and counting by benbenzhou


									    May 2001, Vol. XXIX, No. 4

       page 3
       Tech Talk: Caring for
       musical instruments
       page 7                                                                            Published by the Minnesota Historical Society
       Heritage gardens                               for county and local historical societies and heritage preservation commissions

                                                                                                                                              Stearns History Museum
7,439 and counting
Century Farms honor Minnesota’s
agricultural heritage

L  ooking for ways to celebrate
Minnesota’s first 100 years, planners
of the state’s centennial in 1958
focused on family farms. In a program
co-sponsored by the Minnesota State
                                               acres and be
                                               continuously by
                                               members of the
                                               same family. That
Fair and Minneapolis Star and Tribune          year, another 1,177
newspapers, 413 households in 32               farms were
counties were honored as Minnesota             designated Century
Century Farm Families – families who           Farms by the                                    The third generation of their family to farm
could prove continuous ownership of            Minnesota State Fair.                           near Watkins in Stearns County, Donald
their land since statehood in 1858.                Fast-forward to the year 2001 and           and Beverly Schmitt have switched from
     Eighteen years passed before the                                                          dairy to crop farming. Their operation won
                                               the program, now co-sponsored by                recognition as a Century Farm in 2000.
idea was revived for the nation’s              the Minnesota Farm Bureau, is still
bicentennial in 1976. By then, the             going strong.“Every year we add 200
rules had changed. To qualify,                 to 300 more farms to the list,” says            just turned 100 years old, but every
Minnesota farms had to be at least             Ken Giannini, the state fair’s group            once in a while we get a farm that’s
100 years old, encompass 50 or more            sales supervisor. “Most of those have           been in the same family since the
                                                                                               1860s.Though most century farms
                                                                                               have had four generations of owners,
If objects could talk                                                                          some of the farms have had only two
by Fred Livesay                                                                                owners in 100 years.”
Former curator, Carver County Historical Society                                                    Information gathered on the
    Ever wandered into an antique shop, found something that intrigued you                     application form provides a brief
and wondered about the story behind it? That happens to me often in our                        history of each farm – from whom it
collections storage at the Carver County Historical Society.                                   was purchased, how many acres were
    All objects can “talk.” They can tell you much about themselves if you                     in the original parcel, whether the
know how to “read” them – how to interpret what you see. But it’s so much                      first owner also had other trades or
easier – and more rewarding – when the donor has left you with a personal                      occupations, what the farm’s major
history of their treasured possession.                                                         crops or products have been over
    Sadly, too many of our objects donated years ago cannot tell the stories of                time, whether any original buildings
their past. Often, all the information we have is an accession number and the                  are still standing. All files eventually
donor’s name and home town. Sometimes, though, we come across a piece                          go to the Minnesota Historical Society
that speaks volumes.                                                                           archives.

                                                   If objects could talk continued on page 2
                                                                                                        Century Farms continued on page 2
                                                                  Stearns History Museum
Century Farms            continued from page 1

     “When you look at the Century             County fairs
Farm files together, they reveal a lot         are encouraged
about how Minnesota developed,” says           to make an
Giannini.“In the early years of the            occasion of
program, most farms added to the list          presenting the
were located in the southern half of           certificates. And a
the state. Only in recent years have we        number of county
been getting applications from                 historical societies
northern counties, which were                  annually honor
                                                                                              Kenneth and Jeanette Lahr (right) and
homesteaded later. And in                      their Century Farm families with
                                                                                              their children are fifth- and sixth-
predominantly urban counties like              displays in their museums or coverage          generation farmers in Luxemburg
Ramsey County, we won’t get any                in their newsletters.With a grant from         Township, Stearns County. During the
more applications because there are            Kraft Foods, Brown County Historical           1920s and 1930s the Lahr family grew
                                                                                              tobacco, then one of the county’s leading
no more working farms there.”                  Society staff are gathering oral               crops. The original hanging shed is still
     Century Farm status is an                 histories of past and present Century          standing.
honorary designation, explains                 Farm owners for a major exhibit on
Giannini.“It means a lot to the families       Brown County Century Farms, slated            display. That’s 7,439 farms so far.
but, unfortunately, it carries no              to open in 2005.                              And we’re still counting.”
protection. It won’t save their farm               Meanwhile, Ken Giannini extends
if the property is threatened by               an invitation to all state fairgoers.
                                                                                             For further reading: Century Farms of
development or foreclosure.”                   “Next time you’re at the fair, stop by        Minnesota: One Hundred Years of Changing Life
     Qualifying families do receive a          the Minnesota Farm Bureau building.           Styles on the Farm, edited by Dorothy L.
sign to display on their property and a        You’ll find, arranged by county, the          Wanless (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1985).
certificate signed by the governor.            names of all Century Farm owners on

If objects could talk            continued from page 1

    Among my favorite pieces in our            In her accompanying letter, Mabel                 Mabel died last year at age 94.
collection is an unassuming little vase        described the “simple pleasures” of           What she left us was a part of herself
from one of our most generous                  springtime in the country.                    – and a small piece of the history of
donors.Two years ago I received                             Her note gave life to            rural life in early 20th-century Carver
a small box in the mail from                               what could have been              County.
Mabel Monson Burford of                                     just another artifact. Her           Next time you contemplate giving
Watertown. In it was a glass vase                            words imbued that little        something to a museum, write down
barely six inches tall, with a rope-                          vase with the ability to       the stories associated with it. That
twist neck and smooth round                                    talk, to transport me         object will have so much more to
base. Rolled up and tucked inside                               back to her days as a        teach others.
was a note:                                                      young woman on a
    “My special vase on                                           Watertown farm.
the farm, used to hold
early spring flowers –
bloodroots, anemones,                                    When donor Mabel Monson Burford sent this
                                                         vase to the Carver County Historical Society,
violets – not ignoring the                               she included a note about its importance to her.
ever-present dandelions.”
                                 Photo by Bill Johnson

2   Minnesota History Interpreter
                                                                                                   TECH TALK

Caring for musical instruments: Part 1
by Paul S. Storch

This is the first of two Tech Talk

                                                                                                                                        Minnesota Historical Society photos by Paul Storch
articles about the challenges of
caring for musical instrument
collections. Paul S. Storch, the
Minnesota Historical Society’s senior
objects conservator, looks at
common types of instrument
materials and how they react to
their environment. Part 1 covers
instrument coatings, leather and
plastics. Part 2, in the June/July
Interpreter, will cover instrument
metals, wood and textiles and
discuss how to handle, display
and store musical instruments.

                                         Fig. 1: This autoharp, donated to the Minnesota Historical Society by Garrison Keillor,
  ollections of musical instruments      shows the variety of modern materials – plastic, metal and paint – used in its construction.
generally contain a wide variety of      This high-density plastic is more durable than earlier plastics, which deteriorate with
materials, shapes and sizes.That         exposure to light and heat. When acquired by the Society, Keillor’s autoharp exhibited dust
                                         and dirt but little deterioration.
makes their preservation a challenge
to collections managers and museum
curators. But by applying basic
principles of preventative conserva-     range of materials you are likely to            respond differently to changes in
tion – condition assessment, proper      encounter in your collection is                 relative humidity. For example, wood
handling, safe storage – even            considerable.You may find metal,                and metal have different expansion
nonprofessionals can ensure the long-    wood, leather, plastics, textiles, even         rates so, when exposed to higher
term preservation of this popular        paper. And then there are the                   humidity, the wood on an instrument
category of artifact.                    instrument coatings, both natural and           might split where it is restrained from
    This article serves only as an       synthetic.                                      expanding by a metal ring.
introduction to a very specialized and        The instruments that will be                    In Western instruments of the
complicated topic. For more detailed     easiest to care for are those made of           later 19th and 20th centuries, one
information on instrument types and      one primary material, such as brass             may find materials that have an innate
their care, or for a discussion of the   for trumpets or wood for violins. Most          tendency to deteriorate. This is called
ethics of using historic instruments,    instruments, however, have                      an inherent vice. Examples of
refer to the list of resources to be     components of several different                 materials with an inherent vice are
published in Part 2. The more you        materials. Conservators call items              certain types of plastics, such as
know about the instrument materials      made of multiple materials composite            celluloid (cellulose nitrate), which
and the problems in your own             objects (see figures 1, 2 and 3). The           turns yellow and becomes brittle over
collection, the better informed you      care of these artifacts is much more            time upon reaction with atmospheric
will be when seeking assistance from     difficult.                                      oxygen.
a professional conservator.                   Several factors make the                        The condition of any musical
                                         preservation of composite objects               instrument depends on these and
The materials maze                       challenging. Sometimes the materials            many other factors – the original
   To understand how to preserve         are not compatible. They may affect
musical instruments, you must first      one another chemically. Or they may
know what they are made of. The                                                            Caring for instruments continued on page 4

                                                                                                                         May 2001                                                            3

Caring for instruments
continued from page 3
quality of the material, the amount of       enamel or glaze;
wear to which the instrument was             and plating and
subjected, the level of care it was          patination (on
given by its owner and the                   metal).
subsequent storage or exhibit                    Wherever these
conditions to which it was exposed.          surface coatings are
For an overview of instrument                applied, there is the
materials and the environmental              potential for
factors that contribute to their             physical and                              Fig. 3: A bottom view of the concertina in
deterioration, see Table 1. The              chemical interaction.When the coated      fig. 2 reveals damage from improper
                                                                                       handling: the bellows are badly worn and
characteristics of coatings, leather and     surface is obscured by dirt and
                                                                                       the leather strap is torn.
plastics are discussed below. Metals,        tarnish, as in the case of metal
wood and textiles will be discussed in       instruments, it may be difficult to
Part 2 in the June/July Interpreter.         identify the coating and to discern       paint, when complete films of lacquer
                                             the original appearance of the            or varnish are applied to objects that
Coatings                                     instrument’s surface. It is important,    expand and contract, the coating can
    Coatings are applied to musical          therefore, that surface coatings be       crack and loosen.This problem is seen
instruments usually to alter or disguise     carefully examined and fully              mostly on wooden surfaces, but
the surface appearance. Many types of        documented by someone with                transparent coatings on metals that
coatings have been used by various           knowledge of the instrument’s             have been heated and cooled may
cultures throughout the centuries. The       construction before making decisions      show the same problem. The
major categories of coatings found on        about care and treatment.                 breakdown of lacquers on metals
the structural materials, or basic               Perhaps the coatings most             can lead to spotty local corrosion;
substrate, of instruments are pigment;       commonly found on instruments in          cellulose nitrate coatings are
paint (pigment or dye with a binding         museum collections are lacquers and       particularly prone to this.
medium); lacquer or varnish; oil or          varnishes (see fig. 4). Both coatings
wax; veneer; paper, leather or textile;      are made of natural or synthetic resins   Leather
                                                           or gums, deposited on            Leather is used in various forms
                                                           the instrument surface      and preparations on both European
                                                           through the drying of a     and non-European instruments. To
                                                           solvent.Varnishes may       make it durable and moisture-
                                                           also contain drying oils,   resistant, raw hides to be used for
                                                           such as linseed. Lacquers   instrument construction must be
                                                           (the term is used here in   treated with chemicals known as
                                                           its European sense) and     tanning agents.Vegetable tanning is
                                                           varnishes differ from       used where flexibility and water
                                                           paints in that they are     resistance are required. Mineral
                                                           transparent. They may,      tanning agents such as alum impart
                                                           however, contain            durability but do not have great water
                                                           pigments or dyes to color   resistance. Their use also results in
                                                           the instrument surface.     lighter surface colors. Organ bellows,
                                                                Both lacquers and      bagpipe bladders and other
Fig. 2: The mix of wood, textile and paper   varnishes are sensitive to ultraviolet    instrument components of European
components on a Civil War-era concertina
                                             light, which can degrade the coating      manufacture are generally made from
makes the instrument a composite object.                                               vegetable-tanned or combination-
Care of such items, made of multiple         materials, leading to yellowing,
materials, can pose special challenges.      cracking and brittleness. And, as with    tanned cowhide or goatskin.

4   Minnesota History Interpreter
                                                                                                          TECH TALK

     Condition problems that apply
specifically to leather objects include
surface abrasions, tears, distortion of
the original shape, excessive dryness
and, less commonly, excessive
wetness, mold, insect infestation and
the fading of dyes and colorants. A
condition called red rot, caused by
excessive acidity in the leather, often
affects late 19th-century instruments.                                                         Fig. 5: This detail of an Ojibwe rawhide
Red rot is evidenced by loss of the                                                            drum, made in the Mille Lacs area during
                                                                                               the late 19th or early 20th century, shows
grain layer, exposing the inner fibrous                                                        how changes in temperature and relative
layer; by a powdering of the exposed                                                           humidity over the years caused the
surfaces, creating a reddish-orange             Fig. 6: Conservation treatment repaired the    drumhead to split.
                                                split drumhead. To prepare the object for
color; and by a darkening of the
                                                storage, it was bound with a polyethylene
leather on contact with water.                  strip to support the repairs.                  Plastics
Leathers in this condition must be                                                                 Plastics came into use in musical
handled very carefully to avoid                                                                instruments in late 19th century. The
irreversible damage. An instrument              fur skins are used. Rawhide is prepared        term as used here denotes synthetic
exhibiting the effects of red rot must          by removing decayable matter and hair          organic polymers and covers a wide
not be played for any reason.                   from the hide and allowing it to dry           range of materials.The earliest plastics
     In many non-European                       into the desired shape. Rawhide is             – applied as decorative elements or as
instruments, and some European ones,            extremely susceptible to damage by             replacements for natural materials
the skin material of choice for                 insects, fungus and fluctuations in            such as wood, bone and ivory – were
drumheads is untanned rawhide. In               temperature and relative humidity (see         celluloid (cellulose nitrate) and
some African instruments, semi-tanned           figures 5 and 6).                              Bakelite (phenol formaldehyde
                                                                                               composites). Modern plastics include
                                                                                               high-impact polystyrene and high-
                                                                                               density polyethylene and
                                                                                               polypropylene (see fig. 1).
                                                                                                   Plastics are most affected by long-
                                                                                               term exposure to light, heat and
                                                                                               certain chemicals. They are
                                                                                               particularly susceptible to
                                                                                               deterioration if the quality of the
                                                                                               plastic was poor to begin with.
                                                                                               Certain plastics, such as cellulose
                                                                                               nitrate, have an inherent vice – an
                                                                                               innate tendency to deteriorate.
                                                                                               Though little can be done to prevent
                                                                                               deterioration of an item with an
                                                                                               inherent vice, the process can be
                                                                                               mitigated with proper handling and
                                                                                               stable exhibit and storage conditions.
Fig. 4: The shellac coating on this violin brings out the luster of the wood. Note the white
powder under the bridge – a dusting of rosin left by the bow during playing. Conservators      Caring for instruments continued on page 6
chose to leave the rosin deposit in place as evidence of the instrument’s use.

                                                                                                                              May 2001      5
Caring for instruments                    continued from page 5

    Table 1: Materials and the effects of deterioration agents
     Material                                      How used                                     Deterioration agents
     Coatings – natural and synthetic              Surface protection, sound modification,      Mechanical stresses; ultraviolet (UV)
                                                   decoration                                   light; high relative humidity (RH) (>60%);
                                                                                                oxidation; improper cleaning

     Leather (tanned) and other skin products      Gaskets in wind instruments, organ           Very high (>60%) or very low (<20%) RH;
     (untanned, semi-tanned)                       bellows, pads, drum heads, banjo             insects; air pollution; inherent vice: “red
                                                   membranes                                    rot” (see text)

     Plastics                                      Instrument bodies, drumheads, organ          Inherent vice: excess plasticizer; UV light;
                                                   and piano keys                               oxidation; mechanical stresses

     Metals                                        Instrument bodies, frames, strings, wires,   High RH (>38%); acids from finger oils
                                                   cables, drums, mechanical parts              and dressed leather; mechanical stresses

     Textiles                                      Reinforcements for wooden                    Extreme fluctuations in RH and
                                                   constructions                                temperature; light exposure causing
                                                                                                brittleness or fading of organic colorants

     Wood                                          Instrument bodies, sticks, bows, moving      High RH (>60%); very low RH (<20%);
                                                   parts, cases, frames                         fluctuations in RH and temperature;
                                                                                                insects; fungus (>65% RH); mechanical
                                                                                                stresses; improper maintenance

    Watch for Part 2 of “Caring for Musical Instruments” in the June/July Interpreter. It will cover instrument woods,
    metals and textiles as well as recommendations for the handling, display and storage of a variety of instruments.
    Part 2 also will feature a list of references for further reading on the care of instrument collections.

‘Sounds Good to Me’
Exhibit takes a tuneful trip through Minnesota’s musical history
     There are musical instruments              hall, high school bandroom,                                                                    Minnesota Historical Society

aplenty in “Sounds Good to Me: Music            deejay booth, tent and music
in Minnesota,” an exhibit now on                store.
display at the Minnesota History                     The centerpiece of the
Center in St. Paul.“We wanted to                exhibit’s parlor setting is a
show the role music has played in the           piano, a prized possession in
lives of ordinary Minnesotans,”                 many middle-class homes
explains curator Benjamin Filene. So            around 1900.Visiting
instead of being organized by                   students can make music the
chronology or musical genre, the                easy way with this 1914
exhibit features a series of settings           player piano, which
where music is produced and enjoyed             promised “perfection without                    Minnesota History Center, 651-296-
– a home parlor, ballroom, concert              practice.” For exhibit hours, call the          6126 or 1-800-657-3773.

6   Minnesota History Interpreter
                                                                                                       AROUND THE STATE

                                                                                                                                                                Wright County Historical Society
                              Spring is in the air
                              Garden projects brighten museum sites

                     V              olunteers of all ages donned
                              garden gloves last summer to add a
                              splash of color to museums around
                              the state. They braved rain, heat and
                              insects to plant flowers and
                                                                          “After the 1998 tornado
                                                                          here, we had an
                                                                          opportunity to start
                                                                          fresh. Now our plantings
                                                                          are as true to the period
                              vegetables, shrubs and rose bushes, all     as possible.” Club
                                                                                                                    Guided by master gardeners, the Willing
                              designed to delight and educate             members got plenty of help last           Workers 4-H Club planted a rose garden at
                              visitors. The volunteers will be back       summer putting the finishing touches      the Wright County Heritage Center.
                              this spring to make sure their gardens      on their work. Several men from the
                              continue to flourish.                       community tackled heavier jobs,           satisfaction in the results of their
                                                                          laying sod and building a garden          community-service project.” Kid Link
                              Cox House, St. Peter                        shed. And a Lutheran youth group          plans to continue its involvement in
                                  Everyone has a green thumb in           planted shrubs around the house and       the garden project. For more
                              Mariah’s Victorian Garden Club, the         carriage house. Now, during summer        information call Mielke at 507-931-
                              volunteer group that tends the              and fall months, visitors to the site     4210, ext. 424.
                              plantings around the Eugene St. Julien      end their house tour with a stroll
                              Cox House in St. Peter. Named for                                                     Wright County Heritage Center,
                                                                          through the gardens. Call Tostenson at
                              Mariah Cox, wife of the home’s              507-625-1768 for more information.        Buffalo
                              builder, the club has transformed the                                                     To help plant gardens around its
                              grounds of the 1871 house into a            Treaty Site History Center, St. Peter     new office addition last spring, the
                              Victorian wonderland. In the front               Not to be outdone, the Nicollet      Wright County Historical Society
                              yard is a formal garden, all symmetry       County Historical Society’s Treaty Site   turned to area 4-H clubs. From their
                              and elegance. The backyard is more          History Center reaped a harvest of its    collaboration grew the ambitious
                              informal, with perennial borders and        own last fall. A group of young           Children’s Heritage Garden Project,
                              an herb garden just outside the             people from Kid Link, a program           designed as an exercise in researching
                              kitchen door.                               serving St. Peter’s at-risk youth in      community history. To plan their
                                  “Horticulture plays an important        grades 5-8, took over the center’s        gardens, the 4-Hers started with lists
                              part in our house tour,” explains Cox       Native American/Pioneer Garden.           of native vegetation from the
                              House manager Gerry Tostenson.              With heirloom seeds donated by a          Minnesota Department of Natural
                                                                                     professor from Minnesota       Resources. Then, armed with oral
Eugene St. Julien Cox House

                                                                                     State University, Mankato,     history questionnaires, they
                                                                                     the children planted corn,     interviewed their families and
                                                                                     sunflowers, squash and         neighbors to learn what other plants
                                                                                     other foodstuffs that would    were grown in Wright County gardens
                                                                                     have been grown by earlier     before 1950.
                                                                                     inhabitants. At season’s end       In one day last May, dozens of 4-H
                                                                                     they harvested seeds to use    club young people and their families
                                                                                     for this spring’s planting.    descended on the Heritage Center to
                                                                                          “Participating youth      prepare the garden beds and plant
                                                                                     benefited in many ways,”       more than 500 “heritage” plants
                                                                                     says Tina Mielke, Kid Link     donated by local greenhouses or
                                                                                     project coordinator. “They     transplanted from home gardens. The
                                                                                     learned about the history      clubs will return this May to build on
                              To raise funds for their Cox House garden
                                                                          of food-growing practices in the          their successful first-year effort. For
                              projects, members of Mariah’s Victorian
                              Garden Club hold an annual heritage         region, gained gardening skills they      details call curator Maureen Galvin,
                              plant sale.                                 can use in the future and took great      763-682-7322.

                                                                                                                                                 May 2001                     7
                                                                                         BULLETIN BOARD

2001 is International Year of Volunteers                                                        Preservation workshops

                                                                                                Part of the Minnesota Historical
   he United Nations has declared                     hours to keep Minnesota’s historical      Society’s conservation outreach
2001 as the International Year of                     organizations strong.                     program, these preservation
Volunteers, issuing a challenge to                        A note to managers of volunteer       workshops are conducted by chief
communities around the world to                       programs: The National Community          conservator Bob Herskovitz and
                                                                                                co-sponsored by local organizations;
promote and celebrate volunteer                       Service Conference will be held in
                                                                                                they’re free and open to the public.
service.                                              Minneapolis June 28 - July 1.             Call the local sponsors for details.
     Volunteers play a key role in                    Conference planners promise lots of
                                                                                                May 10, Renville:
strengthening our communities. Each                   new ideas on working together in          Preserving Family Photographs
year in Minnesota alone, 66 percent of                service to communities. Registration is   Renville City Library, 7:30-9 p.m.
adults engage in volunteer activities                 rather expensive but there’s a price      Sponsor: Renville Genealogical
with an estimated value of $6.4                       break for one-day attendance. For         Society: 507-641-3253.
billion.Where would our museums,                      more information, see                     May 17, Moorhead:
large and small, be without their help?                Preserving Your Family Treasures
     If you missed Volunteer                                                                    Clay County Historical Society, 6:30-
                                                                                                8:30 p.m. Sponsors: Clay County
Recognition Week in April, take time
                                                                                                Historical Society, Moorhead
soon to honor and thank the many                                                                Community Education, with partial
volunteers who donate countless                                                                 funding from the George W. Neilson
                                                                                                Foundation: 218-233-4604.

    Minnesota History Interpreter
    is published nine times a year by the Historic
    Preservation, Field Services and Grants
    Department of the Minnesota Historical                                                                                     Organization
    Society.                                                                                                                   U.S. Postage
    Readers are invited to submit information for                                                                               St. Paul, MN
    publication. To be considered, items must                                                                                  Permit No. 854
    reach the editor by the first of the month,          345 Kellogg Boulevard West
    two months before publication. Send to
    Interpreter Editor, Minnesota Historical
                                                      Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102-1906
    Society, 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul, MN
    55102-1906.                                       Address correction requested
    Material from this issue may be reprinted
    with the following credit line: Reprinted with
    permission from Minnesota History
    Interpreter, May 2001, Vol. XXIX, No. 4,
    published by the Minnesota Historical
    Society. Do not reprint material taken from
    another source without permission.

    On request, this publication is available in
    alternative formats: audiotape, large print or
    computer disk.

    For address corrections e-mail Michele Decker,, or call 651-296-
    5434. For other matters call Tim Glines at 651-
    296-5460 or e-mail

    Britta Bloomberg, Head,
    Historic Preservation, Field Services
    and Grants Department
    Tim Glines, Manager, Outreach Services
    Mary Ann Nord, Editor
    Kate Raver, Layout

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