“I can’t thank you enough. If it were not for you we would not be in the place that we are,” Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Executive Director Matt Edwards told the docents and volunteers gathered on the museum’s third floor for the annual Volunteer Brunch on Monday.
Guest Services Manager Nancy Davis echoed Edwards’ sentiments, and also recognized the museum’s staff for its hard work.
Heather South, archivist with the Western Regional Archives in Asheville gave a small portion of her “Trunk of Troubles” presentation for the group. South will be back at the museum on May 18 for a public “Trunk of Troubles” program, giving tips on how to preserve items in the home.
South also expressed thanks to the museum docents and volunteers: “Cultural institutions rely on museum volunteers so heavily, and to give your time is wonderful.” She said she was impressed by the museum, and was looking forward to exploring it further, as well as the rest of Mount Airy, since this was her first time visiting the area.
Armed with a set of props from her “Trunk of Troubles,” South gave tips on how to preserve important items in a home environment. She said one of the big debates in museums as well in a home environment is if you should wear gloves when handling old and valuable items. She said the most important tip to remember is just to make sure hands are clean and dry, and that some items are much easier to deal with when using bare hands instead of gloves, such as fragile and brittle items like old letters and documents.
“When you are wearing gloves while handling those items, you may cause more damage, since you lose dexterity with gloves,” South said.
Using hand sanitizer is also a good move, but not sanitizer containing emollients and beads. “We always leave behind oil and skin cells, and they will attract dirt, especially on paper items and photographs.”
Old photographs can be difficult to preserve, South said, because of the various chemical processes used to develop photographs in the past. Some processes once used eggs and egg whites, which is attractive to bugs. Since old photographs are fragile, it is important to take great care when storing them, and South described multiple ways to assure photographs will last for future generations, such as storing in breathable photo storage such as photo boxes, instead of plastic containers which create “micro-climates.”
When displaying photographs, make copies and scans to frame, instead of using originals, South reminded everyone, which will ensure photographs last longer.
Another tip South shared is to make sure temperatures and humidity levels remain as stable as possible in areas where important items are stored. The ideal temperature is 68 degrees with 50 percent humidity, but South said just to make sure it is as stable as possible, which also means attics and basements may not be the ideal location for storage.
“With items like textiles, photographs, paper documents, everything is organic, it is always breathing…expanding and contracting, which speeds up the deterioration process.”
South also said that items like plastics are not ideal storage containers. In addition, old and new photo albums that contain adhesive should not be used, since the adhesive can break down and bleed onto photographs. Plastics will age, deteriorate, and break down over time, as well as giving off a chemical gas, which can damage items. When buying photo albums in the store, South said she always gives them the “smell test,” making sure there is no smell, since if there is a harsh smell or a chemical smell, the plastics contain chemicals that can harm photographs.
Volunteers and Docents Honored
Davis shared that the Volunteer Brunch was dedicated to five hard-working and treasured volunteers who died this year, including Susan and Mike King, JoAnn Eddy, Kathleen Stanley, and Jean Cook.
Museum volunteers honored were:
Five-year pin: Alberta and Bill Anderson, Don Brookshire, Ruth Richards, Hank Spires, Dr. Ann Vaughn, Anne Webb, Ed Woltz, Angela Yacano, and Angela Eldridge
Ten-year pin: Mary Fawcett, Mary Higgs, Bob Hoisington, Esther Johnson, Betty Jones, Alma Key, LaDonna McCarther, Cheryl Yellow Fawn, Dr. Rick Smith, P.J. Snow, and Emma Jean Tucker
15-year pin: Claire Merritt, George Speight, and Elaine Harbour
20-year pin: Dr. Swanson Richards
The museum board was also recognized, which included Chairman John Hollingsworth, 1st Vice Chairman Jim York, 2nd Vice Chairman Jim Petelle, Treasurer P.J. Snow, Betty Barrette, Bobbie Collins, Cathy Eckenrod, Mary Fawcett, Derek Higgs, Richard Johnson, Mary Kilby, Emily Loftis, Jennie Lowry, Kay Marcaccio, Justin Pucket, Greg Perkins, Ann Vaughn, Ellie Webb, Agnes Woltz, and Betty Wright.
The Volunteer Brunch was catered by Mary Planer.
Reach Jessica Johnson at 719-1933 and on Twitter @MountAiryJess.