Monday, July 6, 2015

Week Five at Independence: Reflections and Independence Day at Independence!

            Happy Belated Fourth!

            Working at Independence this week was exciting for obvious historical reasons. The park was buzzing with visitors and classic Philadelphia events such as Free Hoagie Day as INDE staff set up for the weekend festivities at Independence Hall. While INDE prepared for the holiday, I continued to work behind the scenes.
            I’m about halfway done with the inventory and cleaning in the latest storage area. The process remains about the same, though there are some concerns regarding the environmental controls within the Second Bank, particularly in this storage room. Historic buildings such as the Second Bank are particularly difficult to outfit with modern heating and cooling systems due to their structural components, so historic building managers do the best they can with that concern. For those of you who live in Philadelphia, you know that the humidity can be pretty high. These high humidity rates are being felt in the storage areas, so it has been a concern.

            In rooms that contain artifact collections, it’s essential to a museum’s function to monitor environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. If the humidity and/or temperature are too high or too low for extended periods of time, it can cause significant damage to objects. This is especially a risk in the storage room because the objects are not sealed in air-tight cabinets as in the previous room. Thus, they are more susceptible to the fluctuations in humidity.

            Devices terms “HOBOs” monitor temperature and humidity rates over extended periods of time. They look something like this:
Photo courtesy of Onset.

            A USB cord is used to connect a computer to the HOBO, and the HOBO registers the data it recorded over a period of time. This helps the museum technicians at INDE to keep track of the temperature in storage areas. It’s a chronic concern in the summer, so it's certainly something to be aware of.

            By far, the most exciting part of my week was climbing the clock tower in Independence Hall. I’ll admit that this had no relation to my work in the Second Bank, but when Karie invited me to come along, I simply could not refuse. How could anyone turn that down?

            Every Fourth of July, speeches are given outside of Independence Hall throughout the day. The clock tower is shut off on July 3rd to prevent it from ringing and disrupting the speeches and events during the Fourth. I tagged along with Karie, two museum technicians, and a clock tower expert whose father had also done work on the clock tower in Independence Hall. He would be the one to shut the bell off.

            Getting up to the tower was no easy task, however. There is no air conditioning as you head towards the tower, not to mention that there are several flights of rickety stairs that require extra caution while climbing. While the walk up was slightly precarious, the view was incredible: 

            The chance to see this view was something I will never forget. It’s a reminder of all of the incredible things I’m learning here, but it was also an opportunity to reflect on the passion that I have for history and how it brought me here in the first place. I like to believe that history has emotion. Historians need to be critical, unassuming, and cautious of their research and writing. I say that with no doubt. But I do not think we should isolate ourselves from the emotions of the past. It closes us all off from our ability to understand and empathize with those of different landscapes and time. For me, that’s my favorite part of studying and feeling the past. I want others to feel that same passion and interest.

Until next time!

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