Journal the Fifth

July 1st- July 14th

These two weeks have settled down a bit.

I know that in my last post I said that I should have pictures of our crafts and activities ready. Well, we’ve been busy doing other things. Expect crafts in my next post!

One of the more interesting of the Homestead’s outreach programs has started this month. Alexander’s first North American home has a large front porch, so it gets used by local theatre groups as an outdoor venue for summer evening plays. The plays only happen after we’re closed for the day, but they are still good draws for the public, who are brought out to a location they might not have had reason to go to otherwise- and hey- isn’t that a museum? We’ll have to come back during the day…

At the very least, they are pretty popular, and it gets the Homestead’s name out there in community circles. The only downside is that the theatre people are perhaps a little causal with how they use the front door of the home as part of their performance. That glass is fragile!


In other news, the outdoor handpump at the homestead has been out of commission since the handle on it broke. We’ve finally got a replacement, and took it upon myself to get the pump working again. Reattaching the handle took only a moment, but the leather seals in the pump head had dried out. This meant I spent quite a deal of time pouring water down the pump to prime it while working the handle to get the pump to siphon water again. By late morning I had succeeded, and water was fairly gushing out!

My assistant pumping water

In August the Homestead will go to the Cotton Factory, a gallery in Hamilton, where we’ll be involved in a one-day event based around “The Art of Communication”. I’ve been working on some activities for attendees to engage in. They include this Camera Obscura that I’ve built, as well as a small visible waveform generator.

It’s not pretty, but it works!

A Camera Obscura (or pinhole camera) is the earliest form of camera. It allows you to project an image against a screen as that you can trace it or draw from it. Artists once used the Camera Obscura to draw landscapes. This one, thanks to the mirror inside it, projects an image onto the piece of wax paper on top of the box. When all is working, one can look down to see what is in front of them.

Early photographers also used the Camera Obscura when taking pictures. Since Melville Bell (Alexander’s father) was a keen amateur photographer, I hope to take a few images with this camera that I have made. If all is successful, I will share them- along with how I created them- in a later post.


The visible waveform generator is a bit simpler, but no less interesting. It allows the user to see the soundwaves their voice makes.  This one is made from a cardboard tube with a balloon for a drumhead on one end. On the drum there is a small mirror, which vibrates when you speak into the tube.


The changing vibrations of your voice are made visible by the laser pointer we aim at the mirror, which is reflected against the mirror to shine on the upright cardboard piece.


As the sound of your voice changes, the point of laser-light shakes, shimmies, elongates, shortens and changes into different shapes, allowing the user to study how different shorts of sounds make different sorts of waves. It’s pretty cool stuff.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I had been doing a spot of cataloguing, well now I’ve been putting some accession numbers of things that really should already have had them. Since there were only four artifacts that needed their numbers put on them, this was not a long job, but did require some creativity. Three of the artifacts were large furniture pieces, and all of them were to be kept in the Homestead. This meant applying the numbers in situ, which involved alot of crawling around on my part to find unobtrusive spots to place their accession numbers.

We also got a new donation this week- this is an original tetrahedral kite cell used by Alexander Graham Bell as part of his experiments in flight during the 1890s and early 1900s. Alexander hired many young Nova Scotian girls to sew his kite cells together. Our donor’s mother was of those girls. The cell itself is in really great shape.



In the next weeks I’ll be doing a bit more cataloguing, preparing for the camp days at the end of summer (I promise I’ll have images for next time!), as well as conducting some more programming. The Homestead often does talks, and since my interests lie mostly with Bell’s many inventions and how they changed daily life, I’ll be travelling to some summer camps in the city to give demonstrations of how old-time telephones work. Also, our Educational Coordinator is taking her summer vacation time in the next few weeks, which is also when a group is coming in for an all day program. It’ll be up to us to run it without her. Should be  interesting.

That’s all for now,

Scott W. E. Dickinson

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