Of restaurants and museum artifacts

A theory about people and taste led me to see if I could find a connection between the kinds of activities or artifacts people enjoy at the museum and their favorite foods. After a bit of investigation, I don’t know that my theory necessarily holds any water, but I still think it’s fun to note their favorites and pass along a few Indiana State Museum staff picks.

  Gail Brown: Manager, Science Content Delivery
~ Indiana connection: Born and raised in Monon, Ind.
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: The atlatl in the Native American Gallery
~ Favorite event at the museum / time of year: Native American Dance Circle
~ Favorite restaurant: Bruno’s Pizza, West Lafayette
  Joanna Hahn: Manager of Arts and Culture Programs
~ Indiana connection: Born and raised in Madison County, Ind.
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: Kiddish Cup in Hoosier Way Gallery
~ Favorite event at the museum / time of year: Fall when we are the busiest with programs and there are a lot of fun things to do.
~ Favorite restaurant: Right now my favorite restaurant is Iozzo’s Italian on South Meridian.
~ Favorite homemade food: macaroni and cheese
  Michele Greenan: Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: Native American Gallery and the beautifully incised archaic bone pins
~ My favorite time at the museum is late at night working in the clean lab against the lights of the canal.
~ My favorite restaurant in Indy is any Starbucks!
  Eric Todd: Science and Technology Program Specialist
~ Indiana connection: Graduated from Butler University in 2006
~ Favorite artifact: Bobby Plump’s Milan High School basketball jacket
~ Favorite program: Summer Camps
~ Favorite local restaurant: Yats
  Carrie M. Miller: Science & Technology Program Developer
~ Indiana connection: Born in Rush county, Ind.
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: The natural history galleries including the R.B. Annis Naturalist’s Lab
~ Favorite event at the museum / time of year: GeoFest
~ Favorite restaurant or favorite homemade food: Pretty much anything prepared by my mom.
  Katherine Gould: Associate Curator of Cultural History
~ Indiana connection: Moved here to attend graduate school. Got a job and stayed.
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: 1970s popular culture wall in Global Indiana (bongs and bell bottoms!)
~ Favorite event at the museum / time of year: I’m a sucker for anything Christmas.
~ Favorite restaurant: Any Thai or Indian restaurant is my favorite. Spicy, spicy, spicy!
  Rachel Perry: Fine Arts Curator
~ Indiana connection: Raised in Bloomington, attended University High School and earned a bachelor’s degree at Indiana University
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: NiSource Gallery (where most of our art exhibitions are displayed), of course! Favorite painting is “Dairy Barn” by Robert Selby
~ Favorite event at the museum / time of year: Great Outdoor Contest at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site
~ Favorite restaurant: College Avenue Yats
  Katy Creagh: Museum Program Specialist
~ Indiana connection: Graduated from high school in Munster and went to Ball State University
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: The Bride & Groom fleas in Odd Indiana
~ Favorite event at the museum / time of year: The Indiana Art Fair and Arbor Day
~ Favorite restaurant: Cafe Patachou
  Mary Jane Teeters-Eichacker: Curator of Social History
~ Indiana connection: I was born on a farm west of Greenwood in Johnson County.
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: A pair of dolls given by a Civil War soldier to his daughters before he went off to camp, where he died a month later.
~ Favorite event at the museum: The Indiana Art Fair in February is always a wonderful blast of color and beauty in a cold, gloomy time of year.
~ Favorite restaurant: El Sol de Tala on East Washington Street serves the best Mexican food in Indiana!
  Kerry Baugh: Arts & Culture Program Developer
~ Indiana connection: Born and raised in Terre Haute, Ind. (Vigo County)
~ Favorite artifact or gallery: The entire Odd Indiana exhibit, limestone quarry and the handwritten John Mellencamp lyrics for “Jack & Diane”
~ Favorite event at the museum: Hard to choose, but Family New Year’s Eve is one great party!
~ Favorite restaurant: Market Bella Rosa in Terre Haute; Taste Café and the Donut Shop in Indy.
~ Favorite homemade food: Depends on the season, but right now – chili.
  Christa Petra Barleben: Arts and Culture Program Specialist
~ Indiana connection: Fort Wayne is my hometown
~ Favorite Artifact: Julia Graydon Sharpe’s Silk Ball Gown in the Crossroads of America Gallery.
~ Favorite Event: Pinewood Derby
~ Favorite Restaurant: Creation Café

We’d love to hear about your favorite event or exhibit at the museum. Comment below and let us know some of your Indiana favorites.



Eau de old stuff

 by Gaby Kienitz, Conservator

I have a secret to tell — historic artifacts smell. They often smell bad. When you get close and personal with historic artifacts like I do in the Conservation Lab, you realize they have odor issues. It’s not their fault. Dust, mold, bird droppings, mouse pee and, shall we delicately say, various “debris” from human use contribute to a potent olfactory cocktail. If I could bottle it to sell at the perfume counter it would be called “eau de old stuff.” But, I don’t mind, I’m used to the smell.

I’ve been lucky; I hear stories from friends at other museums about a collection of artifacts that smell of old cigarette smoke and even worse, a contemporary art object that smells of rotten flesh. I’ve never had to deal with objects that smell so bad they make you feel sick. This year, I hit the jackpot with artifact smells. Not because it was terrible, but because it was so very good. Enter the bee skep …

What is a bee skep exactly? Well, other than a hollow in a tree trunk (à la Winnie the Pooh), this is the traditional home of the honeybee. Those efficiently square bee boxes we’re familiar with today weren’t invented until the middle of the 19th century. For hundreds of years before, humans provided the humble, hardworking honeybee with a home that’s basically an upside-down coiled basket made of straw, held together with strips of tree saplings. After the bees move in, they create their own honeycomb, by building directly onto the inner walls of the skep.

Our bee skep is an exile from the Odd Indiana exhibit. It was intended to be part of the display of torturous farm tools, but was cut from the show several months before installation. It didn’t look like anything special when it was brought to the Conservation Lab. Heck, I didn’t even know what it was. But, when I leaned in to take a closer look at the interior, that’s when it hit me – the smell, that fabulous smell. The inside is glossy from a thin coating of wax and high on the inner dome of the skep are small hexagonal remnants of honeycomb. There is still a faint, warm smell of beeswax mingled with the sweet earthy smell of straw.

For the first time ever, I found myself wanting the smell from an object to linger. I’d love to spend my days with my nose up against the inside of the skep, making myself giddy with the smell, but then who would do the work? Although the skep was rejected from exhibition, I wanted to give it another chance. I’m hoping to have it placed on exhibit in the second floor main gallery in the summer of 2011. But, before it’s ready for exhibition it needs to be treated in the Conservation Lab; part of the lower coil on the skep has detached and there’s some straw missing.

Look for an update in the coming months on the treatment and installation of the bee skep. Until then, I’ll be keeping my nose to the skep … er …grindstone.

All photos by Anna Yu.

Smoking is bad for the complexion!

by Gaby Kienitz, Textile Conservator

The infamous smoking boudoir doll from the museum’s collection needed an extreme makeover before she was ready for her debut in the recently opened Odd Indiana exhibition.

While she’s been successfully holding the same cigarette in her mouth for more than 80 years, she didn’t manage to hold onto her original good looks. I wonder sometimes what happened to her in the years before she was donated to the museum; why she came here in such terrible condition. Like the movie, Toy Story or the book, The Velveteen Rabbit, I imagine a secret and difficult life for our doll. Was she shut in an attic, left exposed to the heat of summer and the cold of the winter?

The result of her secret past life was not pretty. She was grimy overall. There is a network of deep cracks throughout her entire body, even under her hair. Worse, the “skin” of her legs had split vertically down the center of each leg and curled back. Most noticeable, however, was that her face was missing nearly half of the original paint and the surface below was cracked and embedded with grime. 

Getting the smoking doll ready for exhibition was not going to be a quick fix. Attempting gentle cleaning of her face using a tiny swab dampened with water, resulted in paint flakes detaching. Before the doll’s face could be cleaned, loose flakes of the original, remaining paint layer were stabilized and reattached by wicking a consolidant along the edges and at cracks. Exposed sub-surface on her face was carefully covered with a brushed coat of consolidant, and the areas with original paint missing were in-painted using tiny brushes under magnification. The new paint colors were blended to closely match the original colors and provide a seamless transition from the original, remaining paint, to the newly in-painted areas. 

The makeover was finished with a gentle vacuuming of her clothing and hair (oh, there was lots of dark grey dust!), hand stitched repair of holes in the front of her skirt, careful steaming of her skirt and attachment of a new waist sash.

Now she looks like she’s ready for her return to infamy.

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The Wabash Washboard

by Ange Albsmeyer, Indiana State Museum volunteer

I have been a volunteer in the Indiana State Museum conservation lab for about eight months. My job is to do some of the more basic tasks around the lab to help free up conservator Gaby Kienitz to work her magic in repairing, cleaning and restoring museum artifacts. I have vacuumed dust off of the sport coat Ernie Pyle wore to a meeting with Eleanor Roosevelt. I have photographed a 19th century floor sample coffin, cleaned stage props used by an acting troupe from the late 1800, and helped repair an 1830s quilt. And I’ve had fun doing all of it — and learned a lot about Indiana history along the way.

But my favorite project to date has been the restoration of the Wabash Washboard — a handmade, one-of-a-kind musical instrument used by Paul “Hezzie” Trietsch of the 1940s novelty band the Hoosier Hot Shots. The instrument will be featured in the upcoming Odd Indiana exhibit that opens on Sept. 4.

Hezzie’s washboard is more than just a rhythm instrument — he could play fairly complicated melodies with the attached horns and cowbells. If you watch the video “She Broke My Heart in Three Places,” at the end of the number you can see how skillful a musician Hezzie was on his Wabash Washboard.

From years in storage after hard use on stage and in the studio, some of the rubber bulbs on the horns were missing or needed replacement. The original duct tape holding the bulbs in place was slowly peeled off and preserved — parts of which may be returned to the instrument because it would look more authentic than using all new tape. The replacement orange bulbs looked too shiny and new next to the originals, so umber coloring was used to “age” them to blend in with the original horn bulbs.

I like to think that Hezzie would be pleased (and maybe a little amused) at all the work that has been put into bring his Wabash Washboard back to life. Oh, and though the instrument will never again be used on stage, the new bulbs have been tested and sound as good as new, too!

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