Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stabilizing a ceramic vessel in the collection

Greetings. I’m Paul O’Dell, visiting VIIS from Santa Fe, NM, where I’m the Archivist for the Submerged Resources Center. I’ve come to intern at the Virgin Islands NP museum collection for one week to expand my knowledge of different collections in different parks and to hopefully assist in any way that Museum Curator, Susanna Pershern, sees fit.
What a collection! The Island’s amazing history, both cultural and natural, is very well represented, from the most beautiful (and well cared for) accessions of pre-historic Taino pottery and bone carvings, historic accessions from the Island’s dark days of slavery and revolt, to items and equipment reflecting the era of sugarcane plantations and rum estates. Also represented are significant and symbolic items relating to the history of the presence of the National Park Service on the island, which as an archivist for the NPS, I find very interesting. The Natural History Collection, however, is exceptionally amazing (I do have to disclose that my background is in biology, so I’m a bit biased). The collection consists of over 2000 specimens representing nearly all of the rich and diverse life which can be found on St. John and the surrounding waters (although donkey and cat specimens have yet to be included). It is a working collection, in that daily specimen condition monitoring and maintenance takes place, and the associated specimen database (the unexciting yet critical element to any collection) is current and correct. This is not an easy job, and every credit should be given to Susanna for maintaining the collection the way she does. I’ve seen other museums under ideal circumstances (i.e. not on a remote island and with PhDs swarming around) that were not half as well maintained and accessible for research.

In addition to curatorial and museum administrative work, some time has been found for other important tasks which are all day-in-the-life work for a curator at VIIS. There is checking on the Archeology Laboratory at Cinnamon Bay (swimming in the ocean on our conveniently timed lunch break), taking pictures of cats and chickens on the beach for the biologists(life is rough), and staring across the Caribbean Sea from the back porch of the office on our federally mandated 15 minute coffee breaks.
All in all, this has been an amazing opportunity. To work with one of the most talented and resourceful employees that the NPS has to offer in one of the most beautiful and resource-rich parks under NPS administration is truly an honor. I would like to thank the Resource Management team at VIIS for sacrificing Susanna’s time for a week to accommodate me and demonstrate to me her devotion to the NPS mission of resource stewardship.