Journal the Sixth

July 15th- July 28th

Well, I cannot believe how fast things have been going. I’m moving into the last two weeks of my formal internship with the Homestead. I’ll be still be volunteering afterwards- there are somethings that I am involved with that happen beyond the scope of the internship- but the formal part will be over.

The past two weeks have been fairly quiet ones. I’ve been busy, but mostly with tasks that I was expecting to be busy with. Somehow, knowing about the work beforehand makes you feel less swamped. I completed my research report about my travelling teaching kit and sent that off back to Fleming. There has been very little written about creating teaching kits, and I hope that mine will be of benefit to museum educators trying to create their own.

The kit that I was developing (which formed the basis of my report) is pretty well complete. At this point we have a selection of primary and secondary sources for students to base their research upon, as well as guides to show them how they should develop their arguments and how to create their mock trial activity. I plan to do some more tweaking and editing to some of the documents, since some of the guides were borrowed from other sources and we haven’t had time to make them our own yet.

This is probably a good lesson for any new museum professional- when you are involved at a small site where you take part in everything, expect anything and everything to interrupt you! It’s certainly hard to estimate how much you’ll get done in a day, when folks show up unexpectedly for tours or when things pop up- like our recent (if short-lived) mouse infestation, or the discovery the other day of some minor water damage in the historic house. You never know how far your plan for the day will take you.

This explains why my Supervisor has been happy with my progress on the kit. The fact that it is substantially finished is all thanks to my efforts and certainly would be less further along if it had to compete for attention for everything else during the busy summer season.

At a small site like the Homestead, program development and progress on projects is definitely for the off-season, not the busy summer. As it stands, putting the polish on the kit will be my task in August. There’s just not been time otherwise!

IMG514Speaking of polish, I also got a taste of 19th-century style cleaning when I was asked to clean out the Homestead’s wood-fired cookstove. After removing the ashes from the interior, I polished the exterior and we fired it up to burn off the excess polish. IMG513

In other news, I have been trying out some of my camp activities to ensure that they work.

The catapult for our medieval day is a simple craft that will lend itself to games, and the dinosaur bones I’ve been casting in plaster will give our campers a chance to join in on a dig as palaeontologists. The only problem is that the casts tend to break as I bring them out of the mould.

IMG499I added a bit of decoration to the Camera Obscura I built a few weeks ago, and tried to create some photographs with it.

IMG500Early photograph cameras were simply Camera Obscura boxes, so I thought that I might have a chance of getting it to work.

Naturally, if you’re going to use an early camera, you need to use an early type of photograph. The type I chose was the anthotype. Anthotypes are not well known as they are based upon organic matter. This makes them easy to make- no dangerous chemicals- but they are slow to react to light even by the standards of old-time photography.

Exposures are measured by the hour- at best. According to the few anthotypists who still practice this art form, Spinach works the best. IMG502You only need to exposure your spinach based film for several hours, compared to the several days that film based on other plants will require.

Creating the ‘film’ is quite simple.

IMG503I crushed the spinach to extract its juice, then added a small amount of vinegar to help release the chlorophyll  that will react with sunlight to produce our picture. IMG505The spinach-vinegar solution is painted onto paper in several coats, and then placed in the camera for exposure.IMG507

The only problem with this is that there has not been a decently sunny day for me to try out my camera! I’ve still no spinach photographs to show. Hopefully the sun will come out soon.

Lastly, I am happy to announce that I am involved now in a small project separate from the Homestead! The Great War Centenary Association of Brantford, Brant County and Six Nations are putting on a small memorial on the 17th of August to remember the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Hill 70, the First World War battle that claimed the most Six Nations causalities of the war. It will also celebrate the life of Brigadier-General Oliver Milton Martin, the highest-ranking Aboriginal soldier in Canadian history, who was born on Six Nations and fought at Hill 70. They needed a volunteer who could design and implement their (small) exhibit for a one-night ceremony. One of their contacts in the museum world happened to be someone I knew from my University days, and who also knew I was in Brantford. One thing led to another, and now I’ve go three weeks to put a little exhibit together. Since this will be a very swift moving project, I may have to create some special posts before my next (and final) journal entry to showcase what I am doing for Hill 70.

Looks like my Summer is still going to be busy,

Scott W. E. Dickinson


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