Accession 02-027 - Freer Gallery of Art Superintendent of Construction, Correspondence, 1913-1936, Box 1, Folders Letters Regarding Miscellaneous Jobs, 1920-1934. Several of the early folders concern the construction of the museum, which was completed in 1921, and opened to the public in 1923. I chose to focus on the correspondence found in the folder for January to June 1924 to see what was going on in the Freer in its first year after it opened.
The topic that seemed to occupy the most correspondence during this period revolved around artifact display cases. The museum contacted the Chemical Products Division of E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co, Inc. to inquire about a finish for the walnut exhibition cases. The goal was to find a finish that would not alter the natural color of the wood when applied to the material. The company agreed to apply some of their Viscolac finish to wood samples supplied by the Freer in order to ascertain whether or not this product would meet the needs of the gallery. Once the gallery received the walnut samples that had been finished with Viscolac, they discovered that it did not have the desired effect on the wood that they were looking for. The gallery ultimately decided to go with a white shellac applied thinly instead.
Another main topic of the correspondence concerned a request for gummed paper from the R. P. Andrews Paper Company. The Freer Gallery of Art had placed an order for one quire of gummed paper based on a sample provided to Mr. Procise in November 1923. After repeated calls and inquires, the gallery still had not received the paper they requested. On March 20, 1924, the gallery received a bill for the order, even though the paper still had not been received. The paper was finally delivered on April 2, 1924, but it turned out to not be at all like the sample the gallery had originally provided. The company responded with an apology and offered to send along a sample of their gummed glassine paper, which they believed matched the description of what the Freer was looking for. After some back and forth discussion, the gallery agreed to purchase the paper offered by the company, and the issue was resolved.
A few of the letters in the folder caught my interest simply because they covered topics I would not have expected to find. For instance, one letter from a nearby resident complained of chauffers parking in front of his building when there was an abundance of parking available closer to the Freer Gallery of Art building. Another letter from Mr. J. Bundy, Superintendant of the Freer Gallery of Art, to Mr. Goldsmith inquired as to why a nightwatchman’s report of a light being out in the building had to go through so many other people before reaching his desk too late in the day to take action. Mr. Bundy requested that all maintainance reports from the nightwatchmen be given directly to him first thing in the morning so that immediate action can be taken.
- Vote Folder A for Record Unit 64, Smithsonian Institution, Chief Clerk, Records, 1869-1905, Box 12, Folder: Miscellaneous Letters and Memoranda between Smithsonian Officials, 1863-1893
- Vote Folder B for Record Unit 7399 – Hahn William Capps Paper, 1939-1964, Box 1, Folder: Miscellaneous Larval Notes, Sketches, etc. (Unpublished)
- Past Miscellaneous Adventures posts, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives