Apologies for the obscure sci-fi reference, but every time I don the blue conservation gloves to protect an artifact from my oily, greasy, sweaty, human hands, my immediate thought is River Tam’s creepy chant, “Two by two, hands of blue,” in the underappreciated Firefly series. If you happened to catch me in the galleries this week installing a 19th-century tin coffeepot in the “Making Connecticut” exhibit, why, yes, I was contemplating melting your brain with a hand-held sonic-wave killing device.
That tin coffeepot was painted around 1820 by Edward Francis, who worked in Oliver Filley’s tinware business in Bloomfield. A small display of this pot and other tinware from the shop helps illustrate the rise of industrial work in Connecticut as small factories gradually replaced farms and maritime trade as the state’s economic engine. The “new” coffeepot I installed replaced a similar pot, which, I think you will agree, is much prettier.
Since we had the exhibit case open to switch the pots, our Collections Manager, Diane, thought it would be a good idea to photograph all of the tinware in order to add images to the collection database records. Note the iPhone on the left, which we used to take a snapshot of the display so we wouldn’t have to guess how to put it all back together after the photo shoot. This is Diane’s iPhone, not mine. I’m wary of hand-held devices that might melt my brain.
As I mentioned, we wear nitrile rubber medium-duty disposable gloves when handling certain objects (especially metal) to prevent the oils on our hands from damaging anything or causing rust. For a long time, white cotton gloves were in vogue, but then we switched to black rubber gloves to give us a better grip when carrying artifacts. But the black gloves made us look like burglars every time we picked anything up. So now we wear blue gloves. If you know who River Tam is, then these are even more alarming, but I haven’t heard any complaints yet.
Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society