Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting Started

     Welcome to my blog!  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to take care of a collection of artifacts at a museum, you’ve come to the right place.  Whenever I tell people what I do, they tend to comment that I must have a very interesting job.  So, here’s where I plan to share what I hope will be an interesting, educational, and even entertaining account of doing my job.
     The hardest part of starting a blog is coming up with a name.  I am a Collection Manager, more specifically I am the Collection and Exhibit Manager at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.  I wanted a name that conveyed what I do.  Though I wear a lot of “hats” in my job, they really all have the same basic purpose – to protect and preserve the artifacts in the museum’s collection.  In fact, when I was hired I recall the Director of our museum telling me he wanted someone who would act as a bulldog to protect the collection.  I wasn’t thrilled about being seen as a bulldog though, so I decided on Guardian! 
     A recent museum acquisition arrived in the mail a few days ago.  We tend to get some rather unique things here.  In this case, it was a brass suppository mold.  And yes, I was excited to receive it!  We actually have one in the collection already, which I enjoy showing to visitors.  When I ask them what they think it is they invariably reply that it’s a bullet mold.  Then I remind them that we are in a medical museum! 

                                        A 19th century 12-chamber brass suppository mold

     It seems this mold had also suffered a case of mistaken identity.  The donor told me that when he’d purchased it, it was in a box of items which also contained bullets.  He’d assumed it was a bullet mold.  It wasn’t until he visited the museum a few years later that he learned what it really was! 
     Once the mold arrived here, I discovered why it may have been in that box of bullets.  I wasn’t surprised to find some dents and scratches in the brass, or that the closing mechanism wasn’t original, or that there were traces of wax on the surface.  I was surprised though to discover that one of the chambers was slightly different from the others.  The base had been bored out slightly larger, and the blunt tip had been modified to a pointed one.  It appears that someone tried to convert it into a bullet mold, unsuccessfully I’m sure considering that the other 11 chambers hadn’t been modified. 

      Notice the differences in the chamber on the far left. Also note the spot of green wax in the fourth chamber.                   

     I heard one person comment that it was too bad people would ruin artifacts like that.  I did see his point, but I was also a little taken back.  Granted, this artifact’s monetary value isn’t as great as one in its original form, but this one has a “story” to tell; it has a unique history that is revealed in its imperfections.  That makes it valuable in a different way.  And my job is to preserve it and its story.

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine

1 comment:

  1. Hello there,
    I do "What Is It" shows. When folks get too serious about the identity of an item, I slip this one in. I tell them that it is the only thing that I have from the Civil War. After a few guesses, all about bullet molds, I remind them that it is a #3, and that it is a Medical Bullet. Then I show them a folded card with the answer. As each one opens the card, to see their expression is priceless.
    Jerry Kelly