The Neville Public Museum
The Neville Blog
As with all our exhibits, when they are completed we inventory and do condition reports before returning the artifacts back to storage. After Holiday Memories last year, we did an extensive condition report of the artifacts. In looking closely we discovered evidence of stress. Piles of rust at the feet of some of the figures are a clue that something was happening internally that we cannot see on the outside.
Rust is caused by corrosion, a natural process where metal is gradually destroyed. Running the dolls causes the metal rods to move resulting in the rust falling from the rods inside the figurines. This leaves the piles you see in the picture above. Running the dolls constantly, even for a two month exhibit, causes strain on the internal mechanics. Piles of rust weren’t the only things we found while performing our condition reports. We also found issues with the clothing and brown marks on the surface of some of the figurines. Both of these things can happen over time.
The brown marks on this doll are not freckles. Dolls like this were made using a hard plastic. This Plastic breaks down over time and can begin to “sweat” leaving brown marks on the surface of the figurine. The marks are caused by an oily liquid oozing out of the doll. The ooze can also leave a tacky slime behind. This picture shows one of the issues we found with the felt and textiles of our figurines’ clothing. Over time the fabric has deteriorated, ripped, faded, or become stained.
This year, we are decreasing the stress put on our dolls to help ensure that we can display them well into the future.
Our Brown County is a celebration of 200 years of history focusing on the stories that make Brown County the place we choose to live, work, and play. Explore these stories through 50 artifacts, 50 photographs, 50 people, and 50 places that demonstrate the complex, diverse, and rich history of Brown County. Our Brown County opens May 29, 2018!
Vietnam Flight Suit, 1965-1973
The man who wore this flight suit flew high above the terrain of Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines between 1965 and 1973. John Evans volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and served as a combat aerial photographer. During the war, Evans was frequently shot at, but luckily was never shot down. After leaving the Air Force he became a lawyer and worked for Brown County and Oconto County. In 2016, Evans lost his battle with lung and brain cancer believed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
Helen is one of several special women that lived here in Brown County that valued the arts and the preservation of history. Helen’s dedication to preservation of history is most evident in her hard work to make our current museum building a reality. Helen served as President of the Neville Public Museum Corporation. Before 1983 the museum sat in a smaller and less conducive building on Jefferson St. Helen fought for a new facility that was eventually supported by the county, the city, and private donors, a true community project. Here is Helen breaking ground with the County Executive, the Mayor, and the Museum Director.
We have several artifacts in our collection that reflect Helen’s continued dedication to education, local history and the arts. The collection includes a diary, scrapbooks and letters from her time in London in 1948 and 1949 when she participated in the Teacher Exchange Program. We also care for awards given to her for her many accomplishments in education and here at the museum. Helen’s focus on education and interest in history led her to co-author the text book “It Happened Here” in 1949. We have a copy of it in our research library. Later in life she continued her education by taking different art courses. Works of art she created are also held in our collection.
The museum is thankful for people like Helen that continually support our mission and fight to preserve local history and engage the arts.
Working in a museum, I get to see plenty of interesting artifacts. Some are more widely recognizable and well researched and others are much more mysterious. One of our mysterious artifacts is this object- the wooden monowheel. While there are other monowheels in collections across the country, this is the only known one made of wood rather than metal.What is a monowheel?
This rare artifact is a self-propelled mode of transportation, much like a unicycle. The big difference is the rider sits on the wooden seat inside the big wheel. The rider uses the hand cranks to move the inner smaller wheel which transfers motion to the larger outer wheel with the stars.What do we know about the monowheel?
This monowheel was collected by Frank Duchateau in the early 1900s. He donated it to the museum in 1943. According to a letter received by Duchateau in 1922, the monowheel was made by a Mr. Rowe in the 1860s. It was first exhibited at the old museum on the corner of Jefferson and Doty Streets and was kept on display when the museum moved here. In 2014, the monowheel was conserved and traveled to Madison and Appleton to be included in the exhibit Shifting Gears: A Cyclical History of Badger Bicycling.What don’t we know about the monowheel?
We know a little about the monowheel but we are still missing some key pieces of information. Why did Mr. Rowe create the monowheel? What was it used for? Are there other pieces like the monowheel in other collections?
The answer to all of these questions is – we don’t know. We can speculate what the piece was used for but without more information we can never be sure. However, just because we cannot be sure does not mean the monowheel is not important. This one-of-a-kind artifact is an excellent example of how the museum has collected, displayed and cared for artifacts throughout the last century.The monowheel is now back at the museum and on exhibit in On the Edge of the Inland Sea. Check it out for yourself!
The History of Rahr's Brewery
In the last three weeks interning here at the Neville, I have been working on cataloging a collection donated by the Colburn family. The donor’s grandfather, Enos Colburn, served as President of the City Board of Park Commissioners in Green Bay from 1938 until his death in 1945. Colburn Park was renamed after Enos Colburn in 1956 in remembrance of his dedication and services to the environment.
Within the donated collection were two Beanie Babies, which were of particular interest to me. One can only imagine how silly I felt wearing gloves to hold a Beanie Baby that was ‘born’ just a year after I was! But using gloves to hold any object within the museum’s collection is best practice used by all museums no matter how old the object is. Although I felt odd using gloves to hold the Beanie Babies, I understood it was necessary for the object to stay in a condition that can last another 100 years. It’s hard to think of our everyday objects as historical because we don’t consciously think that we are currently creating history.
Everyday objects such as Beanie Babies made history with their release in the early 1990s. The first Beanie Baby™ was released in 1993 and ultimately began the trend that had people collecting as many as they could get their hands on. The craze escalated when Ty Warner, owner of the company that distributed the Beanie Babies, began to retire certain Beanie Babies. By 1995, this strategy pushed Beanie Babies as the most wanted toys in the country.
Along a similar vein would be the collecting of Mattel’s Barbie ™ Dolls. The Neville has a wide-ranging collection of dolls including many Barbies. One particular Barbie, the Masquerade Ball Barbie is 1 of 8 donated to the museum for an exhibit in 1995. The donor, Georgia Rankin collected around 2,000 Barbie Dolls between 1959 and 2000. Rankin said her reason for collecting the dolls stems from her belief that the dolls replicate how real world fashions change and teaches young girls they can grow up to be anyone they want to be.Museums collect objects that tell a story about our history. Both Beanie Babies and Barbies reflect social movements before 2000. These kid’s toys were a large part of people’s lives and by keeping a couple of Beanie Babies and Barbies in the collection here in the Neville we have a part of that moment in history. If the object has made a large impact on the world, that is something that should be preserved for future generations to observe.
Visit the Neville Public Museum to see Beanie Babies “Speedy” and “Erin” from the Colburn collection and more from the 1990s.
Intern, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
You may have recently seen this coat in Life and Death at Fort Howard but you won’t find it there anymore. Thanks to a grant from the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society, this week the coat is being sent to the Midwest Art Conservation Center for conservation. But what makes this coat so special?
This coat dates back to the 1840s and belonged to Morgan L. Martin. Martin held several different posts in Green Bay including Indian Agent, Judge and Captain of the Green Bay Rangers. This is Martin’s Green Bay Ranger jacket.
The preservation of this artifact is important not only because it belonged to Morgan L. Martin (1805-1887) but also because of its association with the Green Bay Rangers. Martin came to Wisconsin in 1827 and became a prominent civic leader in the area. In 1836, Governor of the Wisconsin Territory, Henry Dodge created an organized militia. Gov. Dodge claimed that there was danger in the defenseless borders of the territory and that there were threats of armed conflicts with natives. He proposed that there should be one company of cavalry troops in each territorial county. March 5, 1837 may have been the first commissioning of a Wisconsin militia field commander as Dodge designated Morgan L. Martin as Captain of the Green Bay Rangers. The Rangers were a mounted rifleman unit. This is also believed to be the birth of the Wisconsin National Guard.
This Green Bay Rangers coat has been in the museum’s care since 1935. While we’ve taken care of the coat for over 80 years, time sometimes takes its toll on textiles, leaving areas of loss (the holes you see). Conservation will keep these areas from getting bigger and preserve the structural integrity of the jacket. The conservation team will also create a pattern of the coat which will help us create a replica in the future. Both the conservation and pattern help us preserve this piece of Green Bay history for future generations.
This project would not have been possible without the Green Bay and De Pere Antiquarian Society. We thank them for their shared interest in preserving our local history. The coat will return to Life and Death at Fort Howard in January 2017!
Segment aired on WBAY in September 1963, Neville Public Museum Collection
I had the opportunity of working with the film held in the museum’s collection. Here I was able to see just how unknown the moon was and NASA's thoughts on their ten year plan and budget for sending a man to the moon.
NASA spent billions of dollars making and launching rockets, satellites, space probes and space crafts into space in order to gather information. Every one of their programs was essential to the United States’ goal of a landing a man on the moon. Each program was made to teach the scientists something new about space and the moon.
Project Mercury was for sending a man into the Earth’s orbit. This would help scientists learn how the Earth’s atmosphere works and how to send a man into space and return him safely. Alan Shepard was the first American man to be launched into space and John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.
The Echo project was used for improving communication knowledge.
The Gemini Project was intended to learn space travel techniques that would help with the actual moon landings.
Lunar Orbiter: 1966-1967
The Lunar Orbiter Program was a handful of unmanned space crafts sent to the moon to take pictures and help narrow down landing spaces for the future Apollo missions.
The Surveyor Program’s mission was to send satellites to land on the moon. This would help determine the kind of surface there was on the moon so then when the time came to send astronauts there, they would know they could land safely on the surface.
The Apollo Program’s purpose was to use all of the information gathered from the previous programs to send a man to the moon, walk on the moon and then return safely home. On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts landed and walked on the moon. In 1971, Apollo 15 astronauts were able to drive on the moon.
It is hard to think that the moon was once an unknown, scary place to not only the public but to scientists as well. Years and years of intense research went in to determining if space travel was even possible and if a moon landing could be on the long list of future goals. Fortunately, with dedicated scientists constantly researching, the United States was able to remove the fear of the moon and send astronauts to walk on it. Since then, NASA has been developing new technology to further their knowledge of space. This technology is how we are able to learn information about the planets, stars and galaxies and how we are able to view amazing pictures of the incredible Space.
Visit Eyes on the Sky: July 16-November 6, 2016
UW-Green Bay Intern
Over a year ago, when we began our initial research for our exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard, we naturally looked to our collections from the prominent “founding fathers” of Green Bay. Men like Morgan L Martin, Henry Baird, and many members of the Grignon family were all connected with the first settlers in Green Bay. However, we kept coming across a man named Ebenezer Childs, who was mentioned throughout many official records and personal correspondences, but who he was and what he did was never really explained. Using books and articles that researchers before us had written we finally identified this character, and even found that he had written a very short autobiography.
Childs’ memoirs were the piece of the puzzle we needed…or so we thought. He writes of his many exploits; some as simple as building the first framed home in Green Bay, building the first ox yolk here, partnering with John Arndt to build the first sawmill in the area, and even claiming to have brought the first piece of lead to Green Bay. Other tales, such as how he eluded the authorities of the fort to illegally sell alcohol to the soldiers, survived harrowing journeys to St Louis and Madison, and outran tax collectors as a young man in his home state of Massachusetts are more fanciful. However, in a letter to his lawyer, Morgan L Martin, we discovered a whole side of Childs’ life that he did not share in his remembrances.
As historians, the case of Ebenezer Childs reminds us of two things. First, the process of doing history is messy and murky. Researchers in the present day can only use the sources that have not been destroyed or lost. Who knows how many stories, people, and events have been forgotten simply because no record of them survives? The second lesson is that you can’t always believe everything you read. Childs makes many claims in his own autobiography, but we can also prove he left many things out. Neither a modern day Facebook profile nor a 150 year old autobiography can tell us the complete story of a person’s life, and it’s easy for the writer to embellish, omit, or simply misremember the facts.
Stay tuned for Part II of this blog, where we reveal the scandals that may have caused Ebenezer Childs to have been “erased” from history. Or, even better, visit Life and Death at Fort Howard to discover what we know about Childs’ life. And even better than that, visit us on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:00 p.m. for our Exhibits Exposed program, where we will share new information about Childs that has been discovered even after the exhibit opened along with additional artifacts and stories about the people of early Green Bay.
Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions will be bringing the vivacious character to life this weekend only at the museum. For more information and tickets visit Ticket Star.
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