The opportunity to go to Utah to work on Dr. Tom Carter’s project of Scandinavian Material Culture in an Early Mormon Setting was just too good to pass up. To me, the chance to learn from one of the recognized leaders in material culture and vernacular architecture and to be paid to do it seemed like a gift. The project involved not only research into the pieces of furniture and houses we were studying, but also in the makers and users of the objects.
My work took me to different parts of Utah and put me in direct contact with the guardians of Mormon material culture, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and the LDS Church archives and museums. I worked directly with Dr. Carter on site visits and on my own to access archives. I essentially did the background research required to bring the furniture and houses we were studying to life.
I entered the Folk Studies program to move my work from the physical labor of restoration to the research and regulation of preservation. I made the move knowing that, for me, the people in the history of an object were as exciting as the object itself. This internship gave me the chance to dive in, to get my feet wet and to sometimes get in over my head in the research of individuals attached to the past of a given object. My research into the Scandinavian population of 1860s Utah helped to discern population pattern connections within the styles of furniture represented.
In addition to the time I spent on Dr. Carter’s project I held a part-time job at the State Historic Preservation Office and attended many of the cultural activities available in Salt Lake City. I worked with National Register files, updated the statewide contractor directory and digitized paperwork for over 30 years worth of Acquisition and Development and Certified Local Government grants. My exposure to the group I worked with, Barbara Murphy etal, gave me a deeper understanding of the governmental end of preservation.
I also recently completed a mini-internship with Curator/Registrar Sandy Staebell at the Kentucky Museum--a fantastic opportunity to learn from an experienced professional. I worked directly with the artifacts for most of my time at the museum and learned proper labeling and care techniques for many materials as well as accessioning, deaccessioning and inventorying procedures.
Scandinavian Material Culture in an Early Mormon Setting
Utah State Historic Preservation Office
Photos shown here are: Barbara Murphy, Deputy SHPO; SHPO's home, the Rio Grande Building, interior; early map of historic Coombs Site discovered by the author during research; feather from the 5,000 year-old burial site of a Native American infant discovered by state archeologists during the author's tenure; National Register Historic District files; A.M.E. Church visited with the Historical Architect Don Hartley; file box from 1971; the author during work; photographs and slides associated with NR properties waiting to be filed by the author.
Kentucky Museum Mini-Internship
Photos shown here are samples of the work undertaken by the author.