Counting what Counts

An Inventory Adventure

By

Misty Snyder, Collections Assistant

Completing an inventory doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing to the majority of people…

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… but it is a very important component of Collections Management. Here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum we have 8 main collections. These include:

 

1) Permanent Archival Collection- all items that are essentially paper in nature (newspapers, postcards, photos, government reports, books, periodicals, reference works, maps, and  manuscripts).

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2) Oral History Collection- oral histories and other recordings from the Seminole community, subject to controlled access procedures.

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3) Audiovisual Collection –non-accessioned film and audio recordings of various Seminole events.

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Tribal Spirits: Indians of the Americas

4) General Reference Photography Collection – a non-accessioned collection of photos and slides that depict Seminole life in Florida.                                   pic5

Color photo of women in traditional clothing cooking in a chickee.

5) Library Collection – books, journals, and unpublished manuscripts relating to Native American culture, museum practices, and the archaeology of Florida, accessible to the staff, general public, and Tribal community.

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“American Indian Art Magazine”, Spring 1979.

5) Permanent Artifact Collections – all non-paper-based historic items such as baskets, clothing, militaria, archaeological collections, beaded items, dolls, artwork, sculptures.

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Female palmetto fiber doll w/ one row of patchwork.

 

6) Teaching Collection – a non-accessioned collection that consists of objects used by education and outreach staff at presentations and events.

7) Exhibit Collection – a non-accessioned collection containing objects that can be permanently exhibited or loaned out with STEP traveling exhibits.

8) THPO Collection – archaeological materials obtained largely from surveys conducted by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) since 2003.

(To see more amazing items from these collections check out our Online Collections Database here: http://semtribe.pastperfectonline.com/)

The current inventory project includes the first 4 of these collections, which are housed in the Archival Vault, and serves two purposes: to satisfy our Collections Management Policy of a biannual inventory of our collections and to prepare the collections for offsite storage during the completion of a vault renovation. This renovation, made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ “Museums for America” collections stewardship program, will install high-density movable shelving in the Museum’s main building vault. The new shelving will double our current storage capacity, providing much needed space to continue to grow the collections as well as to properly house items.

In order to install compacted shelving in the archival vault, EVERYTHING needs to be removed from the vault and stored elsewhere, and to do this, it must all be accounted for through an inventory.

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The types of items that were inventoried range from artwork on paper, historic newspapers, rare books, government documents, manuscripts, photographs, postcards, maps, and a large variety of audiovisual and ephemera materials.  Many have already been cataloged and housed in archival materials.  But some of the items, not yet cataloged, have needed some extra attention. For example, we removed enough rubber bands from recently acquired photos to make a rubber band ball the size of a softball! Just think of all the photographs that were saved from the deteriorating effects of being bound this way.  Not quite a world record, but we were impressed …

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World-record rubber band ball (according to Google)

After insuring that each item was adequately protected we securely packed them into over 200 moving boxes and recorded their respective locations.                       pic10

Some of the boxes were big enough to hold a person!

   And we used four of these giant rolls of bubble wrap. I’m all packed up and ready to go!

Very soon the collection will be transported by museum moving specialists to offsite museum quality storage where it will be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment while the renovations take place. So far we have inventoried over 140,000 items, including over 100,000 photos!

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             “97,873 Ahh, Ahh, Ahh…”

These photos have come to us from multiple sources, one being the Seminole Tribune. (The Seminole Tribune is the official newspaper of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and is published monthly. You can access Seminole Tribune articles online here: http://www.semtribe.com/SeminoleTribune/)

We have just a little more to go to complete this part of the project and are getting ready for the big move. Being new to the Museum, it has been a true adventure getting to inventory the entire archival collection. The work has been both fascinating and laborious – and a great introduction to the priceless wonders cared for here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-KI Museum each and every day.

 

 

Young Scholars Visit and Research

By

Mary Beth Rosebrough, Research Coordinator

Weiss School in Library

Elementary school is a pleasant memory for most of us, isn’t it? Playing on the swings, jumping rope, learning the cool 9 times table rule, yet does anything strike terror into a parent’s heart more than hearing your child say, “I have to do a Science Fair project”?  Ugh, the dreaded images of procrastination and meltdowns, late nights and running out of construction paper.  It’s a parent’s nightmare!  If you have or know a child who has ever completed a project by themselves, please alert the media!

But then there is the National History Day project. Started in 1974 in Ohio by a professor at Case Western Reserve, it has over a million participants competing every year.  And every year a small portion of that million contacts or come visit us in a quest to win.  Here in the research library, behind a locked door at the back of the museum, we help numerous students research their innovative ideas.  This year has been no exception. As the Research Coordinator I have fielded many requests for information and visit appointments.  Most are from high school students but not always.  Sometimes middle school students want to study here too.

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This past December we were lucky enough to host the Weiss School for gifted children. Driving down all the way from Palm Beach Gardens, a good two hour drive, eight students in sixth and seventh grade, four chaperones and one teacher, Mr. Steve Hammerman, came and toured the museum before “hitting the books” after lunch.  This precocious bunch had lots of questions.  Did you know that is a sign of intelligence?  Intellectual curiosity is a hallmark of a good student and Bam! Bam! Bam! – the barrage of questions was furious!  What a great experience!  Who doesn’t love a student eager to learn?

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Steven Hammerman, history teacher extraordinaire, was a particularly dedicated and earnest guide. He skillfully led the students (6 girls and 2 boys) through the choppy waters of forming a real hypothesis as we stood in the library discussing their focus.  I was able to explain to them, as they were interested in the Seminole conflict of the 1800s, the newest thinking about the ethnogenesis of the Tribe.  We know, and research is verifying, that the Seminole Tribe of Florida is descended from not just Creek people who migrated into Florida but also from the peoples who were already here.  We also spoke of the Tribal view of the Seminole Wars.  Let me change that to War, singular.  Tribal members have often expressed to me that the time of the 1800s was really one long conflict with intermittent escalations.  Those are what historians call “wars”.  But really the 50 years before the end of the Civil War was one long tumultuous, murderous episode of betrayal and fear.  Our Exhibits Curator, Rebecca Fell, talked about this concept while she and her team installed our current exhibit about Seminole struggle and survival during that war-filled century.

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But I digress….the students from the Weiss School were interested in topics surrounding the conflicts of the 1800s: Andrew Jackson, General Jesup, how the conflicts changed the lifeways of the Tribe and how they survived. They were excited to find a concentration of books on Seminole life and the Seminole War(s).  Most students worked in small groups reading and taking notes from the books on the shelves.  Some were interested in the historic documents we had laid out on the Archival vault table with names like Andrew Jackson and Fort Brooke.  It was a pleasure to teach them how to handle rare documents and watch them begin to comprehend the special care we take to preserve the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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The day was a great success and Mr. Hammerman was very pleased with the progress the students made in learning how to research, how to find sources (hint: look at the sources used by the author of the book you are reading), and how to form a hypothesis and write a paper using the materials available (one of the most valuable things I learned in college – thank you, Dr. Andrew Frank!). All went home with just a little more knowledge of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and a greater appreciation of what it took to survive and thrive! We had a great day hosting young gifted scholars who were excited to learn and excited to be here.  What could make a better day than that?

Lock and Load: the Museum’s Firearm Collection

By Marlene Gray, Conservator

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FGCU Intern, Silas Pacheco removes dirt and corrosion from a pistol on left. Museum Conservator, Marlene Gray applies protective wax to a rifle on right.

As the Museum’s Conservator, one of my large projects this year was to examine and assess the firearms in the Museum collection. While some of our exhibits have replica weapons on display, the real action is found in the vault where the historic objects are stored. Thirty-eight pistols, rifles, carbines, muskets, and revolvers are safely kept in storage (and are available for viewing by making an appointment for a behind the scenes tour if I have peaked your interest!) I had to determine whether the weapons were still loaded with gun powder or bullets, remove harmful corrosion and dirt, and complete an overall condition survey of that specific collection.   Once it was confirmed that the firearms were safe to handle, each one was inspected and lots of interesting things were discovered.

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The oldest firearm in the collection is a 1750’s French Officer’s musket. French designed weaponry was the inspiration for early 19th century American-made firearms at both armories in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Springfield, Massachusetts.  The majority of the Museum’s firearms collection was manufactured at one of these two armories.  This musket is one of few that contain a leather-wrapped piece of flint in the lock.  As the trigger is pulled, the flint makes contact with the frizzen to create sparks that hit the priming powder in the pan, causing it to burn and release enough gases to project the ball from the barrel.

Muskets from the 18th and 19th centuries were known to misfire and not work well in humid and damp conditions.  Percussion cap systems were invented in the early 19th century to remedy these problems, but it was the Maynard Tape Primer System that helped increase the rate of fire.  Dr. Edward Maynard’s tape primer consisted of two thin strips of paper embedded with pellets of priming material.

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Model 1855 U.S. Percussion Rifled-Musket dated 1858

Compared to the manual loading needed with prior percussion cap systems, when the musket’s hammer was cocked, the tape automatically advanced through the lock.  While it was a neat idea, Maynard’s system still did not do well in humid climates, like Florida.  The U.S. Model 1855 Percussion Rifled-Musket in the Museum’s collection is an example of this tape primer system.  This particular musket dates to 1858 and while cleaning, the tape primer was found rolled inside the patchbox.

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Clockwise from top left: Quality mark and flint from New England style Fowler Flintlock Rifle; U.S. Model 1840 Hall-North Breech-loading Percussion Carbine with fishtail lever; tape primer found in patchbox of U.S. Model 1855 Percussion Rifled-Musket.

For something a little rarer, the Museum holds two firearms that were both limited productions. Manufactured by Simeon North in Connecticut, the U.S. Model 1840 Hall-North .52 caliber, breech-loading percussion carbine, Type II is one of just over 6,000 that were made between 1840 and 1843.  It has a fishtail-shaped lever that releases the breech, which is why it was called the fishtail model.  Then there is the .56 caliber Colt Model 1855 revolving rifle that would have been used during the latter years of the Seminole War and during the Civil War.  Only 9,310 of these rifle models were created.  Samuel Colt’s big break came during the Seminole Wars when the U.S. Army purchased his earlier versions of revolving rifles which deterred Seminole warriors from immediate retaliation after U.S. soldiers used their single-shot weapons.

1997-51-2Colt Model 1855 Revolving Rifle

Lastly, there are the materials and intricate designs that make each firearm a work of art. The New England style Fowler flintlock rifle was the first American-made firearm manufactured in the 1770’s and 1780’s and used by early American settlers to hunt.  The Museum’s rifle has a mark on the barrel consisting of a crowned X, which was an indication of the quality standard for pewter.  Our 19th century Spanish smooth bore percussion rifle uses a Miquelet lock system that was often used in Florida’s Spanish settlements.  The ornate gold inlay and shell patchbox make this one of the most decorative weapons in the collection.2003-317-1  Spanish smooth bore percussion rifle

Patinas of blue and brown were historic chemical treatments applied to firearms as both decoration and to prevent metal corrosion.  In the early 19th century, bluing was done with charcoal and heat to form a blue-grey color.  The practice is still done today with different chemicals to create a more blue-purple color.  Bluing can be seen on the U.S. Model 1816 flintlock pistol, manufactured by Simeon North for the U.S. War Department in 1813.  Care must be taken not to remove the bluing or browning patinas on historic firearms since it is an example of historic practices.

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From top to bottom: Oldest firearm in the Museum’s collection, 1750’s French Officer’s Musket; detail of gold inlay on 19th century Spanish Smooth Bore Percussion Rifle; “bluing” on the barrel band of Colt Model 1855 Revolving Rifle.

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Our collection of weapons represents not only the American-made examples that would have been used against Seminole people during the war torn 19th century in Florida, but also one example of the lighter and more versatile Spanish-made weapons that Seminoles acquired through trade during the same period.  Such Spanish guns, as well as the local knowledge and cunning resourcefulness of the Seminoles themselves, helped the Seminole people and their allies resist American soldiers and their guns in order to emerge The Unconquered!

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You can look into these subjects at the Museum research library, where our Research Coordinator can help you find the information you need. Please call ahead for appointments, so that we are better prepared to help you!  To see the historic guns, ask for a behind-the-scenes tour during your next visit to the Museum.  Hope we see you soon!

The Struggle of– Struggle for Survival

Writer and Meme Generator: Nora Pinell-Hernandez

Comedic Editor: Natasha Cuervo

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Our new exhibit, Struggle for Survival, is perhaps the most ambitious exhibit the team has ever developed. Walls were erected, the swamp was recreated, the back of a boat was fabricated, a backlight map interactive was engineered, a web app was developed and a Seminole camp was reconstructed.

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We installed on the first two weeks of December but began fabrication in late October. The monumental task of leading a team to fabricate the exhibit doesn’t come without a few headaches and a couple of tears. Working in the swamps means that if anything needed to be ordered from the hardware store it would take a total of 3 hours of driving, 30 minutes of waiting at the cashier, 30 minutes filling up the cart, 10 minutes to submit the PO to my supervisor and 8 hours to have the Purchase Order completed to actually pay for the items. I had to account for each wood screw, each gallon of paint, each foot of blue tape, and each square inch of plywood to create what we have in the galleries now.

Things got hectic in the sardines tin-sized shop I worked in.

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My stress level peaked when I almost cried in front of a volunteer. It was a week before installation and we still had a lot to complete. The wind was not cooperating as I was painting the 4’ x 8’ wood scrims outside with a paint gun. Everything kept clogging; the tarp kept hitting the blotches of wet paint that spewed out of my paint gun.  Heather Billie volunteered to help me sand the wood scrims –there was a lot of sanding to be done.  Her shift ended at 2 and at 1:45 seeing all the work to be done I whispered under my breadth, “I think I’m about to cry”. To my embarrassment, Heather heard me and responded, “Please don’t cry Nora. I can stay a bit longer”. “Just leave and don’t ever look back Heather. It’s over. We are doomed” – is what I wanted to say. But instead I mustered a batch of optimism and reassured her that we were going to be alright.

I let a little tear go after she left.

After letting my internal walls collapse I reorganized myself and had a talk with Rebecca Fell, Curator of Exhibits. “We need more souls.. I mean people – to help out”. Thanks to many people from all departments we were able to fabricate and install the exhibit. Fabricating is my favorite part of my job and I was not going to let my anxiety get in the way of enjoying what I love to do. Along the way the team took photos of the process. I decided to create a couple of memes to remember these wonderful experiences even if it means poking fun of myself because once you cry in front of a volunteer you don’t have much to lose.

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PropsBroughtToLife

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WoodShopMess

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But now that the mayhem is over, it’s time to enjoy the result!  Come out this Saturday, January 16, from 1-3pm to enjoy our exhibit, refreshments, and entertainment!

 

Have you searched our Online Collections yet?

by Mary Beth Rosebrough, Research Coordinator

Cataloging is a major activity here in the Collections Division of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. We do it almost all day, every day.  Cataloging means we record in our database, PastPerfect, all the information we have on the item in hand.  Who donated that newspaper clipping? Oh, it was William Boehmer of Brighton Reservation fame!  Did anything else come with it? Yes, as a matter of fact, it came with some black and white photos.  Right – all noted in the record. Recording the information keeps our accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums current and makes those materials available for research.  To access this blog page you clicked on a button at the top of our web page. But did you know you can access much of our collection from our website?  You can! – if you go to the dropdown menu under the Collections tab (right under the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki  logo), click on Online Collections, and then scroll down the page to “Online Collections connection”.   I’ve made it easy for you today:  our “Online Collections” search page is here:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=ks

Because of the diligent work done daily you have access to a large percentage of our collection and can research or “visit” our collection from your favorite comfy chair.  I hope you are sitting in it right now with your laptop and perusing a bit.  Try searching “patchwork” and you will get over 1300 hits.

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That ought to keep you or any student, maybe a homeschooled high schooler? – busy for most of the afternoon.  Not only are you able to view a very good scan of the object BUT you can also read the information that accompanies it in the database – the description, the size and what it is made of.  Have a look:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=8016704B-A69E-40F5-8054-560520439956;type=101

Interested in document research? How about this historic newspaper dated August 18, 1921?

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http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=CDC46080-403A-4171-8D54-221031109362;type=301

Not only can you read the synopsis to determine the article is about a scouting expedition for the building of the Tamiami Trial, but you can actually read the clipping itself.  Great, right?  And you find out it was part of a notebook belonging to Francis Frost White, a BIA employee in Dania (Hollywood) in the 1930s and 40s. Our collections assistant, Tennile Jackson, very carefully took apart that notebook, page by painstaking page, wearing purple latex gloves, and cataloged each one, recording all the important details.

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And so, because of that attention to detail, we deduce that Francis can provide us with some interesting history. We can use Francis Frost White as our search term and find what else she collected.  Let’s try it and see what comes up:

http://semtribe.pastperfect-online.com/34687cgi/mweb.exe?request=keyword;keyword=francis frost white;dtype=d;subset=300

What we get is 145 hits providing an interesting walk through time and the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Now you try it!  What are you interested in – guns, the War, beadwork, bandolier bags, baskets, dolls?   All are major holdings that can be searched and researched.  When you put in your search term, look to the right and see the different modules available:  All content (for searching all the modules), Objects (artifacts, not paper), Library (books, journals, and periodicals), Archives (paper documents), Photos, and People.  To refine your search check the most applicable one(s) so you aren’t having to wade through pages of items that don’t suit your purpose.

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I hope you have enjoyed our walk through the online collections on the Museum’s website.  And hopefully you will enjoy the collection from the convenience of your own home – in preparation for your visit to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki  Museum!  Our exhibits highlight collection pieces to tell the story of the Seminole Tribe of Florida you won’t find in history books.  This month we have an exquisite exhibit, Struggle for Survival, on Seminole removal and survival in the Everglades being installed in the Museum.  It tells a story that has not been told before in this way.  Come and see how our Exhibits team has used our collection to tell the Seminole side of the constant conflict of the 1800s and learn the real story of the Unconquered!