Storage Wars

I said in my previous post I’ve been working with open storage at the museum in anticipation of the upcoming museum opening. So what? Just shove a bunch of things in there and be done with it? If only it were so easy!

Museums are using open storage more and more so visitors can still see things that may not be on display. It’s a way of making sure everything gets its chance to shine, even if it’s not necessarily prevalent to current displays.

For the Firefighters Museum of Calgary, their open storage is located in a trailer next to the museum. Fun fact: this (see below) narrow trailer used to be the actual museum!


Now this trailer has been converted to open storage and Megan (the other summer student working with me) and I were given the task of filling it.


Empty shelves for us to fill!

I was pretty excited about this opportunity and Megan and I attacked it with the enthusiasm of… something really enthusiastic.

We took a bunch of artefacts from the museum and brought them in. We also tried to bring in as many photos as possible to put on the walls and in the display cases.

We took pieces of black foam and cut them to line the top cases. It was quite the process. Especially since Megan and I are not very skilled at cutting a straight line through foam with an xacto knife – the things they DON’T teach you in school.


Our pile of foam just ASKING to be cut into pieces…


Our attempts at “measuring”… with duct tape… It’s a science, don’t worry about it.


Megan getting right into it, making magic happen!

Originally, we had the foam in the top AND bottom cases (and had set up the artefacts all artfully – see below…)



Beautiful, right?

Buuuuttt… then we figured out the glass panels inserted on the front of the shelves actually only covers the tops shelves. So we had to move all the artefacts around and place heavy things that wouldn’t be stolen in the bottom shelves.

At first I was disappointed to have to change what we had done, but the turn out was worth it! We were able to go through the museum’s working garage and pull heavy and interesting items to display, which was a very interesting opportunity.

We ended up with:



The fire hose was my stroke of brilliance (modesty)!


Those wooden artefacts are made out of match sticks!


And that was a days work! I mean, there were some other things in there too – lunch, answering the phone, tweeting, etc – but, that took the majority of the day.

Well. There you go. Done. Time to move on…


Oh no, no, no, we weren’t done yet. The next task was hanging the pictures on the wall. This was saved for another day, which is a good thing because it also took the majority of the work day. Possibly because we kept getting it wrong… It was a learning process!

I was working with a museum volunteer this time. We had a pile of framed photos collected, (which I had spread out on the floor the day before and organized in some semblance of an order and interesting display), my cell phone and access card for space measurements, a hammer, a pencil, a blank wall and some wall hooks and nails. Cue Macgyver’s entrance!



Where to start? We were unsure, so we just dove right in and started putting pictures up, beginning with images of horses and moving towards images of fire trucks.


Our first line of hanging pictures…

Rebecca (the museum supervisor) came in at this point, took one look at our work and carefully suggested we try again. Which was good advice considering everything was crooked and uneven! We were hoping for an eclectic, hodgepodge look… We changed that approach.

We removed those pictures and started again by hanging the first image, removing it, drawing a line from the centre of the hook down the wall with a tape measurer, putting the picture back, measuring a key-card-distance down from the bottom of the frame and marking it so we knew where the top of the next picture should hang, nailing the next hook, putting up the photo, seeing if it was centred and the right distance, and repeat.

It took a while. Especially since we kept nailing the wall hooks too high or too low and having to take them out and start again. Eventually, all the pictures blurred into one, I swear! This is why I don’t hang things in my home.

But it was worth the effort! Look!


And that’s just the start! I’ll add a final image when it’s all done.

Those of you who thought open storage was going to be a piece of cake (me) now know the truth. This whole “museum” thing is harder than one might think! So much thought and time goes into every area… I love it!

Hot Times, Summer in the City!

“Hot times, summer in the city”… A catchy song, yes, but also relates to my current summer historical adventures. Why? Because it’s hot outside? Now that would just be too obvious. Not to mention I’m living in Calgary at the moment and it never seems to be truly HOT here. Nothing on Ontario humidity, at least!

No, the connection is a little more hidden than that… It’s hot because I’m working at the Firefighter Museum of Calgary as a museum assistant. And fires are… HOT!

Fine, it would’ve fit better if I were talking about the weather, but my creativity is waning after a day of work.

I started work on May 6th and the past week has been a whirlwind of adventures! I’ve set up Instagram for the museum, re-started it’s twitter feed (and brainstormed ideas to keep it fresh!), worked on it’s open storage space, been to the opening of Fire Hall 40, programmed for the museum’s “Wee Wednesday’s” hour-long session on firefighting and fire safety, and moved a seemingly never-ending amount of things from one place to another… and sometimes back again. The days definitely fly by! So much so, I sometimes alllmostttt forget about lunch.

While the museum is small, it has a lot of potential for growth and is extremely interesting.

For example! Did you know firefighters used to find their masks too annoying to use in fires (they impaired vision and generally didn’t work very well!), so they would wet a sponge, put that in their mouths, and breathe through that… Crazy, right?! And that’s just the start of things I’ve learned so far.

Stay tuned here for more updates on my life in the fire department (and more about the things I’ve moved one place to another)!