Last week was one of those busy, exciting weeks full of public history on all fronts. Last Monday I attended a meeting at the Burgwin-Wright House, a colonial house museum in downtown Wilmington, where my Museum Administration classmates, professor and I presented the products of our work from last semester on a Friends group sort of program. Because the Burgwin-Wright House is owned by the NC Colonial Dames Society, a membership program is not really needed (plus it would be confusing as membership in the Colonial Dames is limited by ancestry). Thus, we worked in consultation with the director and the museum manager to create a support program that more closely resembles a Friends group like those seen at state historic sites and museums. The group would be considered philanthropic only, not managerial, and would support the maintenance of the house as well as the educational programs held there. In the course last semester we worked to create drafts of a solicitation letter, informational brochure, return card, and thank you letter for the program. Monday’s meeting was to share the final products of this work with the house committee and answer their questions. It went well and I hope to see the program successfully implemented at the Burgwin-Wright in the near future.
Tuesday and Thursday were normal days in the University Archives where I am continuing to assist the archivist in assessing one of the collections for possible deaccessioning. Much of this material is from UNC General Administration rather than materials from UNCW specifically. The assessment and deaccessioning process will help to focus the collection and make it more useful for researchers. The current organization of the materials in this collection obscures its contents. The materials we are keeping from this collection will be reorganized so that they will be more accessible to researchers. Also, logistically speaking, the process frees up much-needed storage space.
Over the course of the week I also made some strides on my thesis, completing a rough draft of my first chapter and doing research for the second chapter. The first chapter needs some revisions, but focuses on the problems facing museum collections in terms of collecting and cataloging objects related to women’s history. It offers some suggestions for improvements at the Cape Fear Museum based on solutions used at other museums as well as scholars’ proposals of solutions. My next chapter will deal more directly with the use of these objects in interpreting women’s history and will provide some idea of the resources available for interpreting Wilmington women’s history at the Cape Fear Museum.
The Bellamy Mansion and UNCW Public History Program hosted a two-day symposium last week on the preservation of slave dwellings featuring Joseph McGill, the founder of the Slave Dwelling Project. This event is in connection with the Still Standing project that the public history program began last semester. Because this was such a major evet, including a lecture, a panel, and an overnight stay in the slave quarters, and I have so much to say about it, a separate post will be devoted to it. Stay tuned!
Finally, Saturday I volunteered at the Cape Fear Museum’s Mystery at the Museum annual event. This family learning event features the use of forensic science and logic skills to help solve a mystery. The event was a lot of fun and a big hit with kids and parents alike. Children were detectives who worked together with their parents to try to determine who had stolen some food–all of the suspects were animals, with only one being a human. I helped at the station entitled, “What’s My Name?” which had the detectives use a dichotomous key to learn about taxonomy. The detectives learned about various characteristics of different classifications of animals to help them narrow down who their suspect might have been. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the kids (many of whom were wearing fake mustaches!) and learned a little about animals, taxonomy, and logic myself.