A few days ago I actually got to do some preservation work outside in the fresh air. I was cleaning dirt and mold off a mid-20th century (or older) leather doctor’s bag with mild soap and water. The bag, recently donated, has a tag attached that says it belonged to Dr. Bonneville, one of Hatfield's in-town doctors for decades. It cleaned up great, and I’ve been airing it out outside on dry days since then, trying to get rid of the smell of mold.
While working, I was thinking, you can’t really do this inside. Even next to a large window and a fan blowing out, how do most museums handle this sort of work? Or do they never accept artifacts that come to them with mold? What if it’s a historic piece that you really want? When I first brought the Dr. Bonneville bag home –he was a WWI army doctor who lived on Main St. next to the Town Hall, and was one of the town’s two beloved in-town doctors for years and years—my husband told me he didn’t want the bag in the house for the same reasons I didn’t want it in the museum. (I didn’t want to contaminate other items, or be breathing in the mold spores.) Until I could clean it, he made me put it in a bag in the back of my car. After cleaning, though, it was much better, and it’s been allowed to come into the mudroom at night, and sit outside under a little roof during the day.
What we really need in our museum, I thought, as I slowly worked my way across the bag’s surface, inside and out, is a little courtyard. A space protected from the wind and rain with room for a tall, sturdy lab table. It would open off the museum workroom, or maybe off the hallway, and have some benches and shelves available in a secure holding place. And a sink. Oh yes, a sink.
Well, I’ve got the lab tables, donated a year or two ago by Smith Academy, our local high school. Now I just need the courtyard, the hallway, and the sink. Oh, yes, and the larger, climate-controlled museum space to go with it. Come to think of it, we'll get most of that when the museum moves to the second floor of the Town Hall, after the elevator is installed. An open-air, second-floor courtyard will be tough, though. Hey, a girl can dream.
Many thanks to the donor of Dr. Bonneville's bag, Joe Pelis of Hatfield, who purchased it at a yard sale on School St. in Hatfield in the mid- to late 1990s. It will look great in an exhbit on Hatfield doctors and nurses we hope to put together in the next year or two. If you have other artifacts to donate that might go along with this, please give me a call or send me an email.