Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Museum volunteer

I've always been interested in museums.  I remember the no-longer-existing one-large-room Natural History Museum in South Bend when I was a child. Sarah's and my idea of a vacation is usually to go to a city and visit several museums.  And I was a history major as an undergraduate.  So when thinking about somewhere to volunteer, The Oshkosh Public Museum seemed like a good fit.  It's a department of the city of Oshkosh.  I had to fill out an application for city employment. They actually have volunteer job descriptions. "Collections Assistant" stated that you would probably be expected to work alone much of the time, and that seemed like a good fit too. This was in mid-November and I couldn't guarantee I would be in a sufficiently good mood to interact with other people.

It's in the former home of the Sawyer family, one of the lumber barons and a major political family in Oshkosh.

Most of it has been converted to exhibit space, but a few rooms at the front of the building are still as they were when it was somebody's home. A collection of glassware and porcelain is usually displayed in the Library, but this was during the holidays when it was full of ornaments.

I work on the staff-only third floor and have a window nearby which is nice to have even when it's snowing.  It's the middle dormer if you're looking at the earlier pictures.  It's on the corner of Algoma and Congress, right across the street from the Paine Art Center.

Every workspace in the building is wedged between storage and curatorial areas.  Just behind the computer I use, the cabinets are full of Civil War uniforms.

They're developing a new "People of the Waters" exhibit which will include several iPads to search the collections of artifacts associated with the exhibit.

They're all laid out on tables in the lecture room down in the basement.

I've been working on the projectile points.  The first artifact I was handed was a 13,000 year old Clovis Point.  I'm not sure if she was just trying to impress me or that we were just starting at the beginning.

I take a box full of about 20 at a time up stairs to be photographed for the virtual exhibit.

The little studio area is in the next dormer to the east.

I work on an old home-made plywood copy stand, but the zoom range of the digital camera is sufficient that I don't have to adjust it up and down very much.

It's one of those jobs that is somewhat repetitive and requires paying close attention to details, making sure the artifact and the scale are square with the edges of the frame.  Since I don't have to move the lights, I just lock it on manual.  Kind of irritating that it changes the f-stop as you zoom, but it only varies between f8.3 and f7.6 so it's less than half a stop and keeps me in the dynamic range the camera has available.

I then crop for efficiency, adjust the levels to the full range and to make sure the image matches the point itself, and then add the images to the catalog. Not the most challenging photography but it's what they need doing and I can get into kind of a shop yoga mode.

When it's done there's a largely uncatalogued collection of photographic equipment and a meteorite collection that's been out of view for twenty years since they remodeled in the 90's that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on.

All with the Populist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x36mm frame.

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