Diary of an Archive: Part One

From Director Jackie Spainhour:

One of the bright ideas we have had as an institution is to catalog our journey to transform our third floor from a haphazard storage area to a semi-functioning archive, with shelves and boxes to boot. Assistant Director and Museum Archivist Kelly Kubiak was given the daunting task of beginning our archive from scratch- taking all of the items we have had in storage and preserving them and making them accessible, organized, and relevant. To accomplish this feat, she has enlisted the help of different docents and her dear husband, all of whom have volunteered their time and energy to help this museum withstand the ages. We owe them a debt of gratitude- even beginning this project could not have happened without them.

Kelly wishes to take you along on her journey to create a usable third floor with an office, meeting space, archive, and retail storage area. This journey will be chronicled in parts on this blog- so be sure to follow us to hear all of the stories!

Without further adieu, here’s Kelly:

When my husband and I started dating, he informed me that it is not considered a home project unless there is at least one trip to the hardware store.  His record is five since we have known each other.  Mine is three but I am determined to make it one.  The Hunter House has several home projects to complete this fall and well into next spring.  We tell the public that it is conservation/preservation for the collection, but in a sense, it really is home project.  Any homeowner knows that cleaning and organizing takes more than the desire to be organized- it takes a tape measure, muscle and, at least, one trip to the hardware store.

I have been working on the third floor for several months, on and off, starting and stopping a few projects.  I have had help when scheduling permitted (Ayanna and Jeanne) but over time, I needed more – a plan, shelves and muscle.  In April, I received muscle in the form of one of my girlfriends from the gym.  Stacy made it look so easy – but she used to be a firefighter.  For her, a 65-pound box was not an issue – she carried that box like I carry a sweater up those stairs. But as with any project, other things required my attention such as the museum re-opening, trips to New York, London, Reno and in the middle, a sailor spouse returning home (hurray!). The original plan was for Stacy to help as well, but we just could not get our schedules to match; luckily for me I know she is a willing volunteer for the future, as we have an old AC unit that requires two people to move down that same stairwell. Through it all, I was able to devise a plan for where to place the needed shelving, using my tape measure (measuring several times) and now, I have sailor spouse to help all day!

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Sailor Spouse, Jim Fish.  August 2016. Willing to move heavy items with a great smile!

            I returned back to the hardware store a few weeks ago and purchased five sets of shelves, a measuring tape and picture hangers.  Although technically this falls under a second trip, I see it as an initial trip for this phase of the project.  Thank goodness Sailor Spouse is willing to schlepp with a smile.  The shelves are too heavy to load into a SUV or truck, let alone a twisting stairwell.  Oblong, rectangular boxes are tricky to maneuver in our narrow, twisting, stairs and we cannot event think of dinging the wallpaper (how on earth did the many trucks make it up and down those stairs without wall damage, injury or death?).   We began working on the third floor this past Saturday before the sun came up.  The goal was 5:00 AM start but we arrived closer to 5:30 AM.  It was one of the hottest weekends so far this summer.  We spent the entire day upstairs and I can honestly say that the work involved physical pain and lots of sweat.  Spouse cut a finger while I endured a splinter and migraines from the trunks and heat.  But in the end, I think I shed a tear because we were able to move stuff.

Shelves went up; trunks were opened, surveyed and moved.  Those trunks are now more accessible and now air can actually circulate around them.  Merchandise for teas and the gift shop is now in its own space versus its previous storage, which was being stacked in the middle of the room.  Additionally, we have been able to place a chaise lounge and other pieces up and out of the way – we can actually walk through the spaces without worry.  I am not done though.  This was simply the first phase of a project that I anticipate will go on for a few years.  We will be rehousing much of our collection and reorganizing it so that we can change out rooms on the first and second floors with greater ease.

I intended to take more photos to share, but after a bit, I kept forgetting to take photos.  I am not yet complete in arranging and organizing all of the items in our Meeting Room and former room full of Christmas decorations.  That will take more time, but for now, I have room and space to move about, organize, think, plan and review our items.  And it only took one trip to the hardware store.

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After moving all the travel trunks, the wall before the shelves.

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Unpacking our first box of shelves.

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First set of shelves.  We moved the Xmas tree box in front of the fireplace.  Our wicker chaise now rests on top in its place

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Many of the boxes were moved into the Meeting Room for the afternoon.  We were able to install three shelves in this room as well as five in the former Christmas Room.

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Stamped on the side of the trunks belonging to Eloise and Mrs. Hunter, their initials along with city and state where they reside.

There is still much to do but now, we have room to move about.  Recently, we have been begun a Friends of the Hunter House group.  Many have asked what the cost of becoming a member provides both for us and the member.  While it is designed to provide members an opportunity to give friends and families a pass to visit our museum for free and a discount in our gift shop, the money charged for that membership does so much more.  Becoming a member allows our museum to continue to provide quality events and the opportunity to use more of the items in our collection.  For many years, items have been store in the trunks in an effort to preserve them.  Now it is time to move them out of the trunks and into archival boxes.  Through this process, we will be letting you know what we find and what we are doing.

If you would like to know more about our membership program, please visit http://www.hunterhousemuseum.org/friends-of-hunter-house/ .

We are looking forward to unveiling our finished “archive” in the upcoming years. Please consider helping us on our journey by becoming a member of the museum, including us in your estate planning, or donating your spare change. Anything helps!

Have questions for our Assistant Director and Archivist Kelly Kubiak? Post them here!

 

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