The Neville Public Museum
The Neville Blog
This flag has been at the museum since 1934. When we identified it for exhibit use last year it was clear the 157 year old flag needed some care. There was extensive shredding and areas of loss that made it difficult to exhibit and care for. To exhibit the flag safely, while also considering preservation, the piece needed conservation. A highly trained specialist worked on the flag. They supported the flag by hand stitching nylon tulle around the stripes to stabilize the fabric.
How Did We Identified the Flag?
This flag is believed to be the last flag to fly over Fort Howard. We were able to confirm this by putting together clues from different sources.
- First was the writing on the upper left hand star: "From Major Shaylor, Old Fort Howard during the War, 1865."
- Second, is an excerpt from History of Brown County by Deborah Martin that re-caps an event that took place at the Fort Howard in 1861. Martin mentions Mattie Underwood as the maker of the flag which matches the name in museum records. Martin also mentions Major Shaylor as “the venerable custodian of this ancient stronghold"-the same name on the flag.
- Third is the style of the flag. The 34 stars represent the 34 states of the Union from 1861 to 1865 under President Abraham Lincoln. This canton design is in the “The Great Star” style. This pattern was used in the 1800s but died out after the Civil War. All these clues provided enough information to confirm this is the Fort Howard flag.
What is Fort Howard? (Hint: Not a paper company)
The U.S. Army arrived on the shores of the Fox River in August 1816, two years before Brown County became a county. They established Fort Howard, changing the dynamic of the community and influencing what it is today. Fort Howard operated until 1852 when it was de-commissioned. In the following years a volunteer infantry used the site under the care of Major Shaylor. On May 3, 1861 President Lincoln made a speech calling for volunteers to join the Union Army. On May 18th, people of Green Bay and the surrounding areas put together a special event at Fort Howard. It supported Lincoln’s call and included the raising of this impressive flag. During the Civil War soldiers trained at Fort Howard before leaving for the South. Eventually, Chicago & North Western Railroad bought the land and the buildings were officially de-commissioned in 1872.
Ready for Exhibit
After all of this work on the flag and research we’re ready to share the flag with you! This remarkable artifact will be a centerpiece in the upcoming exhibit Our Brown County. Experience it for yourself starting May 29th!
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!
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- Top 5 Moments at the Museum in 2018
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- Women's History Month: Irene (Metoxen) Moore
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