has already been here for over a week and is very familiar with the box making process! Over the course of the summer he and his co-intern Lizzie will make hundreds.

My first time driving a fork lift

Later that day I got my first fork lift driving lesson! It was a little nerve wracking because we didn’t start outside but inside the warehouse surrounded by obstacles, people, and objects. But we took it slow and Amelia spotted me while I picked up my first (empty) PSC and then drove it to another building on the other side of Garber. There we met with a conservator to figure out the best way to ship a 1920s airplane seat that is taller than the PSCs. It is upholstered in leather so that is why it is part of this move phase. Eventually it did go into a PSC with a lot of padding, muslin cloth, and plastic wrap to keep it secure.

Thursday, 6/14:

No exciting lessons or moving today. Today we processed objects. The space suits are complete and the next group we are working on within the fur and leather move is boots.

Me inserting inserts

Each pair of boot usually has the same catalog number for both boots so they are stored together in the same box. We have to create custom internal supports for each boot. This usually means making one for the toes, one of the soles, and one for the ankle. I start by carving each piece out of foam and making sure they fit properly – I want a snug fit that will support the boot’s shape over time but isn’t too tight that it is difficult to get out. Despite cutting off the corners and edges of the foam, it can still be rough on an object so I then cover it in batting for cushioning. Then I put the entire thing in a nylon stocking and tie off the ends. I like to leave one end as a tail so the next person handling the boot will have something to hold on to and make removal of the insert easier.

The finished product

This isn’t the pair I was working on above but another pair I finished today. You can see the “tails” on the nylons that make it easier to remove them. I will also have to get better at making the inserts the same size!

Once the internal supports are created and inserted into each boot, then it is boxing time. Fortunately the team ordered boxes that fit boots so we don’t have to custom make each box which saves a lot of time. I then take thin ethafoam and make a wave that protects the boots from the sides of the box and each other. Labels are printed for 2 sides and foam chunks are inserted to keep the boots from moving during shipment. Then I would cover them with muslin and bubble wrap the whole box and it is ready to go!

Friday, 8/15:

Today was boots, boots, and more boots. The day did get broken up by one of the CCPF contractors, John, taking the Garber interns on a tour. We have already been here for 2 weeks and in that time have been in multiple buildings for work related reasons but this is our first official tour. There are numerous warehouse style buildings throughout Garber with no windows so you have no idea what is inside. Various buildings housed shelves full of engines/various engine parts, conservation/restoration staff, machines, and planes in various stages of restoration, the exhibits team building, and multiple buildings dedicated to planes.

Engines

Caroline - JFK's plane used during his 1960 presidential campaign

Some additional information on Caroline: http://voices.yahoo.com/jfks-caroline-plane-made-history-8889083.html?cat=37

These planes will eventually make the move out to Hazy too but at the moment we are still in the small object phase. All in all a good second week!

 

 

Jun 22

Week 3 – June 18-22

Monday, 6/18:

And the week starts off with how we left off: more boots! Our supervisor Sam is the one who originally makes the lists of objects to be pulled and shipped together. At Hazy, it is the plan to store all similar materials together, hence I keep talking about this phase as the fur and leather move. So the boots (or other objects) we pull may be from different cabinets or bally boxes. That’s why we have the large rolling racks, so everything that is pulled can be processed and stored together until they move.

This is what we end up with at the end of today. These are all pairs of boots complete with internal supports with proper archival boxes and labels. Muslin cloth goes on top and then bubble wrap is taped on top of it all to ensure its safety for travel. These boots will stay on this rolling rack until we have enough to pack a PSC. Their location is updated in TMS to include what rolling rack they are on and which shelf. So for example, the bottom most shelf’s location is Rack 16, shelf A.

Tuesday, 6/19:

The ongoing procession of boots continues.

This was an interesting case today. When we first select a pair of boots to work on, we first look up its record in TMS and check its condition report for any things to watch out for. We then briefly examine each for any conditions that aren’t in TMS and update it if necessary. These boots had a warning in their condition report about loose soles and debris in the toe. When the person working on them pulled it out, the team all met to examine and discuss what to do in this situation. The general consensus was that a mouse may have made a home in the boots and that’s what the debris in the toe was. Later we asked a conservator’s opinion and she thinks it might have been put there by the wearer for extra cushioning or for a better fit. Either way it stays but the soles will be boxed and bagged separately from their boots. Well, they still all ended up in the same box but each sole was contained separately from its boot.

In the afternoon Amelia took Megan and myself on a little tour around some collection areas we hadn’t seen before. I’m a Star Trek fan and overall pop culture enthusiast so had been bugging Amelia to show us the Star Trek props they had in storage as soon as I heard about them.

Tribbles!

NASM has 5 prop tribbles used in “The Trouble With Tribbles” of Star Trek: The Original Series. I also got to see a mold of Spock’s ear and a lot of space food. They have drawers and drawers of space food of all different kinds and shapes!

Spaghetti and meat sauce?

Maybe one of NASM's 5 tribbles?

Wednesday, 6/20:

Today was split between working on more boots and packing PSCs. Previously I had only seen them at Hazy and unpacked some but today we got to see the process on the other side.

The bigger boxes typically fit 2 pairs of boots and the cardboard box is cavity packed so there is no possibility of the boots moving in transit. This is done with a variety of foam and bubble wrap as well as a piece of blue board on top to protect the contents when we use an exacto knife to open the boxes at Hazy. Each box is then taped up and a slip of paper is included on top that indicates which objects are inside. Within the PSC, the boxes are also cavity packed, any spaces are filled with foam or other items to ensure they can’t move. Then the lid is screwed on and a packing list is attached to the side. Each PSC has a number so the objects’ locations can be updated in TMS.

Building 24 is getting taken over by PSCs! Steph makes sure each object is accounted for before closing the lid while Ashley stacks them up using the fork lift in the background.

Thursday, 6/23:

Today is fork lift certification day. Right when I got to work I went to the break room where fork lift training had just started. Megan and I joined about 5 exhibits staff to be trained and certified today. First we had to watch 2 videos that went over safety rules complete with showing us the bloody consequences of not following each rule.

A few (but by no means all) of the rules include: honk/stop at entering/exiting intersections and entering buildings; don’t dismount until complete stop; don’t reach through mast; don’t block view – keep load low while moving; if load is high enough to block view, go in reverse; never have anything hanging out. There was then a written test portion after the videos which we all passed.

After the written test was the driving test. Jeannie is the staffer in charge of testing us and had set up an obstacle course. We had to drive outside, pick up a load, enter one of the buildings (don’t forget to honk!), maneuver between planes, and finally put down our load at the back of the building. Did I mention we had to do all this in reverse?

Let the games begin!

First thing I of course inspected the fork lift before starting. The load we had to pick up is in the background.

Success!

I am now fork lift certified for the next 3 years (with supervision).

And then back to boots….

This pair had 2 metal springs with it. I customized a plastic bag to fit both of them separated and wrote that they were part of the boots on the bag before putting it in the box.

Friday, 6/22:

Day off! Happy long weekend!

 

 

 

 

Jun 29

Week 4 – June 25-29

Monday, 6/25:

The parade of boots continues. Remember that pair from last week with the possible mouse house in the toes? Well a conservator took a closer look and determined it wasn’t from a mouse but probably from the wearer. Either way it was staying and it became my job to make a box for it.

These boots had separate catalog numbers so it was safe to have them in separate boxes. The soles were kept removed from the boots and I custom made a box for each of them including supports to keep them in place but not disturb the debris at the toes. Since we still weren’t certain what it was, each box was then put in a plastic bag. This custom box was then put in a bigger box that also contained its boot. The boots were processed normally with foam inserts covered in nylon stockings. A strip of volara can be seen tied around the ankle of each. This was done if the boot wasn’t fully laced up and we worried that it needed exterior support to keep its shape.

Another view of one of the boots

Tuesday, 6/26:

Today we had to rearrange the PSCs we packed. This was an opportunity for me to use my fork lift certification to stack PSCs and drive them to another building.

I had to drive it entirely in reverse since the PSCs were stacked high enough to obstruct my view if I went forward.

In the afternoon we had finished all the boots so moved onto the next section on our list: Miscellaneous. So far I think this might be my favorite. Objects are put on this list because they are primarily made of leather but it really could be anything! As we pull objects from their old storage locations, it quickly becomes clear that you never know exactly what will be inside that box you just opened.

I spent most of the afternoon working on this leather bag. I had to make a box for it and external mounts to keep it in place. These were mostly pieces of foam covered in volara because just the foam would be too rough on the object overtime. There is also a piece of tyvek tied around the metal clasp on the lid to keep the metal from touching the leather and potentially causing problems in the future.

Wednesday, 6/27:

Miscellaneous is definitely my favorite category. I got to work on a small knife and sheath today.

They were stored with the knife still in the sheath and just one catalog number. It was determined to give the sheath a separate number so I made a new record for it in TMS. They were allowed to be stored together still because the knife’s handle had leather on it. I made a box for both and then a tray so someone could lift the objects out of the box without having to untie or handle them. Ethaform or volara lined the tray and strips of volara were tied with twill tape to keep each object in place.

We also pulled this gorgeous sword and sheath but the team decided not to make a box/mounts for it because there was uncertainty if the objects would be stored together at Hazy. While I dislike to separate associated objects such as these, there is limited room in the fur and leather storage at Hazy and the sheath is leather but the sword is not. For another day….In the background is a face mask Megan was making a tyvek pillow for.

Thursday, 6/28:

This is a prime example of why Miscellaneous is such a fascinating category. This object has one catalog number and just said it was Lindburgh’s leather case in TMS. Yet when the case was opened, all of these tools were discovered. You can clearly see how they were discoloring the case lining so had to be removed, each given their own number, and stored separately. I did not personally work on these objects but eventually they were all put in the same box. The case was closed and a large piece of foam with indentations for each tool was made.

This is one of the objects I worked on today: Lindbergh’s childhood machete! What I did was very similar to the small knife I worked on earlier this week. The main difference is that the machete itself has no leather on its handle so will be stored separately from its leather sheath. That is why 2 different sized boxes were made.

Friday, 6/29:

The Garber interns got a little break from our normal activities in the afternoon when we got a tour of the exhibits building. It was exciting because we had only been briefly in this building before and the exhibits staff at Garber has a break room separate from the collections staff so we rarely see them.

Examples of labels for Moving Beyond Earth exhibition

While most of their labels are printed digitally like in the first picture, they do still have a small screen printing lab. I learned that silk screening still has its uses.  It produces no edges, so can go directly on a wall/panel for a nice clean look but far more labor intensive.

I really wish I knew how to use all of these!

Jul 06

Week 5 – July 2-6

Monday, 7/2:

Today was the SI Staff Picnic that takes place at the Folklife Festival from 11am to 2pm. I did not end up going to Garber at all today because power was still out from Friday’s storm. At the picnic, there was music, complimentary lunch, a marketplace, exercise classes and more. Unfortunately the worst storm of the summer had just happened a few days ago so many tents were still recovering from that. Still it was a nice afternoon and I was glad SI thought to include its interns.

Tuesday, 7/3:

Throughout the summer NASM has been hosting brown bag lunches for the interns at their main museum location on the Mall. At each lunch, a couple interns are picked to present on their summer experiences and share about their department so the other interns can gain a better understanding of the museum’s workings. Since it is so difficult for the Garber interns to make a lunch downtown (with the awkward shuttle schedule we basically end up missing half of the day), we have been exempt from the lunches. It is mandatory for the downtown interns.

Yet that doesn’t mean we get out of doing a presentation! Today is Garber Intern Day and all of the downtown and Hazy interns enter our domain for the morning.

Around 10am it was presentation time. There are 5 interns (including myself) in Building 24 at Garber so we presented in the order an object would go. That means the CCPF interns (Lizzie and Patrick) began by explaining the surveying and rehousing process. They showed the box making process and had examples of various boxes and supports they had made as well as examples of the types of objects they might encounter.

Then the group moved to the Photography section. Ginx is the only intern there so talked about setting up objects for photography and then how they process the photographs and ultimately upload them to TMS. It is very common that while the CCPF team is surveying an object, they find that it either has no or outdated photographs in TMS so take it over to Ginx to photograph.

Last (but of course not least), the GMT interns presented. At this point, the object should have been surveyed and photographed so our team is generally the last stop for objects at Garber before we move them to Hazy.

We were at a disadvantage because we had planned to pull objects we had worked on in the previous weeks but the power was still not on for the bally box doors so we couldn’t get to the objects we had planned. Oh well, thankfully I had been taking a lot of pictures and just printed some out. Megan talked about a jacket she had been working on and then I talked about my machete and boots and showed pictures of what the final storage space in Hazy looked like. Then Megan and I showed them a PSC and talked about the packing process.

Then the other interns toured around the rest of Garber and left in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 7/4:

Happy Fourth of July! No work today.

Thursday, 7/5:

This is really turning out to be a quiet week!

Still working on Miscellaneous objects and this is the most interesting one I worked on today. It is a mask included in this move due to its fragile rubber. I made a box, lined it with ethafoam, made a tyvek covered pillow as an internal support, made a volara covered external support. A round foam tube was used to keep the strap in place with a pillow under it to further support the strap.

Friday, 7/6:

And now for something new:

Leaving the Miscellaneous category and entering Jackets. This is my first jacket and the majority of these have just been languishing in storage with no internal supports. So some of them have become very brittle with permanent creases due to being stored flat. Fortunately that is not the case with my first jacket.

This process involves making 2 arm inserts. These are carved out of foam, wrapped in batting, and covered by a nylon stocking similar to the boots except obviously different in size. A chest board is also made in a similar way. Often these are difficult to tie so I am brushing up on my sewing skills. Any metal pieces are either tied with tyvek (like zippers) or has a tyvek strip as a barrier to separate the metal from the leather. A small round foam tube was tied around the neck to help support the collar. A large strip of tyvek was tied around the middle to keep the sides of the jacket in place during its move.

Jul 13

Week 6 – July 9-13

I took this entire week off to go visit my parents in California.

Hello from sometimes-not-so-sunny-California!

Jul 20

Week 7 – July 16-20

Monday, 7/16:

Back from vacation and slightly more tan. We continue the jackets phase still.

Here is one I was working on today. I started by tyveking zippers and buckles but then realized that I take plenty of after pictures but few before, I will try to remedy that! You can see how the jacket was stored with no internal or external supports as well as no protective layer between metal zippers and buckles that could easily harm the leather and fur as they corrode.

Here is another jacket I worked on today nearing completion. Foam covered in batting, inside a nylon stocking, and then with tyvek sewn over it is what makes up the interior supports for the arms and body. Tyvek is added to these because the interior is fur lined so more sensitive compared to the leather boots from previous weeks. Tyvek is either tied with twill or layered over any metal parts to keep them from touching other materials. Lastly a tyveked pillow is created to go under its collar to give it support.

For most jackets we try to convince their arms to lie closer to the body to conserve storage space. Yet these 2 examples have been in storage so long their arms are stiffer and we of course don’t want to force them so outstretched they will remain.

Tuesday, 7/17:

These poor jackets have been languishing in storage in this condition for who knows how many years. Over time if not properly supported, leather will harden, crack, or become brittle. The creases allowed to form here become essentially permanent or at least would require conservation treatments.

While obviously not the same jacket, it is one I worked on today. It is similar to the ones from yesterday. It is fur lined so all inserts must be tyvek covered. A strip of volara covers its body to keep the sides in place during transit and will be removed once it reaches its new home. The arms were so stiff that not only did they stick out, but also up! I created foam ramps which I tied to each arm to help support the position they now naturally rest in.

Wednesday, 7/18:

Today was an interesting day because SI hosted their annual Career Fair and Talk for all SI interns. It was held at the American Art Museum and started off with a panel featuring 5 SI employees from differing positions who all spoke about their career paths and advice for current interns.

After the panel we went upstairs to experience the Art of Video Games exhibition before it opened to the public. One of the coordinators gave us some background on her position and work regarding the exhibition before letting us loose to explore and game.

Continuing until lunch time, there was a career fair downstairs where representatives from various disciplines and museums each had a table. Interns would line up to learn more about their chosen discipline. I was surprised to see that no collections processing units or restoration staff were present. Instead I ended up talking to library, archives, and exhibits staff before running out of time. There were multiple other tables and the curator table always had the longest line.

The Garber interns and myself had previously gotten permission from our supervisor Sam to stay downtown for the entirety of the day because there was a conservation talk in the afternoon. It featured 2 different panels with 2 speakers each and spanned the rest of the afternoon. The first 2 speakers were from Colonial Williamsburg about energy efficiency and ways to improve it while keeping the same level of collections care. Solutions they discussed included converting to LED lighting, installing light sensors which reduced light exposure by 60%, reducing airflow to lowest settings, experimenting with shutting off environmental controls during the night (claim to have seen little change in temperature or RH when shut down for 14 hours), and using programs to better track usage so it can be analyzed.

The next 2 speakers were from the National Gallery of Art. They discussed the limitations of their historic building which includes a historic HVAC system called air washers that is technology from the 1940s and still in use in their building today. Strategies that they implemented included rolling outages, compact fluorescent light, and LED lights. It was also stressed that there are no universal environmental standards and museums must consider their own unique situation including location, building, and collections.

Thursday, 7/19:

While this isn’t an object I worked on today (I was back to jackets), this is an intriguing object that Ashley worked on. She opened up a random box to find what remains of a deteriorated leather harness. Multiple pieces had fallen off or were close to it, the leather was very creased and stiff. Additionally the leather had been oiled with something that was seeping out and staining whatever it came into contact with. She managed to fit everything into one big box (since it was one number for the entire object) and use tyvek as a barrier so none of the leather was touching its mounts or pillows. This is because the seeping was continuing so it would be easier for future staff to change the tyvek barriers instead of the mounts which were glued to the box.

Friday, 7/20:

The entire team has been hard at work finishing jackets so hopefully they will be ready to move next week!

A hard week's work

Our rolling racks and even a gurney are quickly filling up with ready to move jackets. The majority of these jackets are fur lined which takes significantly longer to make internal supports for since they have to be covered in tyvek.

Jul 27

Week 8 – July 23-27

Monday, 7/23:

More jackets but I am told we are nearing the end. This one is slight different from the ones I worked on last week. Since it is so long, it would take too much time and isn’t puffy enough to really benefit from a full body board like previous jackets. So instead I cut 2 inch foam rods to fit the length of each side of the jacket’s body. It is nearly as soft as tyvek so I could just cut the rods (but round the edges) and not cover them in tyvek. Metal bits like the belt buckle here are still covered in tyvek and tied in place. I still made inserts for the arms and used a smaller foam rod to help support the collar. Since the front pockets were slightly puffy, I also put pieces of volara in them to help them keep their shape. Overall this is far less labor intensive than the fur jackets from last week and involves no sewing!

Tuesday, 7/24:

Guess where I went today!

As part of our intern experience, SI intern coordinators were nice enough to put together multiple tours throughout the summer for interns from the various museums to get together and experience DC outside of their respective museums. This morning was US Capitol tour. I’ll admit I was slightly underwhelmed as it was just the same tour as the public would have received. I guess I am getting spoiled with my special access to curators and other museum professionals. I did learn that each state is allowed 2 statues of prominent figures from their state to be displayed throughout the building and that a Florida man was responsible for inventing air conditioning (and his statue was on display). It was very humid today so we were all very thankful to Florida.

At least all the Garber interns got to hang out

Wednesday, 7/25:

Back at Garber for more jackets.

Being a longer jacket, this one was treated very similarly to Tuesday’s example. Foam rods kept the sides, collar, and arms from developing creases.

Katherine (one of the contractors) showing off the head insert she just completed!

Thursday, 7/26:

In the morning I worked at Garber and since the last of the jackets had been completed yesterday we got to move onto pants today!

These fur lined leather pants are similar in many ways to the previous jackets. Foam rods run the length of the pant legs to support the shape of the pants. The white pieces of tyvek all cover either metal zippers, zipper pulls, buckles, or plastic buttons to keep them separate from the leather and fur. Additionally in the foreground you can see small lengths of foam rods tied to the suspenders so they stay straight and don’t get a hard crease line where they fold over.

This is one of our more unique objects. It is a real lion coat made and worn by Roscoe Turner.

Here is Roscoe in said coat: http://digitalcollections.uwyo.edu:8180/luna/servlet/detail/uwydbuwy~1~1~67271~153082:Roscoe-Turner-and-another-man-stand

Roscoe was an air racer who was sponsored by Gilmore Oil Company in the 1930s. Of course that wasn’t enough for Roscoe and he was provided with a lion cub to accompany him on his publicity flights named Gilmore. Not to be outdone by his lion, he had this lion coat made. Both the coat and stuffed Gilmore are currently in storage at Garber but as you can see, the coat is being prepared to make the move to Hazy soon.

Gilmore, GMT's unofficial mascot

In the afternoon all the Garber interns headed downtown to NASM to attend the intern going away party. Myra, the intern coordinator, and other NASM staff were kind enough to put together a pizza party for a couple of hours that afternoon for all the interns. It was bittersweet knowing the summer was coming to an end but at least none of the Garber interns were leaving in the immediate future.

Friday, 7/27:

As another week draws to a close, the pants parade continues.

This pair similarly has foam rods as interior supports and tyvek either tied or layered to cover and separate any metal parts from the non-metal parts. There are long tyvek strips here because these pants could unzip their entire length. If possible we were told to unzip zippers because overtime they can corrode and become stuck. So this pair was unzipped and then a strip of tyvek was run the length of them to keep the zipper from touching the fur lining.

Aug 03

Week 9 – July 30-August 3

Monday, 7/30:

While the pants continue for another week, we are actually almost done with them. Being able to use the foam rods instead of custom carving and sewing inserts makes the work go much faster and each of us on the team can easily go through multiple pairs of pants in a day.

That being said, there are still a few more pairs to finish today! The straps on this pair were stiffer than previous pairs I had worked on. So I used longer rods at the top to help weigh them down a little more to keep them in place. Where the back straps crossed, it wasn’t laying straight anymore so I sandwiched it between 2 pieces of volara tied together with twill tape to encourage them to lie flat in storage.

Tuesday, 7/31:

Since the pants are basically done, we are moving onto suits. The team discussed the best way to deal with them because many of these suits were lined with very delicate fur. A conservator was consulted for a number of the objects to advise us on the best way to proceed.

You may recognize one ongoing project:

Work on Roscoe Turner’s jacket because parts of it are very delicate and already has some fur loss in areas. Our fur conservator wanted us to be extra cautious given its value. Katherine did the majority of the work. She created foam boards with a shelf so that the sides of the jacket would not be touching each other at all but only a tyveked surface. I helped by sewing the tyvek on since Katherine was gone this morning.

Wednesday, 8/1:

Today was cross training day. The CCPF and GMT interns had spent so long with their respective teams that our supervisor thought it was time we experienced the other side (of the building).

Megan and I trained with the CCPF surveying and rehousing team while Lizzie and Patrick went over to the GMT side to begin working on suits.

CCPF was trying to correct improper housing done years ago as well as survey the objects so there was a recent condition report on file in TMS before they moved to Hazy. So they are currently working with objects that may not move for another year or more. The way most of the objects had been housed was definitely in need of improvement. Many objects were in regular cardboard boxes that had been secured with large metal staples. Definitely not archival quality and the objects were at risk of being damaged by the staples!

An object would be taken out of its storage box. Any original packaging would be saved and original tags would be scanned. Then under a table light, they would examine the object. The majority of these objects were fairly small with very incomplete TMS records. So it was up to the responsible surveyor to measure it, record all its materials, marks, and include a condition report. The condition report was not meant to be a full report like a conservator would make but a paragraph describing its condition, a general condition number assigned, and pictures taken of any problem areas. I can tell you that these are invaluable when we are packing an object to move since it warns us of any problem areas and by comparing the object to the report we can see if its condition has changed or worsened.

This plastic bloom will be going in the report!

It isn’t the intern’s responsibility to survey objects but it was interesting to see each surveyor’s process. In the afternoon I did what their interns normally do, rehouse objects. After it is surveyed, it is put aside for an intern to rehouse. Since the objects vary so widely, custom boxes are made and interior supports to keep it secure in its box. Of course blue board and hot glue is used to construct the new boxes, no regular cardboard or staples here. We also made lids for the boxes since they are staying at Garber for the time being and will be housed on open shelves, not within cabinets.

Thursday, 8/2:

Thursday was another day of intern touring, this time at the Library of Congress. We began the tour with an introductory video before heading off with the docent responsible for the SI intern group. The tour was throughout the main sections of the Jefferson Building and included the Great Hall, the Main Reading Room, and explanations of the history of the institution and its various decorative motifs throughout the building.

After the official tour, we visited the special exhibits that included Exploring the Americas and Books that Shaped America. The Garber interns and myself then went to another building to register for our LOC research cards. Hopefully this will come in handy for the upcoming school year. This tour plus lunch took longer than expected and it was already into the afternoon by the time we were finished. The shuttle schedule from downtown to Garber can be very awkward so by the time we caught the next shuttle and returned to Garber, we would only have had an hour to work before the day was done. So we received permission to continue touring downtown.

I picked the Anderson House which is home to the Society of the Cincinnati and is a historic house museum in the Dupont area. I had been meaning to visit it for some time so jumped at the chance to take the interns there. Megan, Patrick, and Lizzie are all from out of town so the majority of their touring had been museums on the Mall and other more well-known tourist attractions.

Anderson House Ballroom

Friday, 8/3:

This morning was another open house held downtown for all SI interns. This one was hosted by the Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations (OFEO). I wasn’t sure what to expect but it advertised designing and constructing SI facilities, infrared equipment, airborne ultrasound, vibration analysis, SI sustainability efforts, disaster management, personnel security. and physical security. I will admit that that is a list I have very little experience or knowledge of any of it so I was intrigued to see what the presentations would teach me. Megan, Lizzie, and myself attended.

It was a very different setup than I was expecting, I thought it would be more formal presentations/lectures like the Career Fair had been but it was tables set up for each of the listed topics. I actually got a lot out of this event and was very pleasantly surprised and glad I went. Each staffer was very passionate to share their expertise and unlike the Career Fair, there were no lines so each person had the opportunity to speak at greater length about their job.

Highlights included:

  • learning about the levels of security used in collections facilities, I had some practical knowledge of this but I learned a lot more about how many levels there were.
  • another security officer regaled me with stories of escorting NMAH’s ruby slippers to a taping of Oprah’s show and the Hope Diamond to NYC.
  • meeting with project managers for current SI construction projects like the Arts and Industry Building and the Cooper-Hewitt in NYC.
  • meeting with someone from the Vertical Transportation Branch who installed a fear of escalators in me by regaling in his horror stories while on the job and showing us pictures of injuries and examples of destroyed shoes.

Overall a very insightful look into different operational positions that I previously had little to none knowledge of.

After lunch, we went back to Garber to continue working on suits from earlier in the week.

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