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Museum Boomers, pt 1

museum boomers

Stuff collector Charles Willson Peale, founder of the Philadelphia Museum via

What To Do When You Say Enough To Stuff?

Stuff comes to us in different ways. Sometimes we find it, sometimes we buy it.

When we get too much stuff we have to make choices. If we have good stuff, we should make good choices.

Baby boomers like making good choices.

Giving stuff to museums is a good choice, but it opens doors of uncertainty.

If it’s good enough for a museum, why not keep it? A donation has some financial impact, but it’s about more than money.

When a museum takes stuff, it’s like a hall of fame enshrining an accomplished athlete or coach. Who wouldn’t want their stuff going into the Stuff Hall of Fame?

Museums keep stuff forever, protect it, show it in exhibits. It is in stuff heaven and the donor is more than an amateur collector, they are contributors to a shared heritage.

It’s a great feeling with no price tag.

People call a museum with the remains of a picked over estate sale, something left behind in a rental house, or stuff found in a bag in the corner of their garage. Sometimes a museum is the first number.

If it’s the last number called, the museum stop usually comes between a thrift store drop off and a trip to the dump.

Every pile of stuff in a museum is different, but they all draw the same questions. Where did it come from? Who dropped it off? Where is it going?

If a museum doesn’t take the stuff there are no questions, just a polite “thank you for coming in.” If they do take it, the donor may need their stuff picked up.

That’s where Museum Boomers comes in.

They pick stuff up. At the Oregon Historical Society, Museum Boomer was a scout trained by an old school team of curators, the ABCs, Archibald, Brentanno, and Cleaver.

They all worked for Tom Vaughan, Mr. Vaughan, who’s tough countenance would fit in the NFL, or the Marines, as well as his role of museum boss. The world he created brought in lots of stuff. If he said he wanted something, he found a way to get it.

Fitness may not be the first characteristic of museums staffs, but the Oregon Historical Society once had a strong crew for big stuff, a sort of museum special response team. They rose to the challenges of the day.

The challenges were risky business

One day someone called to donate a printing press. The team rented a huge truck and piled in heavy dollies and ropes and three quarter inch sheets of plywood.

The press had a room in a house. It was lifted in with a crane before the roof went on. The press was meant to stay in the printing ‘Room of Solitude and Reflection’ where the owner used late 19th Century technology to meditate and make Christmas cards. He worked the peace and the ink.

Getting the press out was impossible if tearing the roof off wasn’t an option. Neither was taking it out a window. Besides, there was no crane.

Even worse, the steep slope by the press room door seemed impassable for tons of iron strapped on huge furniture dollies. The problem asked for resourcefulness, or walking away.

When it was stuff you wanted, or more importantly stuff Mr. Vaughan wanted, you solved the problem one way or another. The big stuff crew went to work.

The press couldn’t move in one piece so they unbolted it. The essential stuff was so much heavier than anyone expected, the body, the wheel, the chase.

It was too late to turn back.

Ropes around trees tied to iron loaded dollies gave the crew time to relay plywood sheets across the slanting backyard.

A wooden highway to the gentle slope on the other side of the house saved the day.

The old press gave a time tested lesson: if an early community wanted to print their own paper, they needed enough people to move a printing press.

If a modern museum wanted to save an old press, they needed a big stuff crew.

They need Museum Boomers.

Museum Boomer pt 2

Museum Boomer pt3

About David Gillaspie
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