Monday, July 14, 2014

Ida McKinley dress project update

Work is underway on two more dresses in the Ida McKinley Dress Project!  Our textile conservator sent me these photos this morning of Dress #83.70.14:

This photo was taken during the reactivation of the adhesive support. Our conservator’s hands are aligning the separated edges of the splits and reactivating the adhesive with a heated spatula (a little heat from the fingers helps "tack" the edges before they are secured for keeps with the heated spatula).
Our textile conservator’s assistant carrying out humidification and pressing treatment from the interior of the skirt using a heated spatula and ultrasonic humidifier. This process will prepare the skirt for closing the slits with adhesive and stitched treatment.
This is the lower edge of the bodice, which has been partially dismantled to gain access to the pleats, which were split along their entire length. But the slits are closed, here, because an adhesive support on the back is holding them together. The edge looks pointed because when the pleats are reassembled it smoothes out back to the bodice as it was worn.
This is a seam of the skirt which has been humidified and is under some glass weights to help correct the creases. The seams are thicker and the creases are very strong with a strong "memory," which means they want to go back to being creased. So the conservators relaxed the creases with the humidifier and left them overnight. You can see the cream selvedges along the seam. Some very frugal cutter at Rock and Torpey used every square inch of the printed fabric by using the unprinted selvedges in the seam allowance.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Underwear sneak peek!

We are making excellent progress on Mentioning the Unmentionables, our exhibition about women's underwear that opens in the Keller Gallery on Friday September 5!

This girdle and strapless/low back bra are from the 1950s.  The garters are hidden up underneath the legs of the girdle, so we're planning to hike one leg up to show the hooks.
Yesterday we finished dressing the last of the dress forms with underwear and nightgowns from our collection and the many pieces that have been donated and loaned from the community.  Volunteer Kathy Fleeher has been a huge help working with Fosshape, an amazing fabric that stiffens with heat that we are using to display some corsets inside cases.  It is our first time experimenting with this material and we are amazed at what it can do!

We are waiting for some additional items to arrive from a private collector we have been working with in the Washington, DC area.  She has some interesting artifacts that fill some holes in what we would like to show in the exhibit, including a cage bustle from the 1880s and along line corset from the 1910s.

The main section of the exhibit will be a fashion timeline.  We are planning to show one dress in the typical style from the 1810s to the 1970s (excluding the 1820s, 1840s, and 1850s due to gallery space restrictions and availability of these decades).  Alongside it we will show the undergarments women wore to achieve the ideal look. Last month Kathy and I picked a dress from each decade from our collection and dressed the mannequins for that.  They are patiently awaiting their turn in the spotlight up in storage!

There will also be special sections exploring hosiery, boudoir caps, bed jackets, and nightgowns/lingerie. 

Right now I am working on writing the exhibition panels for each decade/era, and the object labels.  Through our Capital & Replacement campaign last fall, I was able to order several more dress forms to display even more undergarments.  Yesterday I placed an order for addition legs, torsos, and upper body forms to display other pieces in cases.

It's all coming together quite nicely!

Here are a few more photos of what it looks like behind-the-scenes when you're working on an underwear exhibit:

Visible in the front of this photo are a blue nightgown from the 1970s, a long chemise and corset from the 1890s, and a pink chemise from the 1910s which will be displayed underneath the long line corset we are borrowing from a private collector.  On the far right you can see the side of a white nightgown from 1895.

The hoop is from the 1860s and the floral dress behind it is from the 1960s. What a difference a century makes!

Visible in this photo is a peach nightgown from the 1930s, a pale yellow chemise and drawers set from the 1920s, and two "all-in-one" girdles from the 1950s/60s -- one white and one black -- that include garters for hosiery on the bottom.
 Again, special thanks to our sponsor!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New exterior signs

 Vistors to our grounds will find some new signage next time they stop by!

This sign is located at our entrance, at the bottom of the "grassy basin" formerly known as the Long Water:


We wanted people who come to the grounds to see what a fabulous facility we have INSIDE our building!  These photos show off everything we have to offer.

These are the two new signs on the Monument Plaza:



These signs explain a lot more about the Monument itself, including some rare construction photos from our library and an explanation of some of the symbols the artchitect incorporated into the design.

Next time you're on the grounds, check out the new signs and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ida McKinley's diamond tiara is NOW ON DISPLAY!

The tiara as it appeared in its special spot for last night's "first viewing" party for our donors.
It's here!

Ida McKinley's diamond tiara went on view to the public this morning in its permanent home in the McKinley Gallery!  We are beyond excited to share this gorgeous artifact with our visitors.

Last night we had a wonderful "first viewing" party for all of our donors.  We had more than 200 people come to see it!  For the event it was displayed in the second floor lobby in a case we normally use in the Keller Gallery.  Before our guests arrived, the sun was shining on it, making it sparkle.  I tried to capture it in a video:

video

After the donor event, we stayed late to move it into its new home in the McKinley Gallery.  It is now on view in the first case on the left, when you enter from the north side of the gallery.

This morning before we opened we hosted a media event for local journalists to come get a peek at it.  Many of them had helped us spread the word about our fundraising efforts, so they were very much a part of our success.

Me speaking with M.L. Schultze from WKSU.

Director Joyce Yut and me posing in front of the case where there tiara is now on permanent display.

We can hardly believe it's finally here!  It was a wonderful community effort and we couldn't be more proud of the way everyone came together to make this happen.

The following information was supplied to the media in a Press Kit for this morning's event.  It contains information regarding the campaign, donation details, and a history of the tiara.

We hope you come see it in person soon!

**************************

The Backstory

Ida McKinley’s diamond tiara was passed down through the family of Ida’s sister Mary “Pina” Saxton Barber.  It was sold earlier this year on the television show “Pawn Stars.”  Curator Kim Kenney contacted Rick Harrison, co-owner of the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, and asked if it would be possible for the Museum to acquire the tiara.  Harrison had purchased the tiara with the intention of using it to raise money for the National Epilepsy Foundation, for which he is the national spokesperson.  Harrison felt a connection to Mrs. McKinley because they both suffered from epilepsy.  He agreed to sell it to the Museum for the price he paid for it -- $43,000.  He gave the Museum a deadline of three months to raise the money.  (March 24 – June 24, 2014)

As a private non-profit that is not part of the National Archives system of federally-funded presidential libraries, the Museum does not have an acquisitions budget.  The only way the Museum could raise that kind of money was through the generosity of our community.  We immediately began a fundraising campaign.

Our success would not have been possible if the tiara had not appeared on a national television program.  Its appearance on “Pawn Stars” raised its profile considerably, and the story became worthy of national media attention.

Publicity

Once the story about the tiara went out on the AP wire, the campaign really took off.  We began receiving donations from around the country.  Many included a note wishing us good luck in reaching our goal, and some included a news clipping from their local paper.

We regularly posted updates on the Museum’s website, Facebook page, Pinterest account, and Kim Kenney’s blog Curator’s Corner.  Each time we reached $1000 in donations, we would fill in a diamond on our chart and post it.  We also colored in a larger version of the chart in our lobby.

Meeting the Goal

We reached our goal on June 5 at “An Evening of Civil War Music with Steve Ball.”  The last four guests to arrive at the door pushed us beyond our $43,000 goal by $18.95!  We were able to announce to a full crowd that we had raised enough money to bring the tiara home.  

Steve Ball is a well-known musician from Columbus who contacted us early in our campaign to offer his services at no charge to hold a concert as a fundraiser.  He heard about the tiara on the Museum’s Facebook page.
Donation Details

A total of 374 individuals and groups donated to the campaign.  The highest individual donation was $5000.  Two donors gave $2000, and nine donors gave $1000.  Most donations were between $25 and $100 each, and some donated $200-$500.  We also collected $600 at our Dollars for Diamonds event and $261 from a donation jar at the Admissions Window. “An Evening of Civil War Music with Steve Ball” raised $1475.

Donations came from 21 states outside of Ohio, including:  Iowa, Pennsylvania, Texas, Nevada, Montana, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, California, Wisconsin, New York, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, Kansas, Utah, Virginia, Alaska, and Michigan, plus Washington DC.

Groups and organizations also donated, including cub scouts, local historical societies, a DAR chapter, a YMCA senior group, the Eastern Star, Ruritans, Robertsville Grange, school groups, and local chapters of archeological and genealogical societies.  The Ohio Pawnbrokers Association appealed to their membership, raising almost $2000.

The Museum kept detailed records of each donor.  In the event that we did not reach our goal by the deadline, our intention was to return 100% of the donations made to the Ida McKinley Tiara Fund.  Happily, we did not have to return anyone’s donation!

Display

After raising the funds, the Museum sent a check to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop.  The tiara was shipped to Canton from Las Vegas.  The Museum was not charged for shipping.  We believe Rick Harrison plans to donate the funds raised to purchase the tiara to the National Epilepsy Foundation, accomplishing his original goal to make a donation to that organization. 

The tiara will be on display in the McKinley Gallery beginning JULY 2.  It will be exhibited with the photo of Mrs. McKinley wearing it, as well as a history of how the Museum acquired it, which is now part of its provenance.  A complete list of donors will be included in the display.

The Tiara’s History and Design Details

The tiara was made by J. Dreicer & Son.  Its custom made case lists the company’s address as 292 Fifth Avenue in New York City.  They operated at that location from 1885 to 1906, which is during the timeframe when Ida would have purchased the tiara.

Although Dreicer is not as recognized today as Tiffany or Cartier, it was considered “among the finest jewelers in the world” from the late 19th century through the 1920s, according to Sotheby's.

The tiara has been evaluated locally by Fred Craig, who confirmed that it was of the correct age and quality consistent with what a First Lady would have selected.  It consists of approximately 200 diamonds, 100 on each wing.  There is a thin sheet of platinum between the gold base and the diamonds which was a common practice in jewelry design at the time.

The wings are detachable and can be worn separately as matching brooches.  Women would have worn them on their collar or lapel, or possibly on a fabric belt.  There is a small screw mechanism on the back of each wing which allows it to be attached to the pin base or the plain gold tiara band.
The band has a small circle at each end.  The tiara would have been fastened to the hair of the wearer through these small holes, or it would have been secured with a band across the back of the head. 
According to Craig, the tiara would have been among Mrs. McKinley’s finest jewels, to be worn at the most special of special occasions.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WWII Military Mapping Maidens


A few years back (more than I'd like to admit!) I did an exhibition in the Keller Gallery called "Letters Home: Stories from the Front."  It featured letters written by soldiers and sailors in almost every war from the Civil War to the first Gulf War (which was an email).

Some were letters from our collection, and others were borrowed from the community.  It was the very first time one of my exhibitions was picked up by the Associated Press and distributed across the country.

It was very emotional to read through all of the letters.  In some cases they had re-sealed themselves, so I felt like I was opening someone else's mail from the past.  Occasionally I had been told that the young man didn't come home, and I was waiting to see what the final letter in the stack said.

Sometimes the final letter from the soldier's commanding officer was the last piece of mail I read for that individual, informing his family of how he had died.  I read letters written to parents, friends, and lovers.  It was very difficult to figure out which letters to feature.  I read over 400 letters during my research for "Letters Home."

The exhibition has been turned into a program which I have given at the Museum as part of our Soup at Six series, as well as various community organizations.  Although I have read them several times, some letters still give me a knot in my throat.

Back to the original purpose of this post.

I first met Bea McPherson while collecting letters for the exhibition.  During World War II, her then-fiance Jim (known as "Bill") was a Marine, and she was a mapmaker.  Military censors would cut out or black out any specific references to location, so before he left they devised a secret code so Bea would always know where he was.

He would put an unobtrusive slash mark across the top of some the individual letters in the words he wrote.  If you read them from top to bottom, it would spell out a clue for Bea so she could figure out his location:

The circles are mine.  The original letter has only the slash marks.  There are more pages of this letter, but I'm still not sure what clue Bill was sending Bea with this one!
As a mapmaker, Bea was far more familiar with world geography than most civilians.  Bill would also drop her hints like this:

The phrase "any we took" refers to the island "Enewetak" in the Marshall Islands.  The average person would most likely have missed this reference, but Bea knew exactly what he meant.
A few days ago, Bea came in with a textile donation.  She told me that she had been recently honored as a pioneer "Military Mapping Maiden" at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Bea with Allen Anderson, who had been searching for a female WWII mapmaker for two years before he found her.
She was also featured in the Winter 2014 issue of NGA PathfinderClick here for a PDF of the entire issue.  It is a wonderful story of how women were trained to make maps for the war effort.

It has been delightful to get to know Bea.  Sadly, her husband passed away a few years after we did the exhibition.  I was glad to be able to honor him as a Stark County veteran while he was still around to enjoy the recognition.

Bea has donated many artifacts over the years, and I'm always glad to be able to chat with her for a little while when she drops them off.  When I read the article, I was proud to be able to say that I know her!


Friday, June 20, 2014

New York Times

How exciting is THIS???


It's not every day that you get to see your name in the New York Times!  I bought the last copy they had at Drug Mart on Hills & Dales this morning. 

You can view the story online by clicking here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another tiara donation


So it seems the post office is still delivering exciting things in the mail!

We received this letter and a check for $322 today from Woodridge Primary School's 2nd graders.  They come on a field trip every year, even though they almost always have to reschedule their trip due to a Snow Day.  (I'm not kidding.  Almost every single year!)

This is a great example of how this campaign reached out to so many people.  We had an outpouring of support from students (a first grader asked me on his way in the door for a field trip if we "had Mrs. McKinley's crown yet!"), other local historical societies, social clubs and organizations, and many, many individuals.  Members of the Ohio Pawnbrokers Association sent a total of $1800.  The money came from all over the place!

We are planning to use the donation Woodridge sent us to purchase a secure case for the tiara.  We believe it will be on display in early July.  Details coming soon!