Friday, September 30, 2011

A Hiccup in the Plans

Gretchen has the flu.  I don't how I'm going to be able to make it down to the Farmer's Market.  Time to make a plan B, just in case!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Awkward Thursday.

I did manage to get through another couple boxes and a tube this morning.  But I had my daughter with me.  She was too sick to go to kindergarten, so I had her bring a toy and sit in a chair while I worked on stuff.  Which was fine the first 45minutes or so.  Then an event began next door so I couldn't go over there and do anything as far as moving things goes.

But I will make up more than enough time copying flyers and handing them out tomorrow.  We'll see how that all goes!  Black and white for the Farmer's Market and I'll try to get a couple copies of colored ones for the various departments on campus.\

I also spoke to Jeff about the t-shirts this morning.  We're going to set up a time to meet over the next couple weeks to go over possible designs/color combinations/prices for me to bring to the next board meeting Oct. 18.  I'm kind of nervous about that actually!  I'll have to put together a program for me to follow I think.  :-)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So productive it hurts.

I need to find my camera.  We got a LOT done today, a LOT of moving and heavy lifting.

I was cleaning and arranging the research area and going through railroad books (why I need the camera!), and I found some incredible intaglios today.  No idea where they came from (if they were donated, or or done by someone at the depot), but I have a name: S. Neilsen and a year: 1968.  Might have to ask Mark or Anne Marie, if she has any in the Toppan Library.

I also found some other things today that completely threw me for a loop!  What are metal buckles/signs written in ARABIC doing inside one of the original desks at the 1920s train depot in Laramie, Wyoming?  These I'm going to translate.  Of course two of them have the number 3 in Arabic, so that's an easy translation.  But there's a larger red one with white writing, and two small white ones with black writing.  I'll see what I can do, and if I can't figure them out I'll take them to Dr. Ali. 

Besides the exciting things I found, we created space today!  It was exhausting.  I got my workout in today that's for sure.  We move at least a couple hundred pounds of old railroad magazines from the north side of the museum to the caboose.  And it took some pure upper body to lift those boxes into the caboose, that's for sure.  But the next intern that comes through can focus on cataloging, organizing, and setting up the magazines as a functional space inside the caboose.  Hurt my hand moving all those boxes, accidentally squashed my finger between the bottom of the box and the metal trailer.  Hopefully the strange bump on my finger will go away soon. 

And last but not least, we loaded up all the trash for a dump run!  This may not seem like a lot, but the dump run had been put off for so long that the dump pile took up at least a 1/4 of the entire future museum area.  It's amazing how much SPACE we have now! 

We still need to get ontop of Ace to get our furnace in.  That's going to be holding us up if they don't get it in soon, and it's going to be too cold to work in there if they don't get it in before winter!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

Lindsey came by again today.  It' nice when she comes by because we can bounce ideas of each other; we also motivate each other (especially since she's still volunteering and working on arranging the future museum area).

The biggest issue I've discovered with this internship is waiting, and maybe that's an issue with museum in general.  You have an idea or need to get rid of some things (even organizing a dump run takes forever!) and you have to put it to the board and wait for the board to decide.  Well the board only meets once a month and they often can't decide on an issue in one meeting.  It can get frustrating because you know that you will not need thee old frames, or that these photos have nothing to do with the museum's mission, but no power to get rid of them.  So you learn how to work around it- design other projects that don't need the board's approval and keep bringing up the things that do.

I did get okays on my flyer so I'll be printing some of those off this week.  I don't know if I'll have time to get ALL the stickers done that I wanted to, so I might just get some basic ones made for Friday, we'll see.  The fall-time sickness (cold, sinus infections) have entered my house, hopefully that will not slow me down too much.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Graphic Designer for a Day (or a Couple Hours anyway!)

I didn't actually go into the depot this morning, instead I'm sitting at my husband's computer working on flyers to hand out at the last Farmer's Market and maybe elsewhere around town in order to get some interest growing in the depot and hopefully this will generate more donations and volunteers.  This is what I have so far:

We'll see what the board members say, and if they like it, you can catch me handing them out Friday, September 30th downtown from during the Farmer's Market.  :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Productive Day!

Lots of things happened today, it was great!

       Heavy lifting today, and I've got the tired arms and dirty, splinter-ridden hands to prove it. :-)  I love getting down and dirty and manual labor.

       I made a complete floorplan of the building and officially designated each room a function that way when we're cleaning, we know at least which room it needs to go to.

        Also found a lot of framed/wall pieces.  They're going to need to be gone through as well.

So as far as cataloging projects, we have 3:

Wall work/framed stuff/photos/pictures

       This got me thinking as to the depot's mission statement.  Do we need a new one that really identifies what interpretation of history we want to do?  What story do we need to tell?  (Thank you, Introduction to Public History class!)  Once we decided this it will be easier to get rid of stuff.  Sadly there is no way we'll have the room for everything.

       Most of the moving we did today involved heavy wooden cabinets and file cabinets, as I got started on the freight room/gift shop and office.  Some may think it's odd that I am using my museum studies internship to work on things beside the museum itself: gift shop, office, marketing...  But my notion is this: if you don't have a good, well-organized place to work, how do you expect to keep your museum well-organized and under control?  As far as the gift shop goes...  The depot museum is not brand new, There are large areas already set up and working as a museum for visitor's to stop in...and it's open MAYBE two hours a WEEK.  We need more people.  We are a growing museum and we need 2 major things: money and hands.
       Some items for the gift shop we already have, and there's an interest in t-shirts.  If we can have the gift shop open, even if it's not (yet) completely full, by November (for Christmas shopping downtown...) that could be a little extra income for the museum.
       The gift shop is a marketing opportunity.  We need to get out there and advertise ASAP.  Maybe not necessarily for the museum, but for people and donations.  We need to let the community know we're growing and what they can do to help.

       Oh, something else happened today.  I was just beginning to clean when I heard a tug on the door.  A nice older couple wanted to see the museum, so I opened it up to them and was able to answer some questions and tell some stories that I learned from Jerry and Lindsey.  Also showed them the train in the park.  Very nice couple driving through from Idaho to Michigan.  I was very proud of myself for remembering so much.  But I do think a handbook with the history of the different items is still a good idea for current and future interns and volunteers.

       Finally, I was invited to attend the next board meeting.  Kind of exciting.  They want me to explain what I've been doing at the depot and what I think future plans should be.  So I'll be working on that "report" during some of my internship hours as well.  I think it's an important thing to do and to do well.

       I have lots of pictures I need to upload.  My laptop is sadly in a coma (not dead) and I'm having a time using Hank's computer, but I will be getting more pictures up sooner rather than later I hope!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Box Day: Monday

Went through more boxes today.  I figured Monday will be box day (after all it is still a project that needs to get done), Wednesday will be project day (cleaning, organizing freight room, writing down history), and Thursday will be computer day- which reminds me, I need to find a calendar program to put on the Depot's computer so we can all keep track of when the depot is being rented, used, open...  (board members too).

I'm also emailing Jay, going to look at the logo and see what we can do with it.

I had an interesting thought today.  It is stated that anything 50 years old or older is "historic" (at least that's what I learned in my Intro. to Archaeology class).  If that's true, then presently anything newer than 1961 is NOT historic.  Here at the depot I am handling a wide range of decades- from the turn of the century to the 1970s.  Should I be separating them from '61 and later?  Maybe a project for later when these boxes are going through again to be more organized (right now we're just seeing what we even HAVE).

I did discover something interesting today, however, going through the boxes.  A Mr. Burchfield burned his ankles on the job (with scalding hot water) and was given a $500 allowance for it.  He originally wanted $1000 but he settled for less.  He was in the hospital for 3 days in Rawlins, then in Laramie under the care of Dr. Storey who estimated a 2-3 period of disability, as both ankles had 3rd degree burns.  This injury could have led to the redesign of the switch that contributed to his burns.  In this file there was a transcript of the interview of Mr. Burchfield.  It was so easy to get hurt or killed working on the railroads.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Computer Thursday

I added the 53rd box this morning to our inventory/excel spreadsheet!  And we probably have around 40 boxes left to organize and put together.  Phew.

I also "played around" with the new computer at the depot to make sure it would accept Microsoft Excel, and went through it to make sure nothing was changed or corrupted during the uploading process.  So now we have a central "hub" where the inventory database is stored and for easy access to anyone who needs to pull something up while they're there at the depot.  I also have a back-up on my thumb drive.  Back-ups are ALWAYS a good idea.  Especially when you have over 50 boxes and tubes described and labeled.

I did get some more pictures, but I need to get them uploaded.  Keep your eyes peeled for those!

RIP Donald Conwell

Wednesday went by fast.  Faster than normal, which is a nice change of pace.  The boxes are getting tedious, especially as we’re reaching the point of finding nothing but binders, binders that will not fit in the boxes we currently have.  So off to a new project!

However, before I jump into my new project, I want to talk about some things I did find in the boxes, one of the good boxes I’d say.  It was a stack of employee files.   Just letters, telegrams, discharge slips, health insurance forms each divided by individual.  I happen to come across such a stack belonging to Donald Conwell.  What caught my attention was form 5075 from January 1931.  It’s a form that was used when an employee’s status changed in a department (transferred, resigned, discharged, etc).  Donald’s form stated he was born August 1907 and he was a “helper” (probably in maintenance for a while).  His reason for leaving service?  Deceased.  He was younger than 24 years old when he died.  He also had 4 lay-offs and died before he turned 24.  I was interested in how a person so young could have died so I read through his papers, and here’s what I found out:

Donald was single, living with his mother on Flint St.  He did get health insurance through the railroad and his mother was his beneficiary.  

There was a lot of paperwork in his stack as compared to others, and I later found out why while reading through, determined to find out how he died.

Accidental Death.

But the most intriguing thing after that discovery was the subject of the extra letters in his stack.  Letters discussing his birthday.  According to the railroad, Donald listed his birthday at 1907 when he began working in 1927.  However, when compiling the necessary documents after he died, they discovered that his birth certificate said 1909.  Letters between various railroad superintendents went back and forth trying to decide which date was accurate.  Finally a letter from Donald’s mother, Martha, settled the matter.  1909 is the correct date.  Which got me thinking, if Donald really did tell the railroad that his birthday was 1907, could he have lied about his age to get the job?  I spoke with Jerry and he said it was pretty common back then to lie about your age in order to be able to work.  Today you can’t do that with all the paperwork you have to bring in before your hired!

But the sad part, was he was even younger when he died than previously thought!  He was 21, a few months away from his 22nd birthday.  He was 6 years younger than I am today.  It’s moments like this that make history real.

Ok, on to new project(s)!  I have set out a short plan over the next few weeks.  Next week we are going to start cleaning out the Freight Office to make a giftshop.  Hopefully we can get that cleaned up and moderately set up by their Open House in November.  

Secondly, I want to get a digital file of the Depot logo to take to Jeff Hubbell and get some preliminary numbers for printing t-shirts.  I want to have the numbers and some possible color combinations put together for the next train board meeting for them to discuss in mid-October. 
In addition to that, if I have time, I’d like to put together a B&W flyer and maybe have some stickers printed out to hand out at the last Farmer’s Market to let the community know that we are trying to expand the museum and we need volunteers.  Get some increased interest and hopefully more volunteers and donations.

Finally, if we do get the volunteers, there are several jobs for them to do.  The current museum space needs regular open hours for visitors to come through.  Right now, it is almost never open except from 2-4 on most Fridays and there are people that would like to stop by.  Either interns or volunteers could open that side of the museum to allow more visits which could equal more interest and more donations.  However, there’s a lot of history in those old photographs and artifacts.  I want to create a type of handbook (maybe eventually a published catalog) of all the artifacts/photographs currently on display.  I realize this is a long-term project.  Especially when we start the second book for the telegraph room (it most definitely deserves its own book!).  Jerry is a great resource for this.  His grandfather and father worked on the railroad here in Laramie, and he grew up here as a boy.  He has seen Laramie grow from a much smaller town to what it is today.  As a starting point, Jerry and I will go through the museum photograph by photograph, artifact by artifact, and I will write down what he has to say about each one.  Additional research will be done to verify dates and facts.  This is a very ambitious project that will take a good bit of time, and research and creating the hard-copy of this handbook will probably be done away from the depot, less I get distracted.  ;-)

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Real Monday

Mondays are strange days.  They're not too long, they're just after the weekend and this is my first official Monday on my own.  The first Monday I was here it was a type of orientation, the next Monday was Labor Day, and finally today.

I do have good news, however.  The depot now has a working computer, yay!  The city gave us a free older computer (and it is old, the "Gateway" logo popped up when we turned it on this morning) and we don't have internet (but we don't need internet right now anyway) but we at least have a central location for the excel file and inventory database.  I won't have to bring my laptop anymore.  Wednesday I'm going to bring the working excel file and make sure it is accepted into the non-windows platform.  Fingers crossed!

Lindsey came by, so I ran by her some ideas of the freight room and office space.  I'll speak to Jacy about these ideas too, see if she's up to take over the boxes while I focus on cleaning and re-organizing the freight room into a giftshop, the conductor's room into a multi-functional office, and marketing.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday, Short Day.

Today was my short day at the depot.  I entered in the new boxes we put together yesterday. Unfortunately, we will need to get through all these boxes/documents before we can do much else, so several of my posts in the coming weeks will deal with these boxes.  I will try to break up the monotony by getting some photos.  Today I grabbed some photos of the baggage labels:

And of the great first aid poster:


Wednesday, September 7

       I felt like Indiana Jones this morning, except I was blowing dust of old dirty documents instead of gleaming golden objects.
       I also discovered that on a cloudy, dark, rainy day when you're all alone and its early in the morning, the train depot can be a little creepy.  With stacks of boxes everywhere, and various cabinets  and benches and carts piled up, with the shadows the rain and clouds make- it starts to mess with your mind a little bit.  You start wondering if you're being watched by someone or something.  I actually ran past a glass door this morning because the boxes on the other side looked like the silhouette of a person, even though I knew full well that it was just boxes.  How embarrassing.
       Visiting the Frontier Prison in Rawlins yesterday has caused me to look at this place differently.  We had an excellent tour guide there who knew a lot of the stories of what happened at that museum from the inmates diaries.  Even though this depot isn't quite as old as the prison, how wonderful would it be to find a diary about the events that went on here, back in the 20s or 30s or so, from a personal and not professional (like the letters and telegrams I've been coming across) perspective.
       Since Lindsey has already come up with a "map" of the incoming baggage room (the largest part of the extended museum space), I was thinking of focusing on the Freight Office and train.  And after the discussion with Jerry, it looks like the Freight Office has a good chance of becoming the future gift shop to the museum.  This gives me loads of ideas for marketing.  One of these ideas is stickers.  Tomorrow or Monday I'll bring my camera back in and take photos of everything that would make a good sticker, including all the baggage labels.  By sharing these stickers, maybe it'll spark more interest in the depot, either by increasing volunteers/interns or visitors or sponsors.  i think I could get into the marketing aspect of museum work.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

Celebrate all you workers, and think about all the railroad workers that gave their lives for the railroad.  Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, September 2, 2011


While Wednesdays are my long days (8:15-1:15), Thursdays are my short days.  I have class at 11, so I go in from about 8:15-10:15ish.  I'm still trying to find a system that works for me.                  
   I'm thinking I will focus on actually going through boxes on Mondays and Wednesdays, while I use my brief time on Thursdays to enter them into the inventory we have using Microsoft Excel.  It's kind of crazy how much time it takes to enter them in.  And I have realized that I'm too detailed in my descriptions of things for this stage in the game.  Oh well, it's going to have to get done sooner or later, and when I put in the details I feel better and I know that whoever takes over down the road will appreciate my work. 

       On a related note, I can't decide if having another intern at the same time is as helpful as I hoped.  She's sweet, but she has so many questions I feel like I'm using the time when we work together (Thursdays) answering her questions instead of getting anything done!  She has a LOT of questions.  Maybe they do things differently in China with their museums.  I should ask her next time I see her.

       Though I did get some pictures today to share with you!
This is where I spend most of my time right now going through boxes....
And below are images of the stamp box we discovered on Wednesday.  I know it may not seem like much, but after a few hours of going through documents, finding an object is a nice surprise. I would still like to maybe try to get some more information about it, I'm sure there's a lot of information about this little guy out there, surely there's not too uncommon.