From January 12 through February 8, we at the NMSC were privileged to welcome David Wooldridge, a museum technician from Appomattox Courthouse National Historical Park, onto our staff. David, who worked with us while on furlough from his regular position, assisted in the archeology lab with a complex cataloging project and in the archives with a book rehousing project. His contribution to both projects was invaluable, and his warm, funny, and charming personality won over all of us here in Boston. In this post, David recaps his experience working with us. Thank you, David, from the NMSC!
As a museum technician from the battlefield and restored village of Appomattox Court House N.H.P. (APCO), my day-to-day duties are made up of maintenance of artifacts and exhibit areas, cataloging and care of museum collections, creating interpretive programs and media plus giving the occasional lunch break to interpretive rangers. In 2000, the Northeast Museum Services Center completed a Collection Management Plan at APCO, but that was the only interaction I had with their office. Last month, however, that all changed. As the time of my annual furlough approached, I once again reached out to NPS sites hoping to find a temporary duty detail somewhere. Eventually, I had to choose between offers from Fort Donelson National Battlefield, New Bedford Whaling N.H.P., the regional curatorial storage facility at the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve in Florida, and the Northeast Museum Services Center in Boston. It being winter, I naturally chose the NMSC. The first question NMSC Curator Alicia Paresi asked me was, “How do you feel about working in Boston in the winter?” Not having spent more than a car ride on the interstate in Boston, I had considerably less knowledge of Boston winters than I did the day-to-day workload of the NMSC. But I left the balmy clime of Virginia for the Northeast Museum Services Center in Boston.
At the NMSC, I arrived smack dab in the middle of the organizing and cataloging of a . . . challenging archeology cataloging project. As entrenched as they were in this project, the NMSC staff was kind, gracious and patient enough to take the time to share their knowledge of ceramic wares, glass types and best methods for identifying and dealing with archeological fragments of all types. They also made suggestions for finding the best pizza place, what time to catch the last train on the T, and the location of the best colonial headstones to photograph. During my time at NMSC, I was able to travel to Salem Maritime N.H.S. to help reconfigure curatorial storage space. I also created custom archival enclosures for field books and dock registers from the Charlestown Navy Yard (a part of Boston N.H.P.). In my off time, I explored as much of Boston’s history as I could in 8 to 10 hours a day. I became a regular on the T. I spent several Sundays in the boxed pews at Christ Church in Boston, better known as the Old North Church, where the famous lanterns were hung to warn of approaching British troops. I also tackled what was perhaps the most difficult task of my whole trip- choosing whether Mike’s or Modern Pastry made the better cannoli. After much research I still could not conclude which cannoli was the best; I suppose I’ll have to continue my investigation during my next trip.
Of all the adventures I’ve experienced and new knowledge I’ve acquired during my stint here at the NMSC, the most important thing I leave with is a greater understanding and intense appreciation of the work that is done by the professionals here. On the front line where artifacts and collections meet visitors and the public, it is far too easy to take for granted the hard work that goes on behind the scenes by meticulous and passionate people such as the curators, catalogers, and archivists here at the NMSC. They are among the caretakers of the artifacts that we – the National Park Service – have the privilege to preserve in the name of the American people. As great an opportunity as it is to share NPS collections with the public, it is equally important to care for these items, catalog them, mend them, and store them properly so that they will survive into the future for generations yet to come. The NMSC staff does this with great dedication and zeal.
So I am glad I decided to spend my winter furlough in Boston identifying and cataloging ceramic and glass sherds, installing museum collection shelving, and rehousing aged docking registers. Although the Boston winter was cold, it was no match for the warmth and camaraderie of the NMSC staff.