Thursday, April 25, 2019

National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month so in this post, I'd like to describe what some of the volunteers at the Benton County Historical Society do.  Many volunteers work in the collections department.  After the Peter and Rosalie Johnson Collection Center was built, boxes of objects were trucked over from Oregon State where they joined those containing the Benton County collection. Larger items were directly to large shelves; the boxes were piled on pallets. Retrieving any one object for exhibition often meant moving many boxes – the desired box always seemed to be on the bottom of the pallet!
Once the tracked shelving was installed, the process of moving objects onto the shelves began. Under the direction of Collections Manager Mary Gallagher, volunteers unpack the boxes, check each item's condition, and make sure the computer records are accurate. Then other volunteers photograph each object.
Some volunteers make special packages of archival materials to keep the objects from tipping over on a shelf or to keep them from sliding around in a drawer. 

Then the items are placed on shelves or in drawers and the new location and the photograph are entered into the museum's database. That's Mary Gallagher on the ladder; volunteers are not supposed to climb ladders. 

Other volunteers in the collections department scan photographs and slides.
The Benton County Collection also included many books and documents, including the first-hand accounts of school days or wartime service that I've quoted in earlier posts. Volunteers who work with these items summarize the contents, scan the covers of booklets, and make sure the document is stored appropriately. 
Some volunteers work in the Exhibitions department.  I've described what I do (besides write for the blog) in the post of March 30, 2017. Another volunteer edits label copy and works on the exhibitions portion of the museum's web page and a third frames photographs and documents for exhibitions as well as helping Mark Tolonen make mounts.
The docents are a group of volunteers who take the educational trunks out to schools for special programs are help out when a teacher brings a class to the museum.
Others help by preparing items for mailing and at special events such as family day. Fifteen people serve on the Board of Directors and others on the Campaign Committee to raise funds for the new museum building. What we all share is a love of history and the fun of learning about a diverse collection of items.
collections of objects from the past. 
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Making Waves: da Vinci Days lectures

What do these objects have in common (besides being part of the Benton County Museum's artifact collection)?

Answer:  They are both related to this spring's da Vinci Days programs on the theme “Making Waves.”

The first lecture, “Echoes from the Deep” (April 2) was about how marine mammals use acoustic waves for navigation, communication, and, for toothed whales, to find food. I was surprised to learn that due to temperature and pressure, there's a zone in the ocean where sound waves stay trapped in a narrow channel and do not dissipate. As a result, some whale calls can travel thousands of kilometers.  The sound waves generated by the whale's “clicks” are heard as vibrations of the jaw and fat stimulate the ears of nearby whales. The first photograph is of an ear bone from a whale in Alaska.

Speaker Dave Mellinger also showed spectrograms to illustrate the well-structured nature of humpback whale songs and sonar readings to show a pod of toothed whales locating and surrounding a school of fish.   Shipping and seismic exploration have caused a 10 decibel increase in ocean noise over the last 30 years, making whale navigation and communication more difficult. Professor Mellinger also talked about the problems of researching whales and how researchers have benefited from the acoustical research done on birds. He played a recording of whale songs sped up ten times which sounded remarkably like bird songs!

The second talk (April 9) also featured research on a hard-to-study phenomenon—spider webs.  Mechanical engineering professor Ross Hatton teamed with a biologist in California to build a mechanical web to better understand how spiders use the vibrations created by an insect landing in the web.  Spiders make the radial lines of a stiffer silk then the silk they use for the spiral lines in between.  The spider then sits in the center with its feet on the radial lines.  Vibrations are strongest from the radial lines near where the prey landed.  Also the tension is approximately the same on all spiral lines so the closer to the center the prey lands, the higher the frequency of vibration.

A conversation with engineering professor and musician ChetUdell led to adapting the research of spider web creation to make a unique electronic harp.  A computer generates notes depending upon which string is plucked. The note is determined in the same way a spider detects where its prey is trapped. The autoharp pictured above, though, generates sound from the actual physical plucking of strings of different lengths.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Friday, April 5, 2019

Gillet Family Donations to the Horner Museum

The walking stick pictured in the last post is just one of many objects from Mozambique which Ira and Edith Gillet donated to the Horner Collection, now part of the Benton County Museum. Other objects they sent include everyday household objects and things used in subsistence agriculture which was, and to some extent still is, the dominant feature of Mozambique's economy.

The Kambini Mission in Inhambane Province taught improved agricultural techniques that the students could then take back to their villages. One of the Gillet's newsletters noted that “Kambini students raise about one thousand bushels of peanuts at the school each year for their own use.  Also two crops of corn yearly and large fields of manioc, sweet potatoes, beans, cotton, and pumpkins—all plowed by International Harvest Company walking plows pulled by cattle trained by the students.” The caption for one of the photos in the newsletter says “This Kambini graduate learned while at school to use a plow. At home he trained two oxen and bought a plow for himself.  Now he not only plows his own fields—formerly his mother and sister had to dig those fields with short-handled hoes—but he plows for neighbors who already aspire to own plows.”

The Gillets donated a winnowing basket that the boys would have used in husking peanuts or corn.
They also wrote that “Each Kambini boy learns to make good grain baskets from local vines.”

Palm trees abound in the Inhambane Province.  Parts of these trees were used in making many household objects. This “water dipper” or ladle is made from a coconut shell.
Mozambicans used the leaves from the palms to make carrying bags of various sizes and patterns. Here are photographs of some of my favorites.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon