Thursday, July 21, 2011

Conservation at the Country Doctor Museum

I had the opportunity to work at the Country Doctor Museum as a Graduate Assistant from May 2010 through December 2010. It is a beautiful site, with two historic buildings and two auxiliary buildings. One of these buildings is a storage building for some wonderfully weird artifacts and some unopened treasures. This is where I spent the majority of my time sorting, stabilizing and storing artifacts in archival material as well as conserving artifacts.

Some of the artifacts I treated include a broken apothecary jar lid, an otoscope, an anatomical human skull (educational), and a doctor's case. In addition, several artifacts required cleaning and adhesive removal. It was great to put into practice what I had learned in my conservation classes from my professor, Susanne Grieve. It was also great to have some flexibility for trial and error-as a graduate assistant, this position was designed to give me some hands-on experience. 

Some artifacts were easily recognized while others are relics of a bygone medical era. Some of these antiquated medicines include arsenic, mercury, phenol, boric acid, belladonna and quite a few unknown patent medicines. While I wouldn't say that dealing with these poisons was a great experience, it was interesting to learn about environmental safety and to assist with recording and removing these hazardous materials.

Before and after images-

In addition to my conservation duties, I assisted the Curatorial Director, Jennie Schindler Graham, and the Curator, Anne Anderson, with a variety of tasks. As is often the case with small museums, these tasks covered a wide range of activities from building maintenance to public education. However, there are a number of projects that stand out in my mind-compiling an apothecary guide with medicinal and historical uses of medicines, preparing an emergency preparedness plan, and leading school group activities (herbal bags and "Frightful Artifacts"). It was a lot of fun. Not only was it fun, but I had the opportunity to be tutored in small museum management by two incredible, intelligent, professional women.  

Storage Building

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Archaeology, Conservation and Curation by Whitney Rose Petrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License