Guest Post: When Small Scale Efforts Bring a BIG Reward
A blog post by Heather Brown, Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation.
On the morning of October 12, eight volunteers arrived the Historical Society (http:///www.hsobc.org/index.html)—and former almshouse (http:///www.historymj.com/students/schaefer/BCA.htm)—of Baltimore County to volunteer as part of the White Gloves Gang. Administrator Adam Youssi headed up the gang and started our day off with a tour of the 19th century building. It was fascinating to see the former quarters of the inmates, and the furniture and other items in the collection, but the greatest surprise of our tour was an intact nuclear fallout shelter in the basement, replete with cots, radios, and sealed tins of crackers from 1962!
With the help of Collections Manager Melissa Heaver, we laid out a plan for the day, including the tasks of transcriptions, photography, and preparing a group of dollhouses for display in the exhibition Dollhouses – Then and Now, hosted by the Maryland Miniaturists Unlimited (http:///www.nameregione1.org/calendar/calendar.htm), from Oct 15th-16th.
The Historical Society’s dollhouses include replicas of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia, and Baltimore County’s historic home “Ravenhurst,” among others. Many of the dollhouses were dirty, and needed dusting and vacuuming before the furniture could be re-staged. For Ravenhurst, the furniture was neatly packaged into boxes and labeled with the appropriate room. The real magic, however, was in the photographs that showed the original layout of the décor and presented clues as to what the room should look like. Rugs were “installed” first, followed by the large (3” x 5”) furniture and the dolls. Books, chessboards, vases and other tiny accessories provided the finishing touches to the dollhouse displays. My favorite item was a lovely little photo album with a metal latch, showing pages of gelatin silver print portraits inside.
Much of the work was finished by our 2 pm deadline, but some of the volunteers continued working as my classmates and I filed into the van to head back to Wilmington. We were sad to leave a few pieces of the furniture unplaced, but the day was surely as success; we met other museum professionals, got the behind-the-scenes look at a small institution, and worked directly with a collection. I think I speak for my classmate when I say that volunteering with the White Gloves Gang was a fun and truly rewarding experience. Until next year…