February 26, 2005

A Historian's Playground

Do you remember when you were a kid, sitting at home on a sunny day, bored because you still hadn't really learned to make your own fun and sustain it? Maybe you had a friend over, and the two of you were even more bored because (well, in my case) even reading wasn't an option since it couldn't involve your guest. Then, one of your parents (finding themselves somehow in possession of a coupla free hours, and knowing peace and leisure to be impossible with gloomy children in the house) would suggest a visit to the park a few blocks away.

And you and your friend and/or siblings would go out there, under the watchful eye of the adult on a nearby bench, and just attack that playground like the unconquered frontier it was. Every bar, slide, and pole had to be made use of as you expended those enormous reserves of energy you had back then (you know, the ones you should have been saving for college and beyond). All that brightly-colored metal and plastic was so fun and exciting to play on because it could be anything you wanted it to be . . . pirate ship or spaceship, hostile jungle or haunted jailhouse.

Well, I remember those days quite well (as I should . . . I couldn't have left them behind more than 10 years ago), but I had forgotten what it really felt like to experience the pure glee of conquering a new playground until Saturday morning. As part of my membership in the Webb Historical Society here on campus, I am required to volunteer 2 hours of time one Saturday a month at the Gregg County Historical Museum.

The museum is small, but it is packed to the bursting point with artifacts and exhibits of all kinds. I didn't examine most of the museum as closely as I might have liked, because we got straight to work when we arrived. The museum's staff (like everyone else) is currently in the process of going digital, which means that everything they have in their collection must be measured, weighed, photographed, recorded, and catalogued. Could anything be more fun?

I started off by donning a pair of white cotton gloves (so the oils from my hands wouldn't damage anything I touched), and helping to carry items upstairs to be entered into the computer. We confined ourselves to the "Bank President's Office" exhibit, and I found myself handling antique silver inkwells, soft black bowler hats, and various forms of obsolete currency and yellowing documents. In other words, I got to go to a museum and touch stuff.

Then, I got put in charge of the computer, which was also great fun. They had a great little computer program called "Past Perfect" which is made specifically for recording museum collections. The interface was simple but effective, and I had a marvellous time tracking down the appropriate pre-entered designation for each item type, inputting all of the data about each item, and inserting the digital pictures.

After we finished, the lady in charge treated us to a delicious lunch at the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant next-door. I then returned to LeTourneau for the afternoon D&D session. In short, it was quite the best waking time I've spent on a Saturday morning in the last 3 years (at least).

The joke here, of course, is that I haven't been awake for a Saturday morning in the past 3 years (at least). But it was still great fun, and I can't wait for the end of March to roll around so I can go back and mess around with more historical stuff.

Posted by Jared at February 26, 2005 06:48 PM | TrackBack