Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Visit to Gettysburg College

     One of the responsibilities of my job is handling the artifact loans coming to my museum as well as those going out from my museum.  Though the loan process does create a bit of paperwork for me, the benefits of borrowing and loaning artifacts are worth it.  By borrowing and loaning artifacts from other museums, a wider range of objects can be displayed to the public.  It is an excellent opportunity for studying these artifacts and for creating beneficial partnerships with other museums.  It also doesn’t hurt to have your museum’s name in an exhibit at another museum!  

Here are two of my museum’s medical bottles that were on display at the Clara Barton National Historic Site a couple of years ago.  Though you probably can’t see it in the photo, we are credited on the label.
     One of the NMCWM’s current loan requests is from the Musselman Library at Gettysburg College.  I was contacted last fall by Natalie, who was a student there working on curating an exhibit on the history of medicine.  She inquired about our loan conditions, and then came down to visit the museum and to identify some artifacts which could possibly be borrowed for her exhibit.  

     Normally before another museum can borrow any artifacts I need to see a document called a facility report which provides me with detailed information about the exhibit space and the display cases.  I also need an insurance certificate from the borrowing institution, even though many artifacts couldn’t truly be replaced for any amount of money!  Then I assess the requested artifacts to ensure that they are in suitable condition for transport and display.  Finally, I pass the list along to the museum’s director for final approval.  

     Last week, I was invited to visit the Musselman Library.  It was a good opportunity to view their exhibit space in person, as well as to see their current exhibit.  Since Gettysburg is just a short drive from my museum, it was time to take a field trip!

I had to take a picture of the Lincoln bust on the main floor of the library!

After a tour of the displays in the main library, we headed up to Special Collections to see the exhibit “Slaves, Soldiers, Citizens:  African American Artifacts of the Civil War Era.”  We made it just in time, as this exhibit ended the next day!

The curator of the exhibit, Lauren Roedner, gave us a personal tour.  Most of the items for this exhibit are on loan to them from the collection of Mr. Angelo Scarlato.  I must say, it is quite an interesting collection!

So, this is what happens when an over-eager curator sees an artifact she wants to photograph for her blog and forgets to check her camera settings!  I know better than to use a flash, but I forgot that my camera was set to automatic - mea culpa.  If nothing else, this illustrates why using a flash to photograph any objects displayed behind glass isn’t a good idea anyway.

     The artifact which caught my eye is a potholder embroidered with two dancing African Americans and the words, “Any holder but a slaveholder.”  I was told that a slave crafted this potholder from a Confederate soldier's uniform, and that potholders like this one were sold in the North during the Civil War to benefit the Union Army. 

There was a nice display of items representing the U.S. Colored Troops.  Though they were only allowed to serve for the final two years of the war, the 175 regiments of free African Americans accounted for almost one tenth of the Union troops. 

And of course I spotted a medical item!  This is a document from the “Hospital for Colored Troops” at City Point, Virginia from 1864.

     We were all fascinated, and are grateful to Lauren, Carolyn, and Natalie for taking the time to meet with us.

     I can’t wait to see the new exhibit, and how our artifacts are interpreted.  I’m sure I’ll have another blog post for that one!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and Gettysburg College.

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