Monday, June 30, 2008

White House Pets closes

Believe it or not, it is already time to close White House Pets!

It has been a fun exhibit, and I think people have enjoyed it.

This morning Steve and I are going to pack it up for its trip to Teddy Roosevelt's museum in New York. Ironic that it would go from McKinley to Roosevelt, isn't it?

I try to have at least one presidential themed exhibit every year. Here's a quick look back:
  • In 2006 we hosted the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Diana Walker: Photojournalist. That was blast! We invited Diana Walker for a program and book signing of Public & Private that was packed. Many of her photos in the exhibit are included in her book. It is well worth it, if you want to pick up a copy.
  • In 2007, Chris guest curated an exhibit on the 100th anniversary of the McKinley National Memorial, based on his book The McKinley Monument: A Tribute to a Fallen Hero. We had a community-wide art contest and got some fabulous entries from children and adults!
So what's coming up?
  • Next year, in 2009, we are hosting the Smithsonian traveling exhibit The Working White House. The exhibit explores the people who have kept the President's home running over the past two centuries.
  • In 2010, we will be hosting another Smithsonian traveling exhibit called The White House Garden. We will host that exhibit in the winter, to give visitors a pick-me-up during the cold Ohio winter!
  • In 2011, we will host White House Christmas from the White House Historical Association. This is an exhibit of paintings depicting Christmas decorations at the White House.
  • In 2012, White House Horses will be on view, also from the White House Historical Association. Horses were a vital part of the White House in years past. This exhibit explores the roles horses have played in White House history.
  • In 2013, we will open White House Impressions, another White House Historical Association exhibit. This exhibit is full of exquisite paintings, showing the White House, past and present, through an artist's eye.
So I am very excited about our exhibition plans for the future! Sprinkled in between will be exhibits featuring the museum's collection.

Next will be A Doll's World, featuring our extensive doll collection. That opens on October 24.

Hope to see you soon!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Still playing with pins...

I have been able to identify SOME of the hat pins, but there are still quite a few without numbers.

This was my plan of attack.

First, I did a search in the database for hat pins and printed it out. Then I separated the pins that were numbered from the unknown pins and checked off the numbers on my list.

Then I went back through the list, reading the descriptions and comparing them to the pins that were left.

I was able to identify several of them, because of their unique design -- fleur de lys, set blue glass stone, four leaf clover, etc.

But now I am down to the non-descript pins and terribly generic database descriptions. There is no way I can identify "seven hat pins," for example, without SOME kind of clue!!

In this case, I will number the remaining hat pins with a "Found in Collection" number. That way they will be entered into the database and will be "findable" in the future for exhibit purposes. If they aren't in the database, it is as if the artifact doesn't exist.

Incidentally, a "Found in Collection" number is made up of three numbers, like all accession numbers. First is the year, second is a ZERO, and third is the next consecutive number available.

So the first FIC hat pin will have the number 2008.0.8, because I have already found 7 things in the collection this year that weren't numbered. The next pin will be 2008.0.9, and so on. IF we are ever able to figure out its real number in the future, we would remove the 2008.0 number and re-tag it with its original number.

For a regular donation, the ZERO would be replaced with a NUMBER. Currently, we are on 2008.26, meaning 26 donors have given something to the museum this year. Each item within the donor's donation is numbered. So the first thing would be 2008.26.1, then 2008.26.2, and so on. We use letters to identify a set of items, like a pair of shoes for example. They would each get the same number, but one shoe would have an "A" at the end and the other a "B."

But back to the hat pin project (now that you are thoroughly confused about the accession numbering system!).

I need to find a better way to label the pins, because many of them are too small to physically number (which is preferred, because the number stays on the artifact). But we are in this mess, I assume, because tags slip right off a straight pin!

One of our volunteers suggested sliding the pin into a small piece of foam core, which won't slide off easily. Then I can number the foam core accordingly. I think I will tackle that today. And of course, since we are now photographing the collection, it will be much easier to identify pins in the future, if the numbers are separated.

Oh, and I think I will tackle more paperwork today too. We have gotten quite a few donations recently, so it is time to send out another batch!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

DeHoff Library and Rowland Cemetery

A treestone, which is part of the Victorian rusticity movement, and often marks the grave of a member of the Woodmen of the World.

Today I did a unique program!

Miss Jackson, the wonderful librarian at the DeHoff Library, asked me come do my "Unlocking the Secrets of the Cemetery" program for her teen club. Afterwards we went into Rowland Cemetery, behind the library, to see what we could find.

The kids were great! They listened to my program, which honestly is geared more toward adults. But they were very respectful and paid attention as I showed them photos of symbols I have seen over the years.

When we went into the cemetery, they were very interested in finding things. A member of the cemetery's board came with us, and was able to point out the largest stone, oldest stone, etc.

It was a great program, and I was thrilled to show the kids a different perspective of the cemetery. First, it is nothing to be afraid of. And second, it is not something to vandalize. I bet not one of those kids would tip over a stone, now that they've learned about what cemeteries mean. And I think they would stop their friends from doing it too.

Here are some pictures I took today:

Teens looking at the back of the Roos grave, which lists TEN of their children who had died.

The side listing the 10 kids.

A cylindrical stone with a palm on it.

An excellent example of calla lilies!

Tulips, which I haven't seen before.

Afterwards, we went back to the library and of course the kids didn't have any questions (teens are notoriously silent!). I asked them to think about what symbols would best represent them. Miss Jackson said a book, which was perfect for a librarian! None of the kids spoke up, but you could tell they were thinking about it!

I just love wandering in old cemeteries. I hope that the kids saw my enthusiasm about it, and maybe they will gain a new respect for our country's burial grounds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hat pin nightmares

As you may already be aware, my volunteers and I are taking photos of the ENTIRE collection -- soup to nuts (or should I say, campaign buttons to wedding dresses? toys to furniture? china get the point!!). I did the math yesterday and we are 45% done. Woo hoo!

Anyway, today I have a big challenge in front of me. Figuring out the hat pin collection!!!!

Many of them are not numbered, and some records are so generic it is laughable -- such as "10 assorted hat pins."

Um, OK. That's VERY helpful!

So today I am going to compare the well cataloged hat pins to the ones in storage, to try to figure out the rest through the process of elimination. I worked on it some last week and was able to figure out exactly ONE. It was an easy one too -- the only painted porcelain head with initials on it!

The rest aren't going to be so kind to me.

So, for the remainder of this week, I just might be having hat pin nightmares during the day, and perhaps even at night while I sleep!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Short story "Stealing Memories"

My short story "Stealing Memories," about my grandmother's death from Alzheimer's, was published in the Summer Solstice issue of the literary magazine Mused, which came out over the weekend.

Click here to read it.

I will warn you, it is pretty sad, but it was a catharsis for me at the time I wrote it, which was about 3 years ago now. I decided not to change anything when I submitted it a few months ago, because it was a slice of life for me at that time. Since then, my grandfather has also passed away.

I have a few more short stories already written that I will be submitting for future issues of Mused. If they make the cut, I'll let you know when they come out!

I am having a lot of fun focusing on a different kind of writing right now. I write history all the time, and I still love that! But it is fun experimenting with different styles, and seeing them get published is quite a thrill!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

7th Annual Cruisin' Thru History CAR SHOW!!

Another great show!

The weather held off for us, so we had another beautiful day. Seven years in a row!!! We had a few more cars than last year, so we're still growing too!!

Thank you to the volunteers for working so hard selling tickets, staffing the registration table, and making countless hamburgers and hot dogs. You guys are TERRIFIC!!

Chris did a great job again this year, and I'm not prejudiced as his wife because it was independently confirmed by many in attendance. :-)

There are always so many beautiful cars at our show! I took lots of photos, and here are some of them (in 2 flipbooks):

AND....A FEW MORE OF MY FAVORITES!! (that aren't related to the car show!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

All set for the car show

Everything is on carts, ready to be hauled outside in the morning!

After 7 years of doing this, it runs like a well-oiled machine. Stephanie has all her food ready to go. Chris has all the details of the show worked out -- packets are made, trophies are picked up, sign posts have been pounded into the ground (and LOTS of other details completed!). Steve even came in from his vacation to make sure all the set-ups are done correctly.

The weather forecast has been changed to SUN, so we are all breathing a sigh of relief over that.

I'm sure it will be another great show. Will post pictures next week!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Final design from Split Rock

We got a package yesterday from Split Rock Studios with final design materials in it!

The new exhibit looks GREAT! The staff is thrilled with it. It will be fantastic!

The new exhibit is called "The Stark County Story," and will replace the exhibits in the Industrial Hall and Historical Hall. It will be a modern-looking exhibit that will tell the story of our county from the Native Americans through today, with lots of neat interactives sprinkled throughout!

The timeline is to be finished with demolition by this time next year, install over the summer, and have a grand opening in the fall. Since 2009 is the Stark County bicentennial, it is the perfect year to debut this wonderful new exhibit!

The exhibit is one of our Capital Campaign projects.

We don't have any drawings yet, just floor plans and text. When we get some, I will definitely post a few.

To give you a sneak peek...the Laffing Lady from Meyer's Lake will be part of the new exhibit!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fill-in food writer

As many of you know, one of the food writers at the Rep recently left for a year to teach English in Korea. So a few weeks ago, Jennifer Mastroianni made a plea for people to apply to be a fill-in food writer to help her out. That is right up my alley, being a writer AND a foodie. So I sent her an email.

Yesterday I got an assignment!

I will be writing about ways to save money at the grocery store, which I happen to be very good at. The other day I heard a statistic that the average family spends 10% of their income on food. We don't even spend half that.

And how do I know that? Because I have been recording my grocery store receipts for five years! (Faithfully, every single time. I have a chart posted on the fridge. No, I am not kidding.)

I am really excited about this opportunity! I'll let you know when the article will appear.

In the meantime, it's back to sewing tags onto new textile donations (we can't write on the fabric, so we sew tags into all the clothing in the collection). This week I am working on a collection of men's clothing, from the late 20th century. We have very little men's clothing -- mostly military uniforms and tuxedos. I'm sewing tags on everyday clothes, like polo shirts, short sleeve dress shirts, and shorts.

Gotta go fire up the needle!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

California trip mentioned in "Around Town" column

Denise Sautters wrote about my trip to California in her column "Around Town" in today's Repository!

Very exciting!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gearing up for the car show!

Ha! Couldn't resist that pun!

Chris is getting ready for the car show this week. We can't believe it is his SEVENTH one. It seems like we were just tossing around a "new" idea for a car show.

It is a wonderful event! As car show goers, we know what we like in a car show. Good music that's not too loud, plenty of shade, and lots of beautiful cars! You'll find all that at our show.

New this year, car owners will have the opportunity to have a picture taken of their car with the Monument in the background.

As always, the museum's volunteers will be selling hamburgers and hot dogs, and Milk & Honey will be here selling ice cream.

There is no charge to come view the cars, so even if you don't have one of your own you can spend the day looking at some great rides!

Here are some photos from last year:

Friday, June 13, 2008

McKinley artifacts

This morning I received a telephone call from a gentleman whose grandmother was President McKinley's niece. He would like to donate a piece of furniture that was in the White House, as well as a set of encyclopedias signed by the President's sister, Anna McKinley.

How exciting!

He asked me if many McKinley artifacts come in anymore.

I admitted it is few and far between these days. Mostly what we receive are commemorative items and campaign memorabilia. Personal property of the President is far more rare.

Most people only have a "family story" that their item belonged to McKinley, with no concrete evidence to back that up. They often come to us looking for evidence to substantiate their claim, but the truth is, it is extremely difficult to prove!

As much as we wish we had a document listing everything the President ever owned, no such list exists. The probate inventory of the house contents after Ida's death is so vague, it really isn't all that useful. It lists things like "chair" -- no descriptions!

So, the best we can offer is to have the person come in and search through our photograph collection, hoping to find the President sitting in that chair, or at that desk, or whatever the case may be. Like searching for a needle in a haystack! As far as I know, we haven't been able to substantiate any artifact that way, and that is the only way we can (in the absence of any other evidence).

Also, since the President did not have any direct descendants, items were given to many different branches of the family, instead of following a single family line. Today, the family is spread out all over the country. In addition, it wasn't until FDR started his presidential library that presidents started saving things and planning for a museum. Since FDR, presidencies are extremely well documented. But in McKinley's time, people weren't thinking like that.

Still, there are a few things that we have recently received with a reliable provenance.

Last year, the First Christian Church donated a table to us that had been donated to them by a man who had worked with McKinley as a young lawyer. We were able to prove that he had in fact worked at the same office, at the same time McKinley was there. The table is now on display in the McKinley Gallery.

Last year too, you may recall the French poster that was donated after the exhibit we did on the Monument for its 100th anniversary. (I blogged about it back in November) It was from a fundraiser in France to contribute to the Monument fund.

Those are the two biggest highlights in recent memory!

We are looking forward to receiving this new donation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CemeterySpot blog

I came across this blog yesterday, because there was a post about the cemetery exhibits we are currently hosting in the Keller Gallery. I wrote Hal Stevens to thank him for the plug, and to let him know about our upcoming cemetery events.

Click here to read more.

It seems like a pretty neat blog, if you are interested in cemeteries!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Museum memberships make great gifts!

Yesterday at the Tea with the Curator I shared a story about my own experience with museum memberships as a kid. I thought it was worthwhile to write a post about it on the blog this morning.

When I was little, my parents divorced and my mother, sister, and I went to live with my grandparents. We didn't have much money, so our entertainment options were quite limited.

One year, my grandparents gave us a family membership to the Erie Canal Village in my hometown of Rome, NY. To this day, my mom still talks about how every weekend she would ask my sister and I what we wanted to do, and can you guess where we wanted to go?

The Erie Canal Village!

We went countless times that year, and it didn't cost my mother a dime. It was a perfect gift for us.

I credit that experience with sparking my interest in history. When I was in college, I took a summer job as an interpreter (you'd probably know it better as a "tour guide") at the Erie Canal Village for two summers. That experience, plus a host of other internships, helped me get into the most prestigious museum studies graduate program in the country -- the Cooperstown Graduate Program!

In addition to my "foundation" at the ECV, I had a wonderful high school history teacher -- Mr. Gary Ford -- who showed me that history could be exciting. He taught me that history is more than just names, dates, and places -- it is about PEOPLE. We worked very hard in that class, but somehow the work didn't seem as difficult because he made it so interesting for us! I ended up getting the highest score on the AP American History test, something that I am still proud of today. I publicly thanked Mr. Ford in the acknowledgments of my first book, Canton: A Journey Through Time. (I sent him a copy of the book and got a wonderful letter in return -- if a teacher has influenced your life, LET THEM KNOW IT! It will mean more than you can imagine, because so few people take the time to do it.)

Back to museum memberships. In this economy, it is more important than ever to get the most out of every dollar. I truly believe that museum memberships are worth much more than what they cost. And our museum membership is even more valuable, because ours includes reciprocal admission to over 250 science centers across the country and around the world! Chris and I have used ours several times on vacation. Even out-of-town family and friends can benefit from a membership to our museum.

If you know of a family who could use some educational fun this summer, please consider the gift of a family membership. There is so much to do inside our building! Not every kid will want to grow up to become a curator, I'm sure, but a museum membership WILL give them an appreciation for history and science that only a museum can offer them!

Click here for more information.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tea with the Curator -- Unlocking the Secrets of the Cemetery

I just love the Tea with the Curator series! I have a great time doing them, and I think people enjoy themselves. Today was no different!

Today I did my program "Unlocking the Secrets of the Cemetery," followed by a tour of the Keller Gallery exhibit Going Out in Style (people viewed Stories in Stone on their own, since the program I gave was about cemetery symbolism).

Here are some highlights:


I started off talking about the origins of the rural cemetery movement.

Before launching into the symbolism, I always plug Stories in Stone as "the Bible" of cemetery symbolism! We are sold out in the Museum Shoppe right now, but more copies are on the way! You can leave your name and number with Cindy and she will let you know when the shipment is in.

Here are a few of the animal figures you might see in a cemetery.

Thank you to everyone who came today!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Yesterday I met with Rick Senften and Kevin O'Brien, who are starting an oral history project called Stories of a Life.

I've offered them the use of one of our storage areas, formerly known as the Textile Workroom, to record their stories.

But there was one problem.

All the stuff that was in there!

That is my secret hiding place for large donations that are waiting to be cataloged, bridal show dresses donated early for the next show, and several other miscellaneous items. But in order for that room to be useful, it was high time to clean it out.

Which means lots of extra work for me!

I started cataloging some of the donations that had been on hold. There is a lot left to go. I also found lots of things to toss -- like a bag of batting, for example. No need to give pests a nice comfy place to reproduce! If I need batting, I will buy some new.

There were also lots of books that I sent over to the research library.

So, I pretty much know what I'll be doing for the rest of the week...

Monday, June 2, 2008

CNN video

Here is the video from CNN that aired last week! They talked at length to Charita Goshay, from the Repository, as well as several "locals" -- one of the ladies interviewed at Taggart's is one of our volunteers! My clip is at the very end. Short and sweet!