Monday, September 30, 2013

A 1930s teddy bear

Introducing..........1970.25.119, a sweet little teddy bear from the 1930s who has been much loved and is missing his right ear.

He is one of the artifacts you will meet in the next Keller Gallery exhibit A Secret Gift.

I think I'm in love.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Work continues on A Secret Gift

I have spent most of the past two weeks working on the Keller Gallery exhibit A Secret Gift, which opens November 15.  We're also having a special preview the night before at a Soup at Six event, featuring guest speaker Eric Benjamin, composer of the piece commissioned by the Canton Symphony Orchestra based on A Secret Gift.

As you are surely aware, A Secret Gift is the One Book, One Community selection for 2013.  There are a ton of activities related to the book all around town, beginning in October.  Click here for a complete list.

All of this hoopla coincides with the 80th anniversary of Sam Stone's anonymous Christmas gifts to 150 families in need in December 1933.

Here are some highlights of the exhibit:
  • Ted Gup donated all of the letters, thank you notes, and cancelled checks to our archives.  (He kept one set -- Helen Palm)  We are highlighting 14 letter writers in the exhibit.  Color photocopies of the letters and checks will be available in the gallery for guests to read.  Original letters will be on display in cases.
  • Ted has loaned us several important artifacts as well.  The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a re-creation of Sam Stone's office, including a large set of office furniture he used.  Ted believes this is where Sam and Minna (Ted's grandparents) wrote the checks.  Ted has also loaned us the suitcase where he found the letters, an copy of A Christmas Carol as read by Dr. Delbert Lean of Wooster College (autographed by Lean!), and copies of A Secret Gift published in other languages.
  • Artifacts from the Museum's collection include house dresses, the sign from the Fairmount Children's Home, a feed chopper from the Dick Manufacturing Company, a milk can from Superior Dairy, a Hoover vacuum cleaner made in 1933, and a 1933 record book from the Stark County Infirmary.  These artifacts relate to some of the letter writers' stories.
  • Other artifacts from the era will include Depression glass, toys, household items, a 1933 McKinley High School yearbook, and much more!
  • The exhibit will also feature documents relating to Mary Margo's story, salesman's samples and toys built by Frank Dick, and a kitchen table that belonged to Rachel DeHoff.  These things have been donated or loaned by descendents of the letter writers themselves.
  • We have identified the location of almost every letter writer which we have marked on a 1934 Canton map.  We are also including a complete list of every letter writer.  Museum visitors can make an appointment with our Archivist to view any of the letters. (Except, of course, the ones that are on display!  Those will be available after the exhibit closes on February 2, 2014.)
  • The exhibit will also contain contextual information explaining the causes of the Great Depression, as well as a price list of common consumer goods in 1933.  Sam's gifts were $5, but that is the equivalent of $100 today.
  • A multimedia presentation in the exhibit will include footage from Sam Stone's home movies, news clips and interviews with Ted, and snippets of descendents reading letters at the Palace event Ted hosted in 2010 when the book was released.
We hope to see you at the free exhibit opening on November 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM.   Or at the Soup at Six event on November 14.  Cost is $15 per person, and it's filling up FAST!  If you want to come, please get your reservations in soon.  Call 330-455-7043.

Here is a sneak peek at one of the things I'm including in the exhibit:

Out of 150 checks, this is the only one where Minna started to sign her own name, but crossed out the "M" and wrote "B. Virdot" instead.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Canton Entertainment coming out soon!

My brand new book Canton Entertainment is now in the final stages of pre-print production!

I got my proofs this week and will be returning them to Arcadia in a day or two.  I'm very excited about this project!  And you should be too.  It covers all kinds of neat, fun things from Canton's past, including chapters on:

  • Amusement Parks
  • Circuses, Celebrations, Fairs and More
  • Clubs
  • Cultural Organizations
  • Hotels
  • Opera Houses and Theaters
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Sports
The book will be available in November.  So far, I know you can purchase it at the Museum Shoppe and Amazon, but I expect it will be available in other locations around town, like Books-a-Million and the hospital gift shops.

As soon as I hear a confirmed release date, I will post it here!

PS -- Wouldn't this make a perfect Christmas gift for that Cantonian in your life??? :-)

PPS - Visit my Author's Page on Amazon for more information about my other books on Canton history!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Textiles, Tags, and Trouble!

So, now that I've removed all the hanging textiles from their muslin bags and re-hung them in the new shelving units, I'm left with a pile of tags from the bags. 

I want to make sure I'm not losing any information when I throw away the tags, so I've been looking up each accesssion number to verify that the database knows all there is to know about each piece.  Mostly I'm checking the dates.

Now, I don't mean to disparage those who have come before me, but a few things that were done simply don't make sense. Such as...

  • The database record will say something like "1938 - stored in 1940s bag."  Huh?  If you KNOW it's from the 1930s, why on earth did you choose to put it in a 1940s bag?  This has happened more than once as I've been working on this.  Strange.
  • There was one person in the past who liked to use "Skirt - Woman" for the Object Name.  First of all, PastPerfect likes you to use the correct term from the official museum nomenclature.  The correct term is simply "Skirt."  Second, aren't all skirts for women?  (There's a separate term for Kilts in the nomenclature!)
  • I discovered this problem a long time ago, but was confronted with it again while moving the textiles.  Several years ago I was looking through the collection with Kathy from the Canton Museum of Art to select pieces for an exhibition they were having.  We found a dress with a brooch still attached to it, holding a bolero style jacket closed.  We were not able to identify the material of the brooch, but it had ruined three dresses in that bag!  Whatever it was made of reacted very badly with the fabrics and actually bleached the color out of them.  The spots were not stains that could be cleaned.  This thing actually REMOVED COLOR from the dresses.  I've never seen anything like it.  It happened not only on the pinned dress, but also TWO dresses in front of that dress!  Because of the reaction, the bleached spots are now splitting and making holes.  I removed the brooch immediately when we found it, and for years we have been watching it implode on a metal shelf.  It is now almost completely powder.  Now that we have the dresses moved, I've tagged those three for deaccesioning.  We will keep them as teaching examples of what can happen when you store incompatible materials together.  But we cannot display them because of the damage.  Someday soon I'll take some photos to show you what I mean.
Conservatively, I estimate I have about 75 more tags to check, with anywhere from 2 to 10 accession numbers on each.

I better get back to work...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Loading shelves

I've spent most of this week moving our hanging textile collection from the old bars to the new compact shelving units!

Previously the collection was stored chronologically, with most of the pieces randomly grouped in muslin bags.  By "randomly" I mean there was a mix of things in each bag, although they were all from the same era -- a dress, a suit, a coat, a blouse, etc.

Each bag did have a label to list what was inside, but nothing about those bags was standard.  Some opened from the top, some from the bottom (both made it difficult to safely remove what was inside).  Some had labels on the left side of the bag, some on the right side.  The labels were sometimes in clear pockets, sometimes in muslin pockets (which camouflaged them quite nicely!).

In short, the bags were a PAIN.  I have been waiting for the day when I could take everything out of them so I could see at a glance what we have!

The first step was to take everything out.  Not an easy task!  As I mentioned before, the bags were all different, and some were knotted closed like Fort Knox.  Next, I separated outerwear (capes, coats, jackets, and furs) to store them separately.  Then I took each hanger off the old rack and moved it to the new units.  Since they were already arranged chronologically, that part was easy.

To maximize our space, I categorized the items within a decade by type.  All of the dresses are together, which require a high bar.  All the suits are together, which require a short bar.  In the future, we can add a second bar to accommodate our growing textile collection.

I even went further than that and sorted the dresses by color!  Darks, lights, patterns.  It felt a bit like sorting laundry.

The end result is a perfectly organized hanging textile collection that is accessible for exhibitions, new donations, and research!

Here are some photos of what the collection looks like now:

Part of our outerwear collection


Military and civil uniforms

Nursing and Red Cross uniforms

Dusters -- these are lightweight coats, usually made of linen, that both men and women wore when riding in an open automobile in the 1910s and 1920s to keep the dust off of them -- hence the name!





pre-1900, 1900s, 1910s

Phase II will be to move the boxed textiles to the new shelving units.  We store anything that cannot be safely hung on a hanger flat in an acid-free box.  There are fewer hanging things and more boxed things in the early decades, then it reverses as you come forward in time.  Besides wedding dresses, almost nothing from the post-1950s era is stored flat.  But almost everything we have from pre-1900 is flat!

This morning Steve, my volunteer Kathy, and I moved everything out of the Fire Station storage area into the new building.  This afternoon I'm going to start sorting and stacking things in the new shelves. 

It's hard work to move all of this stuff around, but it is going to be fabulous when we're all done!!!