Glass Photo “Mammoth” Plates?

September 13, 2017

IMG_2875So, my photography-loving friends, what are “mammoth plates” and do these count? Glass measures 24″ x 20″ and framed they are 26″ x 22″. They are a lot like lantern slides because they have some sort of emulsion trapped between two sheets of glass and the image is hard to see without light shining through it. But when you do shine the light oh my! Because of their size, the detail and relationship to the viewer is impressive. Are these rare? Is the technique itself compelling? They were cataloged into our collection in the 1960s, and the database suggests they are “dry plate” or “transparency” but I’m not sure those are the correct terms for the photographic process used.

We are considering pursuing treatment of this collection of 1903 images by the Miles Brothers. Seems these photographers came to Alaska during the gold rush at the behest of a railroad company and took pictures meant to attract investors? It was probably the Valdez, Copper River and Tanana Railroad Company. We believe the images were later displayed at the AYPE (Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition) in Seattle in 1909.  The Miles Brothers are better known for their early motion picture work, and had a studio in San Francisco. The negatives from this Alaska venture were apparently lost in a fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

I don’t know if we’ve got a complete set here, probably not. Our first image is from  Southeast Alaska, and then they seemed to go up to the Valdez area and headed for the Yukon River and finally out to the Bering Sea. The sequence below is my best guess, corrections welcome.

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Taku Glacier on Taku Inlet. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-9. Note the strange brown bubbled area in the middle. Can this be fixed?

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Glory Hole of Treadwell Mine. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA-UC-136. This plate is broken and the glass itself would need repair

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Hawkins Point on the White Pass & Yukon Railway. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-14

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Fort Liscum, Military Fort on Valdez Bay 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-138. I noticed online there is a nice image of this at the Anchorage Museum, apparently belongs to the Cook Inlet Historical Society. I don’t know if it is a print or something large like this.

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Valdez in 1903. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum. Strange brown stain, could this be burned? Also, the shattered flaking in the sky is seen on several of the images, but often in lighter areas?

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Pioneer’s Home and Garden at Valdez. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum

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Crossing Copper River. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum

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Tonsina Crossing on the Trail Between Valdez and Fairbanks. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-11

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Horses Crossing the Kotsina, A Branch of the Copper (?) River. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-133

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On Elliott Creek, Copper River District. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-10

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Typical Prospector’s Camp. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-13. Another one with a broken edge. You can see we propped these up on a light table just to get some record of what they look like…

 

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Fire Department at Circle. Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-360. The hands give a sense of scale for these glass plates. The scale gives an intimacy to the image beyond a normal sized photo.

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Detail from Fire Department at Circle, Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-390. Note how the message on the fence says, “RING LIKE H-L IN CASE OF FIRE.”

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Another detail from Fire Department at Circle City. Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-390. Look at that good dog! How about the moustache/beard?

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Detail of the wood and copper framing typical of those that have frames

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Star City on the Yukon River. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-12. Note the uneven lighting behind this one, makes the image hard to read. This one is on exhibit right now, and the light bars behind it are not so bad in person.

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Detail from Star City on the Yukon River 1903.     Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-12. Look at the fur and the texture of the harness!

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The Garden of Pioneers in Interior. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-139. Note the paper stuck to the back of this one. Many of these are missing the back piece of glass, making them very vulnerable.

 

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Pioneer Cabin. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-134. Look! This one has been hand colored. In some areas you can see fingerprints.

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Sunset on the Yukon. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-8

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Eskimo Children of St Michael. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-135. Unfortunately, the area of two of the faces is completely missing here.

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Eskimos Carving Ivory…Reindeer Camp. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-132

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Ducks…near Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-138. Note the strange rounded damage areas near the bottom center. Is this mold perhaps?

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Sunset at Nome. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum V-C-15

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Winter Came to the Arctic Sea. 1903 Miles Bros image, Alaska State Museum UA/UC-131

 

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Chinese Chests on the Northwest Coast

August 4, 2017

IMG_1459This posting is a gift for a certain clan caretaker and woodworker who is interested in making some of these chests. It is easy to find photos of the exterior. This post is heavy on the visuals and interiors, to help understand the construction technique.

These chests are ubiquitous in museum collections that include Tlingit and Haida material culture, even small museums in Southeast Alaska tend to have several of them. Alaska State Museum Curator of Collections Steve Henrikson has a research file on these chests, and added the following information into the museum’s database regarding them:

“These chests were made in China beginning in the mid 1800s or earlier for the export market. They were popular in Europe and the United States, especially during the Victorian era. In Alaska, these chests were very popular among the Tlingit and Haida people, who used them for storage of ceremonial regalia, clothing, and other property. The resins in the camphorwood were believed to have repelled moths and other insects. There are two basic forms of Chinese camphorwood chests that were traded in Alaska: one made of varnished boards, and the other made of boards covered with painted pigskin. Both have brass hardware and reinforcements on the corners and edges. The pigskin covered chests are also decorated with rows of brass tacks, which usually outline the brass fittings…. To save room in the ships’ holds, the chests came in at least 3 sizes, and designed to nest together; the smallest chest contained a stash of Chinese tea. The earliest visual representation of these chests is a drawing by I.G. Voznesenskii of a Sitka potlatch ca. 1844; other seafarers mention purchasing chest in China even earlier.”

ASM 92-13-1 from Yakutat 37″L x 17 1/2″W x 16 1/2″H

Here is one with no painted pigskin on the outside. Nice dovetail details in the corners.

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ASM 91-48-1 from Old Kasaan, early 1800s. 33″ L x 16″W x 14 1/2″ H

Another plain one, no tack holes so we know it never had pigskin covering. Sometimes things that are a little damaged reveal the most about methods of manufacture. The way the corners are done on this one is really nice. Also, you can see how the brass parts are set in…the wood is ever so slightly recessed so the whole surface will be flush after the brass is added.

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ASM 90-17-1 from Sitka, the Wolf House, Gootch Hit. 1790-1850.

38 1/2″L x 18 1/2″W x 15 1/2″H

One more plain one without leather. Notice how the lock mechanism is similar on the three plain ones. Also, this one seems to have a repaired area on the lid? Generally each side of these chests was a single big plank. On all the chests the lock on the front face is met along the edge with a beveled feature on the wood.

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ASM III-O-128 unknown provenance 34 1/2″L x 17 1/2″W x 15 1/2″H

Most of the painted ones I have seen are green or red, with perhaps red being more common? The foliage design I have once or twice seen on carved silver bracelets. I guess camphorwood is the equivalent of cedar in some ways, highly aromatic and with an insect repellent quality to it. That would be quite important in keeping pests away from wool robes, furs, feathers, and other elements on regalia that might be at risk for infestation.

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ASM 95-37-4-3 from Wrangell 23 1/4″L x 11 1/2″W x 9 1/2″H

This one is the baby brother of the two that are on display in the first image. This size is the smallest of the typical sizes, and you’ll see the underside is different. No “feet” on this one. This seems typical of the small ones.

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ASM II-B-1584 unknown provenance 39 1/2″L x 20 1/4″W x 18 1/2″H

This is the largest one in the Alaska State Museum collection. You’ll see the back is undecorated. That seems typical, too. Front, sides, and lid tend to have the foliage decoration (sometimes including birds) but I have not seen the back decorated.

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II-B-1367 unknown provenance 35″L x 17 1/4″W x 15 1/2″H

The leather and the wood react to changes in humidity differently, but they are not allowed to move independently because they are tacked all together by the brass tacks and trim. Consequently, almost all of these pigskin-covered chests I have seen have extensive tears in them. Treatment-wise, the most straightforward repair would be to insert a layer behind the tear that would match, and tack the edges to it as best as possible. The chain on this one is not original. Typically they have hardware like the previous one.

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Thin brittle furskins?

February 15, 2017

 

 

Hi Folks!

 

Looking for some input on approaches to thin brittle skins of small furbearing creatures. I’m thinking of garments made of rabbit, hare, and arctic ground squirrel in particular, where the skins are sewn together and we often see tears through aged or brittle skin that threatens the integrity of the garment. Included here are some specific images and examples.

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ASM 20098-18-1 seal parka with a rabbit or hare trim. There are tears in the ringed seal skin, but it is the disintegrating cuffs that trouble me more treatment-wise.

 

 

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Below are some images of a coat that belonged to beloved photographer Michio Hoshino.  The garment has some substantial tears that make exhibition difficult.

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I know there are many people in Alaska who have beautiful parkas still in use and much treasured, and when they begin to tear there are difficult decisions about when and if to wear them as well as whether they can be passed down to daughters and granddaughters for continued use. Sometimes the skins are still flexible, and other times they are brittle and cracking. For the reasonably supple ones, lining with Reemay and BEVA 371 film is a decent approach. But brittle skins of course have a lower shrinkage temperature due to degradation and heat set adhesives are more risky. For garments that are bearing the stress of their own weight or will be in active use, maybe there is a way to stabilize the damage while also making the garment more robust, perhaps with a supplementary lining that extended to more stable seams. Looking forward to your thoughts!


SLAM PROJECT 2016: Oil and Timber Section

May 5, 2016

Hi Folks!

It has been more than a year since I last posted, and it would be an understatement to say we are working hard. SO much has happened in the past year! I promised myself I’d keep this one short and just get blogging again, so here is a glimpse of conservation from the Oil and Timber Section we recently installed. YES installed, Opening Day is June 6!

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How about this gorgeous chainsaw? Gotta start with an image of Alaska State Museum registrar Andrew Washburn, we’ve been with the artifacts through the whole process and keeping track of the info at breakneck pace. Documentation!!! And really interesting conversations about the strangeness of the out-of-context museum world and what it means for artifact interpretation. In conservation, we have been endeavoring to make industrial objects look reasonably cared for without removing evidence of their useful life. Andrew’s pose captures our discussion about which way the blade faces.

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Iron! Here we have a couple of boom chains. The blacker one was treated with OSPHO and the lighter one got a tannic acid treatment. Most of the iron that needed help from the collection got tannic acid and stayed brownish. The brown boom chain was the one selected for exhibition. Incidentally, there were some prop desk legs also treated with OSPHO…they accidentally got wet and a tough white substance showed up on the surface. So difficult to remove! Anyone have experience with that white crust? In general, I wouldn’t OSPHO a museum object but if a blackish appearance is desired a controlled phosphoric acid like OSPHO does the trick. If the white crust had happened on a museum object, that would have been a disaster.

 

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A giant round of spruce. For many many years this was an exhibit prop in the old museum and treated as such. When I came on staff in 2006, it was strapped to the basement wall and only recently been added to the permanent collection. This sturdy iron support had been added years ago to support a large crack. Note all the disfiguring drips.

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Most invasive treatment of my life: I took a Festool sander to the face of this spruce round to remove severe staining. I’ll spare you the long in-house decision making process that made that choice even possible, but suffice to say I am in love with Festool now. When the spruce round had been an exhibit prop, there were also large holes drilled to mark certain rings as a timeline. Paintings conservator Gwen Manthey is shown here filling and inpainting those holes. There were four holes, but I dare you to find them now!

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Here is the jacket Click Bishop wore back in his days working on the oil pipeline. Yes, that Click Bishop, the Alaska State Senator. There are pants and hat with this outfit too. Here is an image of humidifying the pocket flaps so they would lay flat when the mannequin was dressed.


SLAM Project 2015: World War II Section

March 18, 2015

Here I continue to post snapshots of the conservation work ahead for our upcoming new exhibits.  The Alaska State Library Archives and Museum (SLAM) project is in the construction phase, with opening of the new building planned for June 2016.  There are approximately 22 interpretive areas, around 90 exhibit cases, and roughly 2,500 objects. This section is about World War II, an area of the collection that has grown significantly in the past few years.  This is one of the areas that will be mannequin-intense, as we have quite a few uniforms from different service branches. Here are some of the artifacts that need some extra care from conservators.

ASM 2013-61-1 these remarkable fur lined pants have some tears that need to be repaired.

ASM 2013-61-1 these remarkable fleece lined pants from the Army Air Corps have some tears that need to be repaired.

The zipper of the pants suffers from tooth loss and corrosion.  This needs to be stabilized, and the display details strategized if the zipper cannot be zipped.

The zipper of the pants suffers from tooth loss and corrosion. This needs to be stabilized, and the display details strategized if the zipper cannot be zipped.

This barracks box from the Aleutian campaign contains clothing that must be addressed.  It may need to be vacuumed, and the arrangement and support of the garments in the box needs to be determined with aesthetics, interpretation, and long term preservation in mind.

This barracks box from the Aleutian campaign (ASM 96-59-1) contains clothing that must be addressed. It may need to be vacuumed, and the arrangement and support of the garments in the box needs to be determined with aesthetics, interpretation, and long term preservation in mind.

This USCG shirt (ASM III-O-856) is in great condition, except for the spotty staining overall that may be from mildew during storage before it was donated.  Stains on white fabrics are notoriously difficult to remove.  Still, I think we will try...

This USCG shirt (ASM III-O-856) is in great condition, except for the spotty staining overall that may be from mildew during storage before it was donated. Stains on white fabrics are notoriously difficult to remove. Still, I think we will try…

This gas mask, III-O-165, has a lot of rubber components that are still flexible, but who knows how long that flexibility will last?  Can we come up with a support system that will allow the item to be interpreted and studied in the future even when it gets stiff?

This gas mask, III-O-165, has a lot of rubber components that are still flexible, but who knows how long that flexibility will last? Can we come up with a support system that will allow the item to be interpreted and studied in the future even when it gets stiff?

The canister of the gas mask has some corrosion.  This needs to be characterized and stabilized.

The canister of the gas mask has some corrosion. This needs to be characterized and stabilized.

 

ASM III-O-364 is a Japanese charcoal burning stove.  Staff here are very fond of its industrial design elements.  Inside there is a lot of dirt and rocks.  We will need to determine if those are to be kept inside or not.

ASM III-O-364 is a Japanese charcoal burning stove. Staff here are very fond of its industrial design elements. The inside is full of dirt and rocks. We will need to determine if those are to be kept inside or not.

This Japanese rifle, III-O-240, has areas of corrosion and some elements that might be bent or out of position.  It is an Arisaka Model 99 collected at Kiska.

This Japanese rifle, III-O-240, has areas of corrosion and some elements that might be bent or out of position. It is an Arisaka Model 99 collected at Kiska.

The strap of the rifle is actively flaking an orange powder.  This material will need to be characterized and stabilized before it can go on display.

The strap of the rifle is actively flaking an orange powder. This material will need to be characterized and stabilized before it can go on display.

In this image, paper conservator Karen Zukor is examining and testing a watercolor painting from 1943 Adak Island by Warren Beach.  The artwork has some severe spotty staining on the back that is beginning to show through to the front.  A later to posting will detail some of our strategies to control light levels in the upcoming exhibits.

In this image, paper conservator Karen Zukor is examining and testing a watercolor painting from 1943 Adak Island by Warren Beach. The artwork has some severe spotty staining on the back that is beginning to show through to the front. A later to posting will detail some of our strategies to control light levels in the upcoming exhibits. This painting will need treatment before exhibition.


SLAM Project 2015: Maritime Section

March 17, 2015

Here is another snapshot of the conservation work ahead for our upcoming new exhibits.  The Alaska State Library Archives and Museum (SLAM) project is in the construction phase, with opening of the new building planned for June 2016.  There are approximately 22 interpretive areas, around 90 exhibit cases, and roughly 2,500 objects. This section, Maritime, has a LOT going on!  Anjuli Grantham was here from Kodiak earlier to help with some artifact selection and history, Tim Troll and Andrew Washburn have both told me a lot about the Bristol Bay fishery, and I’ve been in touch with Louie Bartos at least weekly for some time now getting a replica sail made.  Here’s a link to an article about that sail by Megan Petersen at the Ketchikan Daily News, and another article by Matt Martin over in Dillingham for public radio station KDLG.

ASM 97-34-1Bristol Bay Double Ender, a fishing boat that will go on display, rigged with a new sail made by master sail maker Louie Bartos, and film footage will be projected on the replica sail.

ASM 97-34-1 Bristol Bay Double Ender, a fishing boat that will go on display, rigged with a new sail made by master sail maker Louie Bartos, and film footage will be projected on the replica sail.

Tim Troll saw the boat, and had lots of good info.  Here he is looking at the sprit, part of how the sail was held up.  Tim thinks we ought to paint the boat.

Tim Troll saw the boat, and had lots of good info. Here he is looking at the sprit, part of how the sail was held up. Tim thinks we ought to paint the boat.

Here's a plaque inside, I don't know exactly what the numbers stand for.  It was from the Libby McNeill & Libby cannery, and would have been a peachy orange color originally.

Here’s a plaque inside, I don’t know exactly what the numbers stand for. The boat was from the Libby McNeill & Libby cannery, and would have been a peachy orange color originally.

We have two sails that go with this boat, but didn't want to fade a rectangle into one by projecting film footage.  So I took the sail to the loft studio of Louie Bartos so he could measure and make a replica for us.

We have two sails that go with this boat, but didn’t want to fade a rectangle into one by projecting film footage. So I took the sail to the loft studio of Louie Bartos so he could measure and make a replica for us.

I first heard of Louie at the WOAM conference back in 2010.  An internationally renowned sail expert right in Ketchikan!  How could we pass up the chance to get a sail made? Here Louie shows a couple of his sailmaking palms...

I first heard of Louie at the WOAM conference back in 2010. An internationally renowned sail expert right in Ketchikan! How could we pass up the chance to get a sail made? Here Louie shows a couple of his sailmaking palms…the thumb goes through the big hole.  When you make a sail, you need more than a thimble…

We've got a rudder, and will use it.  But will need to make a replica mast because the ceiling is just not quite high enough. And we will probably buy new mast hoops because the originals are rather delicate now.

We’ve got a rudder, and will use it. But will need to make a replica mast because the ceiling is just not quite high enough. And we will probably buy new mast hoops because the originals are rather delicate now.

More photos of Maritime Section stuff below, but I have to make a pitch for our WISH LIST of things we would like to add to the Alaska State Museum collection for interpretation and to include in the display of the Bristol Bay Double Ender.  I think we could find loans of most of this, but ideally we would like to add items to the collection that come from the Bristol Bay fishery from this historic period…

  • Roller (that gadget that helps pull the net up without rubbing on the boat)
  • Cleats associated with roller
  • Oarlocks
  • Bailing Cans
  • Bilge Pump (the one that was supposed to come with the boat went missing in Homer)
  • Tent
  • Stoves: both the “Swede Style” and the “Italian Style”
  • 5 gallon water beaker
  • Old box compass, a few inches on a side
  • Old cannery dishware
  • Samples of caulking and caulking tools
We are putting out quite a few salmon cans, and their labels are quite marvelous.  We will be devising various methods of monitoring the risk from light fading for items like this.

We are putting out quite a few salmon cans, and their labels are quite marvelous. We will be devising various methods of monitoring the risk from light fading for items like this. (ASM 2000-39-1)

This is a stencil set from a cannery, and needs to have the dead spiders and dust removed without losing its authentic grime.

This is a stencil set from a cannery, and needs to have the dead spiders and dust removed without losing its authentic grime. (ASM 2005-9-36)

Several folks on staff are excited about this stencil from a boat called the Goldywn.  However, how to unroll and flatten it, how much to unroll, and whether to include the chunk of oar handle are tricky conservation dilemmas.

Several folks on staff are excited about this stencil (ASM III-O-635)  from a boat called the Goldywn. However, how to unroll and flatten it, how much to unroll, and whether to include the chunk of oar handle are tricky conservation dilemmas.

This deadeye, ASM II-O-290 from the Star of Bengal has some serious spalling rust issues.  Staff are disturbed by the resemblance to a skull, given the history of the ship...one of the worse maritime disasters in Alaska history...more than 110 Chinese cannery workers perished in the wreck.

This deadeye, ASM II-O-290 from the Star of Bengal has some serious spalling rust issues. Staff are disturbed by the resemblance to a skull, given the history of the ship…one of the worse maritime disasters in Alaska history…more than 110 Chinese cannery workers perished in the wreck.

This huge wok, ASM 2000-4-1 also has some rust issues.

This huge wok, ASM 2000-4-1 also has some rust issues.

 

We have quite a few instances like these lure where the object numbers have been put on in a place that is not the best for display purposes. (ASM 98-40-1).  We'll need to remove the numbers and re-label these lures.

We have quite a few instances like these lures where the object numbers have been put on in a place that is not the best for display purposes. (ASM 98-40-1). We’ll need to remove the numbers and re-label these lures.

 

 

 


SLAM Project 2015: Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Section

March 16, 2015

I’ve been posting snapshots if some of the conservation work ahead for our upcoming new exhibits.  The Alaska State Library Archives and Museum (SLAM) project is in the construction phase, with opening of the new building planned for June 2016.  There are approximately 22 interpretive areas, around 90 exhibit cases, and roughly 2,500 objects. The interpretive area addressed by this post is called “Alutiiq/Sugpiaq” and you might wonder why the two designations…actually, there could be more…including Chugach, Koniag, Qik’rtarmiut and others.  Each of these ethnonyms conveys a complicated context of history and identity, particularly connected to specific places and experiences of contact with various colonial forces, such as the Russians.  Which term is correct in which situation is a right of self-determination and personal preference for members of the Native community.  The two terms used to title the section are the result of feedback from community co-curators thusfar.

ASM II-F-9 this delicate bag will require conservation attention to insure it can be supported adequately while on exhibit.

ASM II-F-9 this delicate bag will require conservation attention to insure it can be supported adequately while on exhibit.

II-A-4944 Arctic Ground Squirrel Parka, lined with even more pelts.  This item will need a mannequin, and perhaps some stabilization at the shoulder seams.

II-A-4944 Arctic Ground Squirrel Parka, lined with even more pelts. This item will need a mannequin, and perhaps some stabilization at the shoulder seams.

Here's an old pic of Paul Gardinier showing me some tricks of mannequin making.  We will need some 60 mannequins or more for the SLAM project.  Paul and other staff will be working on this intensely this July.

Here’s an old pic of Paul Gardinier showing me some tricks of mannequin making. We will need some 60 mannequins or more for the SLAM project. Paul and other staff will be working on this intensely this July.

I don't have a lot of conservation concerns in this section of the exhibit, so this is a good time to show the floor plan for the new exhibits.

I don’t have a lot of conservation concerns in this section of the exhibit, so this is a good time to show the floor plan for the new exhibits.

Here's another sense of how the galleries might look.

Here’s another sense of how the galleries might look.

And here is an artist rendering from the architects of what the outside might look like...

And here is an artist rendering from the architects of what the outside might look like…