Thursday, February 6, 2014

Things I Find in the Galleries!

     Every morning before the museum opens I walk through all the galleries to check on the displayed artifacts.  This is also my opportunity to inspect the galleries for possible leaks, heating or cooling issues, broken props, burned out light bulbs, signs of insects, or any other issues which need attention.  On most days everything is fine, though I may have to change a light bulb or two.  However, I do get some surprises from time to time!  Let’s take a look at what I found in the galleries last week.

Yes, on this walk-through I had to change a bulb.  At least now that the tracks are clearly labeled, I can change it without playing the circuit breaker guessing game!

This carte-de-visite (CDV) image of a Civil War surgeon was giving me trouble last week.  I kept finding it on the floor instead of on its stand.  That seemed odd, as it’s been there for a while and hasn’t fallen off in the past.  Since the CDV is inside a sleeve of Mylar, I was able to use a small piece of double-sided tape to solve that problem.

     Downstairs in the Field Hospital gallery, I discovered something a bit more unusual.

Can you see what’s wrong here?

The mannequin’s arm had fallen off, and taken some other props along with it.  It was a pretty strange sight!

I checked the mannequin’s arm to make sure nothing was broken.  It appeared that the arm had simply succumbed to gravity.  

After I replaced the mannequin’s arm, I put the props back in their places as well.  Here I’m putting the chloroform cone back over the face of the “patient.”
While I was back there, I made some minor adjustments to the other mannequins.

     Finding two fallen items in the galleries made me wonder if our building was being subjected to some sort of vibrations.  Though unusual occurrences in the museum building are usually jokingly attributed to ghosts, I wanted to check out the other possibilities.  My first thought was that it could have been caused by a larger than usual tour group.  When I checked, I found that we hadn’t had any large groups through in the past week though.  Next I looked at possible seismic activity, but I didn’t see anything unusual for our area.  I did find that there was some local road construction recently though, so that could be the culprit.  I’ll have to continue to keep an eye on things to be sure.  

Things appear to be back to normal now, at least as normal as is possible for an amputation scene!

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.


  1. I am a great-great-granddaughter of Elias Bowers Marsh. His son and my great uncle was Eccleston Marsh. I am looking for why Elias B. Marsh left Philadelphia for San Francisco, California. Ggrandmother always called them "the Philadelphia Marshs." Carolyn Walton on Facebook.

    1. According to his obituary, he was still in the military after the Civil War and was ordered to go to California in 1869.