While it’s common to find old lace in museum collections, you might be surprised to learn that hazardous materials like arsenic can also be found in many museums. A few days ago, while cataloging a sad iron (sad being an old word for solid), I was surprised to find the name Asbestos Sad Iron printed on the iron. Upon closer inspection, I found a layer of asbestos in the space between the iron and the handle. This asbestos lining kept heat from reaching the handle and the hand of the person ironing. Today, we know that asbestos causes serious health issues, but when this iron was manufactured in the early 1900s, the dangers of asbestos were unknown.
Asbestos is not the only harmful materials found within museum collections. Arsenic was commonly used in taxidermy to help keep bugs from destroying skins and furs. Mercury, cyanide, formaldehyde, and strychnine are some of the other chemicals which can sometimes be found on or in museum artifacts. Some museums even house radioactive artifacts.
Hopefully this list of hazardous materials won’t keep you from visiting museums! In the average museum, artifacts containing these materials are only a tiny fraction of the entire collection. These artifacts still tell important stories, and when the proper steps are taken, the risks associated with these items are minimal.
Artifacts like the Asbestos Sad Iron are individually bagged and clearly labeled, both on the artifact and in our collections database. This ensures that the iron is not accidentally handled. Using safety procedures like wearing gloves and respirators and, most importantly, interacting these objects as little as possible minimizes risks. Many large museums have a cabinet or room dedicated exclusively to hazardous materials, which ensures that exposure to these artifacts is kept to a minimum. In severe cases, museums can send affected artifacts to professionals for treatment.
Medical museums, geology museums, and museums with a large number of taxidermy mounts have to deal with these materials on a regular basis. Fortunately, our collections are highly unlikely to contain these sorts of chemicals. The Asbestos Sad Iron is definitely an outlier here at the Ephraim Historical Foundation!
-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin
Karen Ekberg as Ida Seiler Sohns
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit with someone who lived on this earth 100 to 150 years ago? If you come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery on September 11, you will have the opportunity to do just that. For the last several years the Ephraim Historical Foundation, in conjunction with the Ephraim Moravian Church, has presented a cemetery walk called the “DEARLY DEPARTED.” Read More
EHF garment collections storage
In a previous blog post, I talked about how an artifact in the EHF collection is cataloged. Today, I’ll share how the photograph from your great-grandmother’s photo album or the washtub in your neighbor’s attic can become part of the Ephraim Historical Foundation collections.
It’s important to note that the EHF cannot accept all the items that are suggested. Part of our mission is to preserve the artifacts in the collection, which requires time, space, and funds. To keep those artifacts safe for future generations, we sometimes have to make tough decisions about what we can and cannot accept. Here are a few reasons an item may not be accepted into the EHF collection. Read More
We often talk about Wisconsin, Door County, and Ephraim history in terms of image and text-based artifacts, like photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, and postcards. A project called Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects is sharing Wisconsin history in a different way – through three-dimensional artifacts. Specifically, it focuses on objects which tell distinctly Wisconsin stories, like the Babcock Butterfat Tester or Old Abe, the Live War Eagle. Anyone can propose an object to be included on the Wisconsin 101 website, with object categories like Arts & Leisure, Education, and Transportation. Read More
The fully unfurled flag
As work on the upcoming EHF exhibit continues, we faced the challenge of displaying Greta Anderson’s flag. Greta, an early Ephraim resident who married Aslag Anderson, sewed this 35-star flag during the Civil War. Her cousin, Torger Torgersen, was in the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment and is one of the soldiers featured in the new exhibit.
Greta’s flag, at over 150 years old, is delicate and was obviously flown at some point. There are some tears and damage due to age. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is size: the flag is 7.5 feet wide by 12 feet long. Despite the display challenges, the flag needed to be included in the exhibit. It tells an important story about Ephraim during the Civil War and about Greta Anderson. Read More
The 2017 Anderson Barn Museum exhibit tells the stories of eight Civil War soldiers with connections to Ephraim. Some enlisted from Ephraim or the surrounding area, and others came here later in life. The exhibit will focus on Andrew Anderson, Goodlet Goodletson, Michael Kalmbach, Christian “Charley” Morbeck, Carl Nelson, Tallack Tallackson, Torger Torgersen, and Henry Sherman Vail.
Though each of the eight soldiers has a unique story, there are shared experiences in their lives. All eight men enlisted voluntarily, and seven of the eight joined in the same year, 1862. Four of the eight joined the same company and regiment, Company F of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Seven of the eight were immigrants: six from Norway and one from Germany. And three of the eight did not survive the Civil War. Read More
Dress form base
PVC pipe with drilled holes
One of the challenges in displaying garments from the EHF collection is changes in body shapes and sizes over the years. Many of the dresses in our collection come from a time when women wore corsets and other complex undergarments to fit into smaller clothing. The EHF’s dress forms are a standard size for modern clothing, but are too large in the hips and waist for clothing like Munda Anderson’s 1880s dress. Miss Munda’s waist was around 22 inches, or about a size 0 in today’s clothing. In fact, her dress is too small to even fit on our child’s dress form. Archival forms can cost thousands of dollars, so we needed to find a different way to display our smaller garments. Thanks to Dave, our dedicated handyman, we came up with a great solution. In this blog, we’ll show you how we made a dress form with minimal materials and cost. Read More
Welcome to the Ephraim Historical Foundation’s brand new blog. We thought it would be fun to publish little snippets of information every so often to keep you abreast of upcoming pleasures, events, and happenings, and to remind you of stories from Ephraim’s past. There is so much history in our little village, and since we love every single bit of it, we simply have to share it.
I remember that when I was a little girl, the “old timers” would talk about past happenings with great pleasure and interest, but I didn’t give it much thought.
As I got older, I began to realize the value of old stories, often repeated, and I began to store them in my own memory bank. Now I am fast approaching “old timer” status, certainly “long timer” status.
Here are a few things from my memory bank:
Did you know that: at one time there were three general stores in our little Ephraim?
That after finally getting one sawmill, there were suddenly five of them?
That our post office is currently occupying its sixth location, and that the first one was just a metal box on a shelf in the bedroom of a private home?
People often ask if we have written it all down, or recorded it. The blog will be our answer to that. Jotting down some stories for you to read will provide something of a local historical journal and may cause some of you to recall stories as well! Please let us know when that happens, as we hope to have guest bloggers occasionally to keep things fresh. Send an email to EHF Marketing and Volunteer Director Emily Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will move from one topic to another, and from one time period to another to keep interesting.
Thanks for reading,
Miss Munda in the dress on her 80th birthday
Winter is the perfect time for working in the Archives and the EHF staff started an important collections project last week—cleaning Munda Anderson’s dress. Miss Munda helped run the store for many years and is an important figure in the Anderson Store’s history. She made this cotton dress in the mid-1880s and even wore it for her 80th birthday in 1949. The dress has been on display for many years and is an important artifact in sharing the history of the Andersons and the store. Read More
Shoes in the Anderson Store Museum
If you’ve ever visited the Anderson Store Museum, you’ve likely noticed the display of shoes in the back corner. These shoes were once available for purchase in the Store and vary widely in type and style. This winter, the EHF staff decided to undertake a big project: inventorying the shoe collection which, at last count, consisted of 173 shoes (81 pairs and 11 single shoes).
We began by collecting all the shoes from the Anderson Store and bringing them to the EHF offices. Here is the process that each shoe or pair of shoes will undergo to be properly documented and cleaned. Read More