That had to be my favorite day, as it morphed from handling the objects in the room to having several employees in the museum show me the various archives and vaults that I had yet to see. I clearly didn't understand the scope of the museum collections nor what their accreditation meant for a museum in a city of this size. When I went to explore the kits that belonged to the senior reminiscence program, I obviously had my expectations. In knowing what I did about the program, the objects had to focus on those objects that senior citizens would have considered to be defaults of everyday use and the reality of everyday life. So, when I started pulling out hats, pearl encrusted clutches, boots and match boxes, it was not what the objects were but what they obviously represented at one time. What I mean to say is that a faded history is obvious in these similarly faded objects. The pearls on that lonely clutch are placed out of artistry rather than out of a metal hands calculation and the virginal color of the fabric speaks of someone who knows that this clutch will be THE clutch for them rather than this holiday's mainstay. The matchbox is not cheap cardboard, nor are they small pocket sized things to forget in your pocket until you decide to wash your pants that weekend.
Then, toward the end of the 11th hour, I discovered this.
As a writer and a lover of those who are known to toil over their words, I was instantly smitten with this. Having just finished F. Scott Fitzgerald's collection of essays entitled "The Crackup", whose cover features a warped and nearly disabled typewriter, I was reminded of the power of the written word and how my task at the museum carried the potential to allocate a great amount of power and understanding from the community to our senior citizens with Dementia and memory loss. There are so many misconceptions about the writer: That they sell everything but their hands in order to practice their art that they compose by candlelight, that their loneliness can only be alleviated by expressing their feelings and that they are otherwise unfit for the social interaction that most of us would call "normal". And, while I think these concepts are cringe-worthy, I suddenly saw the connection between the memories, Fitzgerald, falling out one's own "jazz age" and the impact that can be forgotten like this typewriter, and our memories that can be broken like the keys to a legend's instrument.
As would become pretty standard at the museum when anyone found something so interesting someone else just had to see it, I went to mention the typewriter to Hannah in the education department. It is possible that I had more enthusiasm about a typewriter that the computer generation had seen in quite a while and I only remember saying something along the lines of that typewriter is positively Fitzgerald! Hannah smiled and said, have you seen the Gargoyle head? I think I knew at that point that the rest of the afternoon would be interesting. After hearing about the gargoyle head, I made sure to ask everyone I could for access to the various repositories and vaults at the museum. They are scattered and tucked away in hallways and corners in the museum, but when their doors open, you can see the extreme dedication to history and preservation that drives the museum.
Some of the artifacts in the McLean County Museum are amazing. The gargoyle head is indeed worth it and indeed ferocious. Worthy enough of the title of gargoyle. There are no shortage of hand painted teacups on delicate round, square and gold rimmed saucers, unique canes (one with a whole kernel of corn on the handle) and a menorah. The corn I am familiar with, but the menorah I have never seen in person. There are also the amazing flapper dresses from the 1920's- yet another link to Fitzgerald and his unique wife Zelda- and so many photos from every decade that one can almost watch Bloomington grow and change, frame by frame. I have never worked in a museum, nor have I had much exposure to museum studies. It is this inexperience that has not proven invaluable, but has kept the museum interesting and me amazed at how a local museum in a smaller town has managed to gain some of the most prestigious and impressive awards and accreditation in the world of museum studies.