Mahaffie Blog Post #1 by Maddy Hajer

My first day as an intern at Mahaffie was eye-opening to say the least. I was not aware that I would be working on a site consisting of 30 acres but also a graveyard. Katie Lange, Mahaffie’s daily programs coordinator and collections manager, gave me a tour of the Heritage Center, including the collections storage basement where I would soon find myself working in. She also gave me a behind-the-scenes tour at the Mahaffie Farmhouse. She showed me the racks and racks of period clothing, most of which she or volunteers sewed themselves, as well as the kitchen below the stairs and the bedrooms of the Mahaffie family members that lived there. Their timeline stretches from the 1850s to the 1870s, but their main focus is in the early to mid-1860s as that is the time period that they have the most knowledge of the Mahaffie family on. The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop-Farm is officially the last working stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Weary travelers could briefly rest and eat at the Mahaffie farm before continuing their travels out west. In addition to the house, Ms. Lange also showed me the icehouse, smokehouse, barn, and animal pens. At the moment, they have chickens, sheep, goats, and horses. They typically have pigs, but they sold them on the market quite recently, so their pen was empty when I visited. Their chickens are free-range, and they often use their animals as helpers around the farm, particularly the horses when demonstrating original agricultural practices from the time the Mahaffies lived at their farm. In addition to livestock, they also have a garden with herbs, flowers, and veggies. They rotate their vegetable crops as farmers of the 1860s were aware of the benefits of crop rotation and these are used for living history demonstrations as well.

              As my first day concluded with the touring and general background on the Mahaffie farm and museum, my second day was an introduction to the MRM5 textbook. It goes into great detail about every aspect of museum handling but since I am working with collections, I read about marking and  measuring as well as the caring of artifacts and the many potential problems that can come with that. I was also introduced to the Nomenclature hierarchy and its uses. I thought it particularly interesting that it is very widespread in North America but makes no mention of other continents. I am intrigued as to the other classification systems museums use outside of North America and specifically, outside of the United States. That second day was also when I began to handle real artifacts and was introduced to PastPerfect.. An album of postcards ranging from the early 1900s was my first historically object I handled and checked status on. I first added pictures to the postcards that existed within PastPerfect. For those of you who do not know, PastPerfect is a digital system that holds (ideally) all artifacts, archives, photos, and other materials a museum may have in their possession. It is a wonderful application that allows professionals and interns alike to find specific objects or information on said objects quickly and in an organized manner. After adding pictures of the postcards to PastPerfect, I found that the majority of the postcards were not found in PastPerfect at all, and what is more, did not have any object numbers on them! It turned out that they were part of an old numbering system that has since been retired. My job was to add the postcards to PastPerfect with their new numbers, descriptions, dimensions, conditions, and location.

              This week I continued working in the MRM5 textbook and was taught how to clean small shards or sherds of glass and ceramic. These artifacts were found during a small archaeological project from the Mahaffie icehouse in 2017 done by a former intern. Some pieces were in much need of polishing.  I used a tin foil cooking pan filled with water, a toothbrush, a dental pick, and some Q-tips to wipe off any residue from the artifacts. The cleaning of all the shards took about 2 hours and after cleaning, I was introduced to Paraloid B-72 in Acetone. Its main purpose is to create a space on an object for its object number so people can find and identify them. B-72 is special in that it wipes off completely so if a museum decided to take an object out from collections storage to put it on display, then no mark of its number would remain. There is also a white version of the Paraloid B-72 used on darker colored objects that goes on top of the original clear B-72 coat. Once the artifacts had their B-72 on, I was able to enter them into PastPerfect for the first time and take measurements, mark them, and describe the physical attributes of the artifacts. For my first two weeks, I think I covered a lot of ground and am anticipating what else is in store for me at the Mahaffie Farmstead!

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