Museums are Full of Fun Stuff

My volunteer Randall Museum photography has come to fruition! I was asked to take some photographs for their Grant Proposal, to renovate the entire building. I gave them my Non-Profit rate, not only because they are non-profit, but because the museum really needs renovating. Though small and relatively homely compared to the fancy Cal Academy of Sciences, the Randall has a lovely community feeling, kid-friendly in the old school way (ie, building blocks atop mechanical, table top earthquake platforms, not motion-sensing interactive projected videos), with people who work there because they love museums (I can't help but feel CAS is over commercialized, and has taken on an amusement park-like aura; of course, modern museums may need this to survive in this Short Attention Span world - but that's another story).

I thought I was there to photograph the building, I was really pleased to find out I'd be shooting some artifacts and objects that had been in storage (due to lack of display space). The above baskets are Native American. The top one is Modoc - a tribe that originally covered northern California and southern Oregon. The second is from a tribe that lived in the Tahoe area. The collection of baskets has been sitting in boxes in a closet for years and years, and are estimated to be worth... a hundred thousand dollars. Don't know how old they are. In fact, not much is known about them, e.g. how they were acquired. They will have some sleuthing to do if they get the grant and can display these baskets.  I know baskets can seem ho hum but think about this: when's the last time you ever saw a Native American basket with braided strap-like handles? Or with a platform-like base? Yeah. Exactly. Very unique. BTW, they were photographed on a sheet of butcher paper taped to drape down from a chair atop a table in front of a window.

The rocks and minerals room was a haven of dusty, cobwebbed, mini-shelves and cigar boxes, stuffed with all rocks, fossils, crystals - Wow! (Yes I did have a rock collection in my youth). An item of particular pride is a fossil turtle shell from 26 to 37 Million Years Ago. It was too heavy to move to the butcher paper studio set up, so here it is on its storage shelf, with flash and diffuser. This closet only had one dim light bulb, and in addition to large objects of geological nature, was used as a storage space for some sort of seal exhibit and consequently one had to step over life-size, 2D, seal-shaped wood cut outs to access the turtle shell. Actually, it looks rather tortoise-like, but perhaps prehistoric turtles had high-domed dorsal carapaces, unlike their extant descendants.

The zoology room was similarly packed with stuff and dusty. Lots of taxidermied  things, which unfortunately did not have proper storage (museums will often have temperature/ humidity controlled rooms that are protected at all costs from any bug invasion). Unfortunately, bob cat was subject to bug chewing, and though I did photograph him, it is too sad to post that picture. Cigars must've been ubiquitous back in the day, as here too, specimens were kept in cigar boxes. Keep in mind that the Randall is a Education/ Teaching Museum, as opposed to a Research Museum. A Research Museum's collections would be stored in a much more organized and sterile fashion. Well, it's always fun to see behind the scenes.