A Day in the Life

Ever wonder what a day in my job as a Curator of Collections is like? Read on for a little snapshot of a full day for me at the William Paca House.

Robin with a Nanking ceramic plate

In our collection, HA has a lovely Nanking ceramic dinner service purchased by William Paca, or his son John Philemon Paca, at his home on Wye Island. These late 18th century/early 19th century plates were made in China and exported to America. The design and blue and white color palette was very popular then across the newly created United States, and remains so today.


After noticing an old shelf in our storage area was collapsing under the weight of these objects, I bought a new, sturdier shelf designed to hold more weight. I brought it up three flights of stairs to our collections storage area, assembled it, and bolted it to the wall to prevent it from falling over. Next, I cut a layer of ethafoam to line each shelf. Ethafoam is made of polyethylene and is acid free, making it the perfect barrier to support and protect museum objects.


A safe staging area was then created for the plates, and the objects carefully moved from the old shelf to that area. During that time, I noticed that the mismatched objects on the shelf were not cohesive, and that the dinner service was actually scattered throughout a few areas in storage. That doesn’t make sense! I relocated the non-Nanking objects to new locations in collections storage and gathered all 60 pieces of the dining set together.

Moving objects reminds me of playing battleship; 1991.01.01 to L4, and 1979.12 to B2, etc. Each object in our collection has an assigned number for identification, and each shelving unit and shelf is also assigned a letter/number. That is how we keep track of our objects and locations. When objects are moved, we carefully track their number and their new location, then update our database so we can find the objects again at a later date.

The finished product!

Once I had assembled the entire dining set together, I needed to figure out how to best distribute the weight on the shelves. During this process I took into account which pieces where cracked, their shape, their proximity to the edges of the shelf, their proximity to each other (too close and we are unable to safely reach them or remove them from the shelf), and weight.


Once the placements were determined, it was time to move the plates and safeguard them. To protect each plate from scratching one another and from the weight of being stacked, a piece of ethafoam was cut to size and placed in between each plate. During that process, I recorded each object’s number and location. Finally, I performed the most important step: I went into our database and changed the location of all 60 items.


And that, my friends, was a full 8 hour day!


Robin Matty Curator of Collections


#history #decorativearts #annapolis #annapolishistory #annapolislandmarks #historicannapolis #curator #curatorscorner

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