Clay Swindell: Stop by and say thanks to those who protect treasures

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My original submission for the museum’s column this week was going to be about Yaupon tea and its use among Native American’s and Colonials. Instead, the events of this Monday caused me to reflect heavily on many of my coworkers and how during a crisis everyone manages to pull together.

If you have visited the museum this week, or plan to visit, you will certainly notice the roar of fans working to dry out saturated carpet and drywall. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, staff arrived Monday morning to a serious event threatening not only the building but the priceless and irreplaceable artifacts on display and stored in collections.

Before I go on, let me list a few of the one of kind items we have on display so you can begin to see how important it is to respond the way we did. At the museum you can see a 16th century table, a canon once belonging to Blackbeard the pirate, an 18th century tea table made in Chowan County, an entire furnished house built in the 1750s, a portion of a liberty pole that once stood in Currituck during the American Revolution, textiles worn by famous local people, and an entire gallery of artwork from the 17th, 18th and 19th century. These items can never be replaced and our staff is well aware of this. I am just one in long line whose responsibility it is to protect and care for your cultural heritage.

Was it not for the original response to quickly isolate and deal with Monday’s events, matters may have been worse. Workplace heroics didn’t just stop there. Over the initial shock, many staff quickly moved to see how they could help deal with issues and protect the artifacts. Teams quickly divided up and multiple tasks were handled all at once. As you may or may not be aware, we are a very small staff after weathering budget cuts and yes it is a very big building.

I’m not here to complain but to praise those left who did many things not normally required of them. I watched education and exhibit departments work alongside collections treating objects with the utmost care and concern. I watched exhibit and collections staff working alongside facilities during cleanup. I saw our administration staff roaming every corner, lights in hand and looking for new issues.

I watched individuals on vacation come in to help, but most importantly I saw a team of folks all come together when it was needed. Many of those I have mentioned get little praise for what they do on a day to day basis, nor do they ask for it.

They don’t contribute to a newspaper column or make speeches at events, but make no mistake they care very much about all the objects and exhibits that belong to you.

Come by sometime and see some of these irreplaceable items and maybe say thanks to the guy cleaning the restroom, he deserves it.