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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dumpsters are Fun!

Archivists are all about preserving the cultural past for the present and future. Sometimes that makes us de facto ambulance chasers. We’re the people who always ask, “What is that? Why are you getting rid of it? What’s the story behind it?” Too often important and fun pieces of history get destroyed or thrown away.

So archivists are sometimes figuratively dumpster divers and sometimes literally. A few years ago Design Specialist Richard Skinner of the Freer|Sackler rescued the bronze plaque below from disposal following a cleaning of the Freer attic.

At that time, Archivist David Hogge requested any information that staff could provide. Many staff shared stories and memories, but it was former deputy director Pat Sears who made the authoritative identification. The sign was on double posts on the North entrance when there was a driveway that allowed important visitors to be dropped off at the base of the stairs. The below is a slide from the mid-1970s showing the sign on the far right.

This sign is an example of how history can be both lost and found. The Freer|Sackler has regained a piece of its history while adding to the stories of the institution. The sign currently resides in the Freer|Sackler Archive Research Room.

Lara Amrod, Archivist
Freer|Sackler Archives

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