Time to feature another aircraft in the collection! This one was an experimental craft built by a University of Alaska engineering student to fly home to Spruce Creek, AK.
The “Bakeng Duce” nicknamed the "Duce II" was built by Preston Fowler in 1974. Fowler, from Shaw Creek, AK, was a mechanical engineering student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and built the experimental craft with the assistance of Engineering Professor Ken Hobson. Hobson had previously built aircraft for Hawken Aircraft Ltd.
The craft was built in the garage of the Duckering Building, the engineering building on UAF campus, and cost about $2000 to construct. Most of the plane is made from previously used parts, however, the metal tubing and Sitka spruce for the wings were new. The craft passed FAA inspection, given the number N75FD, and her maiden flight was on September 27, 1976.
Kirsten here again, this time introducing the 1943 Noorduyn Norseman. This aircraft is front and center at the Museum and had quite an adventurous life, and a well deserved retirement here at the Pioneer Air Museum, if I do say so myself.
The Norseman housed at the Pioneer Air Museum is a Model Noorduym Norseman UC-64AS, built in 1943 by Noorduyn Aircraft Ltd. of Canada. These planes were introduced in 1935 and designed as a single engine bush plane; interchangeably fitted with wheels, skis, and floats for landing on a multitude of terrain types. It had a high wing monoplane airframe to facilitate loading and unloading passengers and cargo. During World War II, it caught the interest of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the United States Army Air Force because of its abilities in rough and rugged Northern environments.
The model plane at PAM would have been the kind flown for Lend Lease Program of WWII as a search and rescue or utility plane. This particular aircraft flew for many airline companies, including Island Airways, Inc. (1946-1948) and Alaska Airlines (1956-1961). In 1192, Doug Solberg of Juneau, AK gave the Norseman to the museum. The plane had been refurbished in Washington State and flown up to Fairbanks, where it now sits center stage in the museum.
Our intern, Ashley Nicole (Nikki) Lorenzen came to Fairbanks for two months to help us catalog our archives. She has done an outstanding job. In her time here, she has become interested in conservation. This blog post explains the challenges museums face in conserving their collections, and how they must handle them.
The purpose of a modern museums is to collect, preserve, interpret, and display items of cultural, artistic, or scientific significance for the education of the public both today and in the future. Museums wouldn’t be museums without their collections of objects and archives. But it can be a challenge to make sure those objects are around for generations to come; after all entropy is inevitable. However, there are steps museum professionals can take to decrease the risk to their collections and hopefully prevent or delay the need to call in a conservator to repair an object. Knowing the risks is the first step to preventing damage. Below are ten of the most common agents of deterioration, in no particular order, a brief description of hazards they pose and some ways to avoid the damage they can cause.
1. Physical Forces
The three biggest concerns with physical forces are impact, shock, and vibration. Probably most damage from physical forces is caused during shipping. Objects need to be professionally and securely packed for transport and inspected both prior to packing at the original location and after it is unpacked at its final destination. Establishing good object handling procedures should help decrease the risk of some impact related problems. Additionally proper storage will further decrease risks for all three physical factors. Shelving units should be sturdy and not so high that museum workers cannot reach objects easily and safely. Units may also need to have small lips at the edge to prevent vibrations for earthquakes, heavy trucks passing by, etc, from “walking” objects off the edge of the shelf.
Unfortunately not all museum attendees have the best intentions. And even more unfortunately most cases of theft involve someone working for the museum and should be safeguarding its collection. Security screening prior to hiring personnel may reduce the likelihood of hiring potential thieves. Vandalism such as graffiti or gum is not just a common nuisance but can cause irreparable damage to museum collections. Installing security systems in museums can help reduce the likelihood of theft or vandalism through the use of proximity alarms, weight triggers, etc, and the mere presence of security personnel may deter casual vandals and thieves. Although it is unlikely that any museum can be theft-proof to an especially determined thief, security measures should be in place to decrease the risk. Insurance should also be considered for especially valuable or vulnerable pieces.
Dissociation results in the loss of objects, object-related data, or the ability to associate an object with its data. While the other agents of deterioration focus more on physical damage or harm, dissociation affects the legal, cultural, or intellectual status of an object. Dissociation can be brought about through sloppy records keeping or sporadic or catastrophic events resulting in extensive data or object loss (think natural disasters). Object labels or tags might be lost due to pest activity, fading due to light pollution, abrasion, etc. Illegibility or error in creating labels also leads to dissociation.
Without their associated data objects lose their context and meaning which can effect an entire collection. Proper records keeping and careful attention to detail should be maintained to attempt to lessen the occurrence of dissociation.
Unfortunately, no building or museum is completely safe from the danger of a fire. Fires can result in partial or complete loss of a museum’s collection (or building) and may even result in the loss of life. Therefore fire prevention and control needs to be among the top priorities of any museum. Knowing and minimizing the sources of fire ignition will help decrease the risk of a fire and having the proper response system in place will help maintain the safety of personnel and collections in the event a fire does occur. Although the cost initially of setting up a fire prevention system may seem high the benefits far outweigh the cost. Installing the right kind of fire suppression system, using the right materials for cases and exhibit treatments, and practicing fire response protocols are all ways to minimize fire risks.
Water is another major concern for collections. Mentioned above fire suppression systems frequently use water but that water also has the potential to damage collections so knowing when and where to install water-based fire suppression is key. Water is also likely to find its way into the building during a storm or flood so building maintenance is extremely important. Inspections should be conducted routinely to determine if water is getting into the building. Collections should always be kept off the floor and if possible out of basements to minimize damage due to flooding. Water may also be the result of spills, construction accidents, leaking from air conditioning units, etc.
“Pollutant” is a broader term that can be applied to airborne pollutants, pollutants caused by contact with another material, and intrinsic pollutants. Airborne pollutants include (but are not limited to) ozone, sulpher-based gases, hydrogen, and nitrogen dioxide. The effects of such pollutants can be discoloration, corrosion, disfiguration, etc. Pollutants can also be transferred by contact. Skin contact is a common way for this to happen and the oils on skin can damage many objects so it is generally best to use nitrile or cotton gloves when handling objects, though paper objects are generally not handled with gloves because they can tear the pages. But contact doesn’t just mean human contact. Not all materials get along with one another and should not be stored or displayed together. Paper clips can rust and damage archival papers. Wood and plastics off-gas harmful chemicals. Silver can destroy fabric. Knowing the complete composition of an artifact can tell you the best and most effect method of storage. Intrinsic pollutants are those that are produced due to the nature of the object itself and regardless of treatment will eventually cause damage to the object. However steps can be made to minimize and slow this damage if the components of the object are known. Ink or ‘original’ adhesive tapes on papers are examples of intrinsic pollutants. For archival works it may be possible to scan the papers to create a digital record in the even that deterioration is not able to be stopped.
7. Light (Ultraviolet/Infrared)
Not all light is visible to the human eye but all light is harmful to collection objects and archives. Light damage can be seen in fading, yellowing, and cracking for example. Rotating objects off of display and into proper storage is an easy way to minimize damage caused by light while still allowing for public education. Tinted windows can also help reduce light damage. Frequent light metering should also be conducted to establish the light pollution levels caused by windows and skylights so that exhibits can be set up accordingly and the most sensitive objects can be housed elsewhere or have appropriate cases in place to guard their exposure.
8. Incorrect Relative Humidity
Temperature and Humidity are linked and can be used in conjunction to offset problems. Some humidity is generally good for most collection objects so “relative humidity” is not a problem but there is a right and wrong, hence “incorrect relative humidity.” If it is too humid the environment may breed mold, for example, which can be extremely harmful to collections. Incorrect relative humidity can also cause rusting, cracking, crizzling, etc. Weather is a major source of fluctuating humidity and inspections should be done semi-annually to make sure the building is secure. Installing regulatory systems is the best way to monitor and control fluctuations in humidity. If your museum cannot afford the more expensive systems humidity can be controlled to an extent using temperature changes. Generally the higher the temperature the lower the humidity in a controlled environment.
9. Incorrect Relative Temperature
Like humidity, temperature cannot be avoided but incorrect temperature levels will cause damage to your museum’s collection. Fluctuations in temperature can cause rapid changes in some organic materials that will lead to them cracking or bowing. High or low temperatures can cause materials to become brittle or shrink. Windows and electrical equipment are two possible sources of increased temperature. Thermostats are an easy way to maintain correct temperature levels. For sensitive materials and objects it may be a good idea to place temperature and humidity monitors inside object cases for a better detection method.
Remember not all objects should be stored at the same relative temperature or humidity. Some objects may need cold storage to best preserve them whereas others need to be kept in warmer conditions. Knowing the components of collection objects will tell you the best methods of storage.
Pests are a major concern for most museums. And having pests only leads to more pests. Frass (insect feces) will attract other insects and pests. Because of the organic nature of many collection objects they are at high risk for insect and other pest activity. Moths and beetles love chowing down on fibers and can ruin textiles in short order. Creating and implementing an Integrated Pest Management policy will help educate personnel combat pests. Sticky traps are good for both insects and rodent populations and should be checked regularly.
For more information about museum conservation check out http://www.cci-icc.gc.ca/
This summer we hired Ashley Nicole (Nikki) Lorenzen as our intern to process our archival collections, and she went well above and beyond! We asked her to answer a few questions about her experience so far.
1. What is your background?
I am originally from a small(ish) town in Northern California. After high school I went to a jr. college where I took an elective anthropology class and fell in love. From there I went on to get my undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte before getting my Masters in Museum Studies from George Washington University.
2. What got you interested in museum work?
I was actually drawn to museum work almost on accident. I guess I always knew that museums didn't just run themselves but if a museum is running smoothly how they operate isn't really the primary concern of its visitors. I just never crossed my mind that I could be one of those people until I started looking into graduate degree programs. Although I was initially accepted to GWU to continue on in anthropology with only a concentration in museum studies it became clear after a few courses that museum studies was the direction I wanted to go in and once I changed majors I never looked back.
3. What brought you to the Pioneer Air Museum?
I made my way to the Pioneer Air Museum with a good deal of luck, I think. After applying for the state museum internship program for many years unsuccessfully I was once again disappointed to find out that I hadn't been accepted this year either. So imagine my surprise when an Alaskan phone number was calling me out of the blue. As it turns out my name was given to the PAM curator as a possible candidate for an internship here. The phone rang, I said yes, and the rest is history.
4. What is your favorite thing about Alaska so far?
My favorite thing about Alaska so far has been a tie between the people and the food. Everyone I've met has been so nice and friendly and overall just really willing to help out in whatever way possible. And the food is great! Although I've lived on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts before Alaskan fish is better! Plus I get to try things like caribou and yak.
5. What do you think of the Pioneer Air Museum?
I think the Pioneer Air Museum has a unique perspective on aviation and has a great deal to offer the community at large. All of the pieces are here and with some work and a few more interns it'll be even better.
6. What project are you working on?
So far I am working on inventorying and cataloging the archival (photographs, letters, documents, etc) collection and inputting the information into the museum's database.
7. What is the most interesting thing you’ve found in the archives?
One of the most interesting things I've found so far was a file containing newspaper articles about a shoe. Although I don't read every piece of paper or article I find, something about this story stuck out to me. For one thing it seemed odd to me that we would even have anything relating to a shoe in an aviation museum. Well as I read on it turned out that the shoe came from the wife of an Alaskan pilot. While on their honeymoon their plane crashed, both survived with only minor injuries, and the pair had to walk over 12 miles of glacier to the nearest town to get help. The shoes the woman was wearing withstood the abuse fairly well with only their heels being worn to a sharp point. When I mentioned the article to Della, the collections manager, she became very excited and asked a lot of questions before heading off toward the entrance to the museum. It turns out we have a shoe on display that matches the description of the shoe from the article but no one knew where the shoe came from or what its story was. It was a very exciting moment to have been able to solve a mystery for the museum and one that almost didn't happen. It's moments like that which make museum work so interesting.
8. What are your plans for the summer in Alaska?
When I'm not at work I hope to spend my time exploring Alaska as much as I can. Which is admittedly difficult on a bicycle. However my boyfriend is coming for a visit next month and we plan on visiting Seward and Denali while he's here. I'd really like to see a moose but so far I've had no such luck. Fingers are crossed, though!
9. What advice would you give someone looking to do an internship in museums?
For anyone who thinks they'd like to get into the museum field I'd say definitely try. Volunteer with museums whenever possible, though time and finances can make that difficult, and learn as much as you can about the different aspects of museum work. There are so many museums out there who need any help you can give and volunteering is one way to do it. It can also lead to an internship if that's more what you're interested in. As for internships, ask. Often people are willing to take on interns if you simply ask them. Or look online and apply for internships with the museums you're most interested in. Just remember that most internships are not paid so you'll need to have some way to cover expenses on your own. Otherwise it's a great way to gain experience and break into the museum field from the inside. There are degrees available as well to continue your museum education. There is always something new to learn. Museums aren't just about what's on display; there are records to maintain, props to fabricate, exhibits to design, labels to be written, educational programs to create and teach, conservation work to preserve specimens and objects, the list is endless. Museums are a great place to work and learn and if you're interested contact your local museum professionals for ways you can get involved.
Like many museums, the Pioneer Air Museum has a history of collecting objects without the best possible record keeping. Museums, historically, have been formed this way - from one person's collection, turning into a collection from friends and connections. Looking to the future of the Pioneer Air Museum, we know that this practice can no longer go on. The museum has taken several steps moving towards museum best practices, including hiring a summer intern every year since 2012, and having two consultations by professionals from the Alaska State Museum and the Alaska State Archives. The most recent of these endeavors was a consultation by Dean Dawson, Alaska State Archivist.
Mr. Dawson spent three days in April with myself and our curator, Pete Haggland, inventorying and organizing our paper collections. Most of our paper collections were located in one area, our old theater. The old theater contained 20 chairs bolted to the ground and had been used for storage for the last several years. Mr. Dawson and I created a clean workspace of several tables and began pulling out boxes to process. The goal was to gain what is called "intellectual control" over our collections - essentially, we wanted to know what we have! We processed the entire theater space, including four shelving units and a safe. What we found included books, manuals, paper collections, institutional records, photographs, slides, and objects. At the end of three days, we had an inventory of 53 boxes, as well as some over sized items such as maps, posters, and blueprints. We are very grateful for the help of Mr. Dawson, whose expertise in this area has started us on the path to archival processing that will create better access to these records for the public.
The following Saturday, April 26th, we had 17 volunteers from our membership, the Eielson Air Force Base, as well as the AMT school help us to clear the theater space out, removing the chairs, some shelving, and the difficult to move safe. They set up shelving units that now house the organized and inventoried boxes of archival collections. Without the help of our members and volunteers, we would not be able to accomplish much of the museum's mission, and we are thankful for their efforts!
Where do we go from here?
The next step in processing these collections is an inventory and cataloging of the contents of each box. We have hired an intern for this summer, who will be working with me on cataloging the paper collections, as well as continuing to process our object collections. There is still a lot to be done at the Pioneer Air Museum, but we are proud of how far we've come in just the last few years!
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Pioneer Air Museum, either as a member or a volunteer, we are always grateful for your help! Projects include restoration of our historic airplanes, inventorying the collections, public and children's programming, and event staffing. Please contact us if you are interested!
The Pioneer Air Museum is full of fascinating history, objects, and paper collections that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. As the Collections Manager, I am constantly finding unusual and exciting artifacts that I would like to share with the public. Through this blog, I would like to share with you some of these interesting objects and stories, as well as the stories of the people behind the history of Alaskan aviation. We would like to encourage an open dialogue, so any comments or questions are welcome!
This blog will be feature articles primarily generated by me, Della Hall, Collections Manager. Other contributors will be credited at the beginning of the article.
This blog and website is maintained by museum volunteers and staff.