Friday, August 13, 2010

Get your bad hair styles and your pencils and papers ready....

I'm feeling a little lost this week.  My Director has taken off for a week's vacation and left the rest of the staff to fend for themselves.  This may not have been the smartest move on her part considering the maturity level of some of her staffers (check out Historic Cherry Hill's facebook page today for our weekly curatorial curiosity - we were supposed to use a collection item to stump our fans with but instead we decided to play "Where in the world is The Director?").  But the woman deserves a break!  It's not the easiest job in the world to manage a museum, from the regular day to day stuff like attending meetings and signing membership renewal the more challenging tasks of finding new ways for the museum to stay relevant to the public and to secure funding to ensure the museum's continued cultural contributions to the reigning in her at times ridiculous and always unruly staff - I'm all for the Director getting some rest and relaxation.  (Don't get me wrong, I'm still sending her daily emails always with the caveat, 'We can talk when you get back' or 'I hate to bother you during your time off, but...').  The fact of the matter is that my Director is the backbone of HCH, and when she's absent it's kind of like a spinal injury for the museum.  You begin to question how it is that we're still able to function without her stabilizing presence.  (I'm sorry Director, but "commanding presence" just won't work with the analogy I will soon make.)

Cherry Hill's architectural style is Georgian with a timber frame construction, typical of the time period in which it was built (1787 to be exact).  It's sometimes called post and beam construction.  The posts (vertical supports) and the beams (horizontal supports) of the frame sit on the sills of the house.  Sills are large beams that sit atop the foundation walls of the structure and bear the weight of the wooden frame.  In the case of Cherry Hill certain factors from the physical environment (when we're feeling particularly juvenile and sorry for ourselves we call them "museum enemies") have compromised parts of the sill.  For instance, exposure to water over the years has caused parts of the sill as well as the bases of some posts that would normally rest on the sill, to rot.  Add to this the fact that the family used the garret as the resting place for the large number of their (heavy) possessions, the weight of which exerted a 100 lb, force per square foot on a floor designed to withstand 30 lbs of force per square foot and you will better comprehend the resultant structural problems

Timber Frame Construction

Now jump in my hot tub time machine and travel with me to a point in the distant past when you were sitting in a room full of other nervous, and perhaps smelly, teenagers, diligently going question by question through your SAT.

The Director:HCH :: (translation The Director is to HCH as...)
A. cheese fries and beer are to the Communications Coordinator
B. the sill is to the post and beam construction of Cherry Hill
C. coffee is to the Cherry Hill staff
D. a hypothesis:dog

If you chose B you are correct and probably scored really high on the verbal component of your SAT (if you are like me, that also means you scored abysmally low on the math component of your SAT).  If you chose A you are now aware of what the Communications Coordinator considers the two vital food groups that provide her with nourishmentIf you picked C you were close, that choice was intended to throw you off because it seems at times as if coffee is a stabilizing necessity to the continued existence of the HCH staff.  If you chose D you probably scored really high on the math component of your SAT.

A further elaboration of the correct answer:  My Director is like the sill on which the post and beam frame of the house sits.  Without her steadying, un-rotted presence HCH would be (like the posts of the actual house structure are) floating in air. 
She's a magician who can pull things out of her Buffalo Sabres magic hat, like funding for operational costs and restoration efforts when there is no earthly reason why those funds should appear.  Maybe it's the house which has rubbed off on her - things happen here all the time that defy explanation and reason, like, why is the east side of the house still standing? (Actually I can answer that.  According to our structural engineers we don't have to worry because the porch is holding up the posts which are rotted at the bottom and no longer resting on the sill and the lath and plaster of the walls are actually holding up the east side wall of the house.  Right, no need to worry folks, the house is being saved from collapse by things that were never designed to save it from collapse. If that doesn't defy reason...).  Or why is that pane of glass floating in thin air instead of smashed into little pieces on the ground in front of the window?

Magical Window Pane

Maybe it's the little makeshift voodoo shrine she set up in her office to which she makes monetary offerings in hopes the gods will show favor to HCH.  Maybe it's her borderline unhealthy fascination with all things Harry Potter.  Or maybe it's because she is a Red Sox fan and she grew up believing in curses and things of that nature.  I just don't know.  I don't have any answers.  All that I do have is the ability to dedicate my post this week to the magical talents of the Amazing Director without whom Cherry Hill would be just another 220-plus-year-old Georgian house with structural issues and an enormous collection, stuck up a certain type of creek without the requisite paddle.
Director of HCH Construction

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