Leeches ’n Labels

Leech jars, as seen at the New York Academy of Medicine. Courtesy of Nora Lockshin. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

{OFFSTAGE: a shrill scream is heard}: AAAAAGH LEECHES!  WHY? 

Dear readers who haunt this blog,

This creepy collection is brought to you by our annual Hallowe’en blog post!  

Indeed, I look forward to this opportunity every year, but confess I was a little stumped for a topic this time…until I realized I was already working on something that is super scary to a lot of you out there, and that is the horror of actually having to lay hands on, and mark or label, a valuable or priceless artifact for all time!  I mean, how scary is that?!  We spend so much time trying to maintain the pure aesthetic or informational qualities of an original work, protect its overall integrity from all potential harm, and then we go ahead and write on it? With permanent ink or paint?  What is that evil paradox of museum management about?!  

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not that scary, or it doesn’t have to be. I’ve been researching and writing about what spooky things our colleagues do in their weird underground caves to secure our collections. There are plenty of options out there to help you fight the dreadful thoughts that give you nightmares, such as: writing inks might fade away like ghosts; oozing greases that stain and obliterate your labels; protective lacquers that yellow and crizzle like so much rotting… Ok, I’ll just stop right there. 

Image of Limosa haemastica, USNM A8074, with its original field and accession labels, signed by CharClose-up of verso of field label, rendered somewhat transparent by leaching fats from the specimen.

The publication for which I’ve written a chapter on marking and labeling museum collections will be forthcoming later 2016. But as the fates would have it, I’m giving you the peculiar opportunity to gaze deep into my crystal ball, or rather, your crystal LED computer screen.  The kind folks behind the magic curtain at the Caring to Collections Care online community hosted a webinar earlier this week wherein I offer wards against harmful practices, and spells to safely manage your spelling out of tiny letters and numbers. 

Scaredy Cat Club. Courtesy of Flickr user Thomas Hawk, via Creative Commons licence. (CC BY-NC 2.0) Believe me, I was pretty much the biggest scaredy cat of all, realizing that my words and notes would be carried round the world and replayed for all time, much like the infamous War of the Worlds radio production.  (But in this case, there’s no need to go back and explain that it was all made up, because there are lots of resources in the downloadable handouts to support my claims).  To watch it now and forever, like a revivified revenant, do proceed to the archived webinar Marking and Labeling Collections. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Peculiarly yours, Nora.

P.S:  For anyone who has seen the film Crimson Peak, and even if you haven’t (no spoilers here), that patent model? IT’S NOT A TOY. Learn more…in the webinar. 

Related Resourecs

Panoramic Panic Part III, The Bigger Picture Blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Welcome to the Gallery of Horrors! (Enter if you dare!)The Bigger Picture Blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Halloween Humidification Horrors!The Bigger Picture Blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives

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