LeRoy Jimerson Jr. ’41: From Gowanda to Gemini

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Today’s Phillips Academy students often ask about the students of the past. Since November is Native American Heritage Month, the topic of Indigenous alumni often comes up. Happily, we are in touch with some recent alums, like Emma Slibeck ’20, who led efforts last year to create an Indigenous Land Acknowledgment, and Tristin Moone ’10, past member of the Peabody Advisory Committee. Paige Roberts, Academy archivist, maintains a list of notable Native American alumni, and we were happy to add LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (January 21, 1923 – September 28, 1991) to that list during some recent collections research.

From the Pot Pourri–Phillips Academy yearbook for 1941

Jimerson was the son of Seneca leader LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Sr. of the Cattaraugus Reservation, Gowanda, New York. He attended Phillips Academy for one year, graduating in 1941. The senior Jimerson was an accomplished carpenter, attended Hampton University (a HBCU in Virginia that has some PA connections in its founding), established a scholarship fund for Native students, and served in Seneca leadership positions throughout his adult life.

After Phillips Academy, LeRoy Jimerson Jr. served in the Navy and pursued interests in electrical engineering and computers. He was an instructor at the Great Lakes Naval Base and at Treasure Island, California. Jimerson, in 1949, received a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Established in 1932 by the Michigan Board of Regents, that scholarship acknowledged the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs, which had required tribes to cede millions of acres to the federal government, some of which ultimately went to the university. Perhaps an early version of an institutional land acknowledgment?

LeRoy Jimerson building an analog computer–from Boys’ Life magazine, 1951

A profile in 1951 Boys’ Life combines quaint anecdotes and stereotypes of life on the reservation with Jimerson’s academic success and interest in computers. The story appeared shortly after Jimerson completed his studies at the University of Michigan, but includes a lot of information on his post-graduate year at Phillips Academy when he “joined the school band, ran as a member of the cross-country squad, distinguished himself as a math student, won a Latin prize, and was elected to a cum laude (honor) society.” In the Boys’ Life article, he describes general acceptance by his fellow Academy students, relating one instance where an international student wanted to know why he wasn’t wearing paint and feathers. Today we recognize this as a micro-aggression, akin to the numerous accounts found on the black@andover Instagram page.

In the 1950s, Jimerson worked for Schlumberger, an oil field services company. Here he was involved in developing a magnetic resonance apparatus with scientist and engineer Francois F. Kirchner. Nuclear magnetic resonance continues to be used in oil prospecting today.

Block diagram of Gemini’s guidance system–from https://virtualagc.github.io/virtualagc/Gemini.html

IBM, in Owego, NY, recruited Jimerson in June 1957, where he was quickly promoted to senior engineer. In 1962, McDonnell Aircraft contracted with IBM to provide the guidance systems for Gemini. From 1962 to 1966, Jimerson worked as a computer engineer on the NASA Gemini mission, laying the groundwork for Apollo and the moon landing a few years later. In an interview, Jimerson recalled that, “It was like a blitzkrieg, people didn’t know what hit them” (Time-Life Books 1993:33). According to a document prepared in 2012, Jimerson originated the math flows needed in the computer programming for the Gemini missions. Math flows–in this context–are detailed flowcharts like the one shown here, showing the sequence of algorithms that underlie computer code. At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Jimerson and his family relocated to Herndon, Virginia, though it is not clear if he continued working for IBM.

LeRoy S. Jimerson (left) and David R. Baldauf, two of IBM’s Federal Systems Division engineers, study graphic output of Gemini rendezvous data. The image originally appeared in the August 1962 issue of an internal IBM publication called Business Machines. Courtesy of International Business Machines Corporation, © 1962 International Business Machines Corporation.

Jimerson died on September 28, 1991 in Sarasota, Florida, where he had retired with his family in the mid-1980s. The picture that emerges from the few interviews that we located, is that LeRoy Jimerson Jr. was an accomplished scientist and engineer who worked on one of the country’s early and significant space flight programs. His time at Phillips Academy was short and well spent, and a stop along an educational career that included one of the top scientific and technical programs–the University of Michigan. Until recently, LeRoy Jimerson wasn’t on our radar. We are hopeful that Phillips Academy can connect with more Native and Indigenous students–it is clear we have a lot to offer one another.

Further Reading

Buffalo Courier Express (1961) LeRoy Jimerson Obituary. February 23, 1961, p. 27.

Crump, Irving (1951) Indian Cum Laude. Boys’ Life (March 1951):27, 64.

IBM (1962) Putting a Man on the Moon: America’s Next Step. Business Machines (August 1962):18-19.

Jamestown Post Journal (1961) Famed Seneca Indian Leader, LeRoy S. Jimerson, 72, Dies. February 23, 1961.

Kirchner, Francois F., and LeRoy Spencer Jimerson Jr. (1961) 2,996,658 Magnetic Resonance Apparatus (originally filed December 12, 1955). United States Patent Office, Washington DC. https://patents.google.com/patent/US2996658A/en

Mooney, Pat, and Charlie Leist (2012) Gemini Programing Development and Verification Process. https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/Documents/Gemini_Peer_Reviews.pdf

Thomas, Amelia Kennedy (2015) Iroquois False Face Masks: Living Representation of Spirits. https://indian.hklaw.com/ESSAYS/2015/ID105.pdf

Time-Life Books (1993) Space. Time-Life Book, New York.

“…and his spirit still lives”

Contributed by Marla Taylor

October is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the changing leaves here in New England, the crisp air, and seeing all the creative Halloween costumes that people come up with.  This is also a time for sharing spooky stories and strange experiences…

Have you ever noticed this plaque at the Peabody?

This plaque is next to the front door of the Peabody Institute

Warren K. Moorehead (1866-1939) was the first curator and second director of the Peabody Institute (then known as the Department of Archaeology).  If you don’t know anything about him and his relationship with the Peabody, just try searching ‘Moorehead’ on our blog.  I’ll wait. 

Moorehead was definitely a strong personality.  And I, personally, think some part of his spirit does still live at the Peabody. 

Several years ago, there were a series of strange disturbances that were happening at the Peabody.  I don’t have the space to tell you everything, but here are a couple that I personally experienced:

One morning, Lindsay and I were the first staff in the building and let ourselves into the basement office space.  Sprawled across the floor by our kitchen area were paper plates, a glass shelf (an extra for the fridge), and various other little things that had been on top of the microwave.  These things could NOT have fallen like this on their own – it looked like something had swiped its arm and pushed everything onto the floor.  Lindsay and I had been the last ones out and were now the first ones in.  We immediately photographed what we saw (I am so sorry that I can’t find that photo!) and did some follow-up.  No motion alarm had gone off all night and our pest management company found no evidence of an animal.

Another time, a couple years ago, I was talking to work duty students and explaining that Moorehead used to exchange or give away artifacts that I really wish had stayed in our collection.  Just as I was mid-sentence in a rebuke of his cavalier behavior, a photographic portrait of him fell from the wall and smashed its frame.  This portrait had been hanging in the same spot for my entire tenure at the Peabody (at that point, about 10 years) and had never fallen before.  The students and I exchanged shocked looks and I quickly apologized to Moorehead for bad-mouthing him.

Moorehead (he is the one standing) now rests on the floor. Although this was printed for an old exhibition, I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of the photo.

Shortly after these incidents, Ryan wrote a note to Moorehead explaining that we were taking care of the building and the collections and that we respected and appreciated him.  Ryan slid the note behind the plaque by the front door and the strange occurrences stopped.

I am not big believer in the supernatural, but I do think Moorehead’s spirit does reside in the Peabody in some form.  In my opinion, he is a pretty benign ghost who just wants to ensure that the collection and the building are getting their proper respect and care – I strive to meet his standards.

The Making of the Peabody Annual Report

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

To many institutions, the annual report is one of the most important pieces of information. A single document, yet a powerful tool in communicating an institution’s performance during each fiscal year. Each fall the Peabody presents their annual report to the public, highlighting their achievements, overall performance of the past year, as well as their goals and objectives for the coming year. Not only does the annual report provide a snap shot of what a year at the Peabody looks like, it provides transparency of the institution to the public and its local community.

The making of the Peabody annual report includes several staff members who collaborate in the documentation, writing, and gathering of the material across several departments within the Peabody. These include: Administration (Ryan, Director), Education and Outreach (Lindsay, Curator of Education and Outreach and Ryan, Director), Collections (Marla, Curator of Collections), and Peabody Donors and Support (Beth, PA Director for Museums and Educational Outreach). Once the information is gathered and content is written, I take over to design the overall layout of the annual report.

A page from the 2020 Peabody Annual Report

Using the Adobe InDesign software, I create each page spread using the information that staff give me. When designing, it is important to always keep in mind the overall flow of information and that the format/design features are cohesive throughout the document. Something new I incorporated into the report this year were black and white photographs from the Peabody archives. I used these photographs as transitions between specific sections of the report to provide a natural break, while still maintaining the overall flow of the report. I also had a little fun creating a new page dedicated to our collections remote work during Covid-19.

Photograph from the Peabody archives used in the 2020 Peabody Annual Report

I really enjoy designing the annual report and watching all the work Peabody staff put into the year unfold with the design of each page. Not only does it provide an opportunity for each department to feature their success and performance, its where all the Peabody’s work finally comes together.

You can view the 2020 Peabody Annual Report here. Enjoy!

What’s on the Window?

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Returning to the Peabody Institute on a more regular basis this month led me to rediscovery an interesting little artifact on the window of my office. When I first joined the Peabody in 2012, my colleagues pointed this out to me, but it has remained largely covered up by window blinds since an initial peek.

Singleton Peabody Moorehead’s name scratched on the windowpane in the director’s office.

The artifact in question is a scratched signature on a glass windowpane: S. P. Moorehead. Singleton Peabody Moorehead was our first curator’s youngest son.

When I first saw this little relic of past occupants, I imagined the younger Moorehead scratching the signature using his father’s emerald ring. That ring is a prominent feature in pictures of Moorehead, and I can imagine a mischievous child borrowing the ring and testing the stone’s hardness on the nearest handy surface: his father’s office window.

Robert Singleton Peabody, our founder, lent his name to the younger Moorehead. In fact, S. P. Moorehead was born in October 1900, right around the time that his father Warren and Robert Peabody were imagining the Department of Archaeology, our name in the early part of the twentieth century. Robert had befriended the elder Moorehead and hired him about a decade earlier to help amass a collection of Native American objects. He also provided convalescent facilities when Moorehead was recovering from tuberculosis. In fact, Singleton Moorehead was born at Saranac, New York where his father was recovering at Peabody’s cabin.

Moorehead’s entry in the 1918 Phillips Academy yearbook.

So who was Singleton Peabody Moorehead? He grew up on Hidden Field Road on the Phillips Academy campus, and graduated from the school in 1918. During his time at Phillips, Singleton, or “Sing,” played football, swam, and served as art editor for the Academy’s yearbook Pot-Pourri. He also participated in archaeological projects, including Alfred V. Kidder’s excavations at Pecos Pueblo, New Mexico. Both of Warren Moorehead’s sons, Ludwig and Singleton, served in World War I. After a brief military service, Singleton attended Harvard, where he received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture (BA in 1922 and M. Arch. in 1927). At Harvard, he continued his association with archaeologists, including a friendship with Philip Phillips. One wonders to what extent Moorehead’s exposure to archaeology prepared him for the Colonial Williamsburg project that became his life’s work?

Moorehead’s elevation of Colonial Williamsburg Block 17; Block 8: Duke of Gloucester Street.

Singleton joined the Boston architectural firm Perry, Shaw and Hepburn in 1928 and almost immediately began work at the firm’s field office in Williamsburg, Virginia. Here he was involved in the restoration work of Colonial Williamsburg, ultimately joining the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 1934, where he worked as director of architecture from 1944 through 1948, and then as a consultant. So, if you’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg, you know Singleton Moorehead’s work! Perhaps one of the best-known structures at Colonial Williamsburg is the capitol building, reconstructed based on elevations, archival descriptions, and archaeological investigations conducted under the director of the Perry, Shaw and Hepburn architects. Another Colonial Williamsburg favorite is Chowning’s Tavern; a 2016 newspaper story on the 1939 reconstruction attributes much of the character of Chowning’s to Moorehead, who was interested in the quotidian aspects of eighteenth century architecture.

Moorehead’s birds-eye view of Pecos Pueblo, from Alfred Kidder’s 1958 “blue book” Pecos Notes.

He married Cynthia Beverley Tucker Coleman, a descendant of St. George Tucker, a colonial resident of Williamsburg. A New York Times (December 12, 1964) obituary notes his involvement in many other historic preservation and architectural projects, as well as contributions to two books, Colonial Williamsburg: Its Buildings and Gardens (1949) and The Public Buildings of Williamsburg (1958), and authorship of many articles. One such crossover project was Kidder’s revisit of his Pecos excavation, including detailed architectural plans executed by Singleton and published as one of the Peabody Foundation “blue books” in 1958.

S. P. Moorehead died in December 1964 and is interred in the Bruton Parish Church cemetery in Williamsburg.

Further Reading

Lounsbury, Carl R. (1990) Beaux-Arts Ideals and Colonial Reality: The Reconstruction of Williamsburg’s Capitol. Journal of the Society of Architectural History 49(4):373-389.

New York Times (1964) Singleton P. Moorehead Dead: Colonial Williamsburg Planner. December 13, 1964, p. 86.

Singleton P. Moorehead Streetscapes, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation https://rocklib.omeka.net/collections/show/11

Out of the basement and into the basement

Contributed by John Bergman-McCool

RSP to Home
4 months of working in my basement and now, I’m back in the Peabody basement.

After four months of working from home, the Peabody is in its third week of a return to almost normal collections work. The two inventory specialists, Emily and myself, are working alternating weeks at the Peabody in order to continue our inventory work. With one week completed, it feels good to be back working toward our goal of a complete inventory of the collection. While working remotely will be an ongoing reality, I would like to share some of what I have been up to at home thus far.

With everything shutting down in March, Marla was quick to come up with projects that could be completed remotely. Her post in April outlined collections materials that were less sensitive and therefore reasonable to take home. I started with photographing site records from Peru and then moved to digitizing vacuum treatment paperwork related to Integrated Pest Management of the collections. We all contributed to finalizing the digitization of the original ledger books, our institution’s version of accession books. Now we have a searchable document with 75,000 records!

Work from home stuff copy
Everything I’ve worked on from home

My favorite project has been photographing and editing photographic slides held in the collection. They include images documenting past exhibits and openings at the Robert S. Peabody Museum and photographs of the collections. The most interesting slides by far have been of Copeland Marks’s travels in Guatemala and South Korea. Mr. Marks was a textile collector who focused on the traditional clothing of ethnic Maya people living in the Guatemalan highlands. Some of his textiles became part of our collection at the Peabody. He would later write several cookbooks on cuisine covering locales ranging from the Mediterranean to South America. The slides I was working with document his travels in Guatemala spanning the 1960s through the 1980s. The subjects in the photographs cover everyday life, the dramatic volcanic landscape of the highlands and ceremonial life- all of which have been a great escape from the realities of coronavirus lockdown.

00.3.1585 copy
00.3.1585- People of San Pedro La Laguna.

It is anybody’s guess when life will return to normal. For the foreseeable future work at the Peabody will be interspersed with the strange blur of working from home with frustratingly cute interruptions from kids and dirty dishes. Until then I have to thank Marla for keeping us safely working from home during these crazy times.

lunch for 2
Oh yeah, I can’t forget my other work from home duty- silly lunches for the kids.

Henry Inman Portraits at the Peabody

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

Three distinctive oil paintings attributed to artist Henry Inman (1801-1846) are among the collections of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology. These paintings are part of a larger group of portraits created by Inman to produce the hand colored lithographs that appeared in the three volumes of The History of Indian Tribes of North America (1836-1844) by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. Specifically, the Peabody paintings depict Petalesharo (90.181.10), Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter (90.181.11), and Mohongo and Child (90.181.12). The source material for the Inman paintings were original works created principally in Washington DC by portrait painter Charles Bird King (1785-1862). The bulk of the King originals were destroyed in a fire in 1865.

Image shows an oil painting of a Native American man with feather headdress and spontoon pipe, metal gorget at the neck and metal gauntlets.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Ki-On-Twog-Ky, or Cornplanter.

Today, original editions of the McKenney and Hall volumes and individual lithographs are valuable and highly sought after, but at the time the project was not a financial success. Many of the Inman portraits (at least 100 or more) were given to the Tilestone and Hollingsworth Paper Company of Milton, MA, who had supplied paper for the book project. The families of Edmund Tilestone and Amor Hollingsworth made a gift of the paintings to the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in 1882. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Harvard museum sold many of the Inman paintings in their collection, ultimately retaining twenty-five.

Image of cleaned oil painting showing Native American man with eagle feather headdress, silver peace medal necklace, and fur robes.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Petalesharo after a recent cleaning.

Comparison with the list of Harvard’s original holdings indicates that the three Inman portraits at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology did not come from that source. The frames also are quite different; the paintings at Harvard have simple wood frames, with descriptive plaques affixed, while those at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology have ornate frames with gold leaf. In correspondence on file, former museum director Richard S. MacNeish told then director James Bradley that the paintings were part of the original gift from Robert S. Peabody. Stebbins and Renn (2014:288) report that Harvard received 107 of the Inman paintings from the Tilestone and Hollingsworth heirs, but that Inman had originally painted 117 and the whereabouts of the remaining paintings is unclear. It is possible that Robert S. Peabody acquired the three paintings when they were exhibited in Philadelphia.

Image shows two students standing on either side of an oil painting of a Native American and explaining their work to onlookers.
Phillips Academy students share their independent research on the Henry Inman paintings with members of the Board of Trustees.

The paintings reflect the classical style of portraits painted in the nineteenth century, and do not attempt to portray people in an imagined “primitive” setting as the photographs of Edward S. Curtis do at the end of the century. Clothing and personal items reflect the blend of traditional and Anglo-European attire resulting from varying levels of cultural assimilation. History and Social Sciences instructor Marcelle Doheny uses the paintings in her senior elective, Race and Identity in Indian Country, and they were part of an independent student project in 2015-2016 that examined Anglo-European portrayals of Native Americans.

Image shows an oil painting in an elaborate gold gilt frame that depicts an attractive Native American woman holding her baby. She wears a red blouse which covers the baby's shoulders. A silver Indian Peace Medal around her neck is held by the baby.
Henry Inman’s portrait of Mohongo and child in storage at the Peabody.

The biographical notes that accompany the McKenney and Hall publication provide additional details about the lives of these individuals, at least as documented by the editors. Mohongo’s (1809-1836) story is particularly striking, as she was one of a group of Osage persuaded to make a European tour in 1827. While in Europe, she gave birth to twins, but only one survived. The tour organizer, who had brought the Osage to Europe to perform as a Wild West Show, was arrested for debt in Paris, leaving the rest of the party to fend for themselves. Ultimately, the Marquis de Lafayette learned of the situation and arranged for passage back to North America. During the sea voyage more members of the party perished, but Mohongo and her child survived, ultimately arriving in Norfolk, Virginia, where Charles Bird King painted their portrait. We believe that the peace medal worn by Mohongo depicts Andrew Jackson, who was president at the time. Mohongo and her child made their way back to Missouri. The book, An Osage Journey to Europe, 1827-1830: Three French Accounts edited and translated by William Least Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace, documents the episode.

Several exhibits—for example, the Indian Gallery of Henry Inman, which toured museums from 2006 to 2012—have assembled small collections of the extant Inman paintings, but the examples at the Peabody have never been included, likely because curators and art historians have not known about them.

Other Sources

Christie’s East. 1981. American Paintings and Watercolors of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries (auction catalog). New York.

Ewers, John C. 1954. Charles Bird King, painter of Indian visitors to the nation’s capital. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1953. Pp. 463-473. Publication 4149. Government Printing Office, Washington DC.

Gerald Peters Gallery. 2008. Henry Inman, Twenty-four Indian Portraits (catalog). New York.

Gerdts, William H., and Carrie Rebora. 1987. The Art of Henry Inman. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr., and Melissa Renn. 2014. American Paintings at Harvard, Volume 1: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826. Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press, New Haven.

Viola, Herman J. 1976. The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King. Smithsonian Institution Press and Doubleday & Company, New York.

Viola, Herman J. 1983. Indians of North America: Paintings by Henry Inman from the D. Harold Byrd, Jr. Collection. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY.

John Lowell Thorndike

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

The Peabody lost a great friend with the recent passing of John Lowell Thorndike ’45 (1926 – 2020).

Image of John Thorndike, an older man with black rim glasses, a striped bow tie, and tweed jacket standing in front of a microphone at a museum event.
John Lowell Thorndike ’45 at the Peabody in 1998. Collections of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology.

John was critical in the recent history of the Peabody, serving as chair of the Visiting Committee in the 1990s and early 2000s. This was a turbulent period, seeing everything from the reopening of the Peabody in 1990, engagement with Native American tribes through repatriation, and an attempt to become a public-facing institution with relevance on campus, culminating in a near-closure in 2002. He and Marshall Cloyd ’58, played a big part in the decision to keep the Peabody open and refocus our efforts on programming for Phillips Academy students.

I was fortunate in getting to know John a little, as he would visit campus at least once a year to attend the luncheon presentation of the Augustus Thorndike Jr. Internship, which he founded with his brother Nicholas (PA Class of 1951). Students selected as interns spent a year preparing a historical biographic sketch of an interesting Phillips Academy person, often an alumnus or faculty member.

John remained intensely interested in the activities of the Peabody in the years after 2002. He was particularly interested in our relationship with the Pueblo of Jemez and our continued work on repatriation of Native American ancestral remains and funerary belongings. We often had a chance to sit and talk before and after the luncheons, and John and I frequently had e-mail or phone exchanges after he received our monthly newsletter. John was particularly delighted when our ceramic artist friends from Jemez, Dominique and Maxine Toya, joined one of the Thorndike luncheons. They were on campus that week to work with Thayer Zaeder’s ceramics classes, continuing our long relationship with the pueblo.

John also shared with me his pleasure in seeing the publication of our book, Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, by the University of Nebraska Press in 2018. John was not able to attend our launch party at the Peabody, but he called me shortly after receiving his copy in the mail and expressed his delight at our success, the considerable work done by Peabody director Malinda Stafford Blustain and Peabody staff members. He grudgingly and humbly acknowledged that he had some small role in that success, in the understated style of the New England gentleman that he was.

Our condolences to John’s family and friends. He will be missed.

A wonderful tribute appeared in the Boston Globe, recounting Mr. Thorndike’s many philanthropic and family pursuits: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?n=john-lowell-thorndike&pid=196302666

COVID-19 and Social Distancing: What Museums Are Doing to Bring Their Collections to Audiences Stuck at Home

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. One recommendation included in these guidelines was for “social distancing” – a term referring to the conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully hinder the community transmission of the virus.

While schools, companies, and various workplaces determine the best possible options to both adhere to these guidelines as well as provide the appropriate support to their staff, students, and customers – many have chosen to close their doors. Some institutions and companies have shut down indefinitely, while various schools and universities have moved to remote teaching, where students complete their classes online and stay at home. Universities and colleges all over the country have moved courses to online platforms. Undergrads are being told to move out of their dorms and off campus for the remainder of the semester.

Phillips Academy (PA), a New England boarding school and the Peabody’s parent institution has instituted similar measures, following the directives issued by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

A local restaurant closes their doors in light of “on-site eating” bans over COVID-19

Now many would say they like working from home and actually get more done, but it is not the case for everyone. The Peabody staff are doing what they can to continue their museum work from home. For the Peabody collections team, it is very difficult to continue much of the work they do every day at the institution, as much of the collections and material cannot leave the building. While inventory, rehousing, and cataloguing of the collection is put on hold, our staff is editing object photographs, digitizing documents, transcribing collection ledgers, writing blogs (like this one), and more.

My dog, Rourke, is very happy to have me working from home!

Outside of my remote-work, I am wondering like many others who are stuck at home – what else can I do with the rest of my week? By being at home, we miss out on the daily interactions with our coworkers, colleagues, and classmates. Our experiences with each other fuel our creativity and critical thinking, and are important for much needed collaborative efforts. Through “social distancing” we are recommended to not take part in every day, public activities such as eating out, going to the store, or visiting a museum or historical site with our friends and family.

But don’t let social distancing doom your week and weekend! Museums have found a way to bring some of their collections to their visitors. So worry no more! You can view that Van Gough from the couch!

I was happy to enjoy a little culture and education in my off-time while at home. According to Fast Company, Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 500 museums and galleries around the world to bring virtual tours and online exhibits to a global audience.

Some of the museums highlighted by Google Arts & Culture include the British Museum in London, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, Mexico, and various historical parks and sites.

Design of the Musée d’Orsay in 1979
Image courtesy of A.C.T. Architecture and the Musée d’Orsay

The first museum I “visited” was the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France. As a student, I had visited this museum on a class trip many years ago and I was interested in the exhibits they provided online. This exhibit was a detailed history on the building of the museum titled, From Station to the Renovated Musée d’Orsay. This endeavor was a groundbreaking project for Paris as it was the first time an industrial building had been restored to accommodate a major museum. The virtual exhibit showcases the early building plans and images of the Orsay train station and hotel from the 1900s as well as images of the museum and its galleries after the renovation project in the early 2000s. Explore this virtual exhibit here!

I visited a second virtual exhibition, this time, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is called, Fashioning a Nation. This exhibit features drawings from the Index of American Design, a collection of more than 18,000 watercolor pictures of American decorative art objects. This exhibition explores the American fashions from 1740 to 1895, giving insight into the character and quality of American life from the colonial period to the Industrial Revolution. Click here to explore this exhibit!

3D model of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde National Park
Image courtesy of CyArk and Open Heritage – Google Arts & Culture

If museums aren’t your thing, explore a historic site! Open Heritage – Google Arts & Culture offers iconic locations in 3D, using 3D modeling techniques for you to explore. You can learn about the tools of digital preservation and how people all over the world are preserving our shared history. One site I visited was the Mesa Verde National Park. This site is home to Native American cliff dwellings in southern Colorado that span over 700 years of Native American history (600-1300 CE). An expedition was led by CyArk in February 2017. CyArk is a nonprofit organization that specializes in the digital documentation and preservation of historic sites. The organization documented the Balcony House at Mesa Verde using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and terrestrial photogrammetry. Combining these two technologies is what creates the 3D model of a site. To explore the 3D model of the Balcony House at Mesa Verde, click here!

Unfortunately, not all popular museums and galleries are included on Google Arts & Culture’s collection website, but some museums are offering virtual tours and online visits on their own websites, such as the Louvre in Paris, France. To see more of Google Arts & Culture’s collection of virtual museums and exhibits, visit their collection website. Explore and enjoy your visit!

No Holiday from IPM Work

Contributed by Emma Cook

For any museum institution with a vast collection and storage of artifacts, there is no holiday from IPM work! IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management and focuses on prevention of pests through preventative actions that protect museum collection environments from various pests. Examples of these actions include reducing clutter, sealing areas where pests may be entering the building, removing items that may be attracting pests such as food, and protecting artifacts that have the potential to be food or shelter to pests.

No need to pout or cry if you find insect pests, I’ll tell you why…
Image courtesy of the PestList Group, associated with Museum Pests

What’s important about this work is the long-term prevention taken to protect collections and their housing space. IPM work is not simply eliminating the pests, but looking at the environmental factors that affect the pest and its ability to thrive in its current conditions. Part of what museum staff do is use this information, and the observations made to locate potential pests, to create conditions that are unfavorable to pests and disrupt their occupied environment.

A large part of what Peabody staff do with IPM work is monitor the collection and building environments and identify potential threats or pests. The most common pests to come across in a museum collection space are various carpet beetles, webbing clothes moths, and case-making clothes moths. The type of pest one may have or attract depends on what is in the collection for the pest to eat. Most insect pests are drawn to animal and plant products such as wool, skins, fur, feathers, hair, silk, paper, horns, whalebone, and leather. As you can imagine, a museum collection looks a lot like a buffet to these insects.

The Peabody uses small insect sticky traps to monitor specific areas of the building for pests. These traps can catch insects and staff can then closely inspect these traps to understand what pests may be a potential threat and where they are occupying in the museum. It is always important to consistently check these traps as well as circulate new ones every so often.

Insect sticky trap used in museums for monitoring pest activity.

Another form of monitoring for pests is through observation and identification. As staff rehouses and inventories the collections, they complete condition reports and inspections of each artifact that may be threatened by pests. If any evidence is identified on or around the artifact, further pest control must take place. The types of pest evidence that staff is looking for is frass, webbing, larvae carcasses, and live insects. Frass consists of the excrement of an insect and the refuse produced by the activity of the boring insect. Webbing and tubular-looking cases are present for webbing and case-making clothes moths. These are usually present in textiles and are made by these insects when they are larvae. Larvae carcasses are present when the insect sheds its larvae form into an adult. These carcasses are something to look out for with objects and their storage, as it demonstrates that an insect had once been there and the same kind of pest could very likely return. If an insect or evidence of an insect are found, staff then must try to identify which insect is the threat and begin pest control and further prevention from the artifact and surrounding collection.

Peabody volunteer, Susan Rosefsky, inspecting a textile in the Peabody’s collection.

Artifacts with evidence of insect activity are cleaned and rehoused with new acid-free tissue paper. The box holding the artifact is also cleaned. Once the artifacts are placed back into their box storage, the box is sealed in a large, acid-free plastic bag with little to no air in the bag. The box is then wrapped further in another layer before being placed in the freezer for low-temperature treatment. This type of treatment control helps eradicate pests from the artifact through freezing. After a few weeks of freezing, the artifact is inspected again by staff to determine if there is any additional evidence of infestation. If the artifact has no further evidence of insect activity, the artifact will sit for a few more weeks, sealed in a plastic bag, through a process called bagging or isolation. After another few weeks a final analysis will be given before the artifact is deemed safe to return to its original storage in the collection.

The Peabody’s freezer for low-temperature pest control treatments.

There are several other treatments that are used amongst museum professionals to control pest infestations in their collections. These are heat treatment, the use of pesticides in collection areas, and controlled atmosphere through nitrogen/argon gas, carbon dioxide, and depleting oxygen levels. The treatment that is used on each artifact depends on the artifact’s material. Some treatments cannot be used on all objects and it is important to always keep the artifacts’ well-being in mind.

IPM work requires a careful eye and patience, along with a resilience to properly eliminate pests and protect collections from future threats of infestation. To learn more about Integrated Pest Management visit Museum Pests, a product of the IPM working group. 

Friends of the Peabody Repurpose More Drawers

Contributed by Emma Cook

We have had a tremendous interest in our old storage drawers in the last few months. As collections were rehoused in new cartons, we were able to give away over 100 drawers!

Our last blog featured drawers that underwent cosmetic changes, such as being repainted and stained as well as drawers repurposed into storage, furniture, and a jewelry organizer. You can see these projects here.

We are pleased to share that the Peabody Collection Team has reached their end-of-year goal in rehousing and inventorying 1,444 wooden drawers, which is about 67% of the Peabody’s collection. This means staff is about two-thirds of the way through the entire inventory of the Peabody’s collections!

The vast majority of the old drawers have now found new homes and purposes with many friends of the Peabody. We not only thank you all for your interest and for taking these drawers, but for giving these drawers a new life.

This month’s feature of drawers covers projects both big and small. Our first feature uses the drawers as wedding decorations, creating a photo capture area for guests to take photos and leave a message for the celebrating couple.

Another project is tea trays – a great DIY gift idea for family and friends this holiday season!

An example of one of the larger-scale projects for these drawers is a studio storage wall. This unique idea is fashionable as it is functional – doubling as both a storage space and accent wall for this home studio.

We have also received a lot of interest and support from our fellow Phillips Academy faculty and staff. Some of our wooden drawers have been used for material at the new Maker’s Space for students at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library on campus. Keep an eye out for our next blog update showcasing more of these drawer projects! If you have repurposed some of the Peabody drawers, we would love to see your creations! Please share your photos with us at elavoie@andover.edu.