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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.

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