Vintage Motorcycles and Haunted Clocks
By Katrina Pura
B.A. Science Technology Society, 2013
Summer Intern with Yosemite Archives and Museum
Read about our summer research projects on the OutWest student blog. Throughout the summer, the Center's interns and Research Assistants will be sending in virtual postcards, snapshots and reports on their summer work.
Prepare for the unexpected when you enter the Yosemite Museum collection room. The first time I was shown through the vault-like door and my supervisor switched on the lights in a manner reminiscent of the velociraptor scene in Jurassic Park, I was confronted with the oddest assortment of objects I had seen in my life. Amidst the bulk of the collection, a large pickled fish floated in yellow liquid, waterfall paintings were hung on racks all around the walls and the edge of a disused stone fireplace could be seen peaking halfway around a cabinet. Seemingly at random, my supervisor started pulling open drawers full of cups, weapons, feathers, jewelry and animal skins. Although I have since grown accustomed to this fascinating room, the novelty of my first visit set the tone of the internship for the summer. Because I spent two days in the museum and three in the Land Resources office, I was able to work on new and unexpected tasks every week.
One of the highlights of my time in the museum occurred when my supervisor asked me to rewrite a label for a 1914 Indian Motorcycle. The label needed to detail the history of the Indian motorcycle company while also explaining the racist connotations of the brand name in a way that a middle school student could understand. Oh, and it needed to be five sentences or less. The assignment made me hyper-conscious of my word choice and gave me the opportunity to research something that I had never heard of before. Likewise, in creating a Wikipedia article on the early California artist, Chris Jorgensen and in updating the existing Yosemite Museum wiki I was able to greatly expand my knowledge of Yosemite history. In addition to these tasks, another highlight involved re-shelving rows of the Native American basket collection. I felt very lucky to handle such beautiful objects whose makers had invested months and even years of time and care into.
It would be easy to take the collection room for granted after a two-month familiarity with it, but in my last week, it managed to surprise me (and the rest of the staff) once again. Near by construction had jarred one of the walls of the vault just enough to set an old Wawona hotel clock back to life. This clock had reportedly stopped with the death of a famous Wawona resident years before. Besides educating me about a myriad of early California objects, my internship in the Yosemite Museum constantly filled me with delight and wonder. I look forward to returning one day and seeing how the room has changed and if the eerie ticking is still there.
Read more at the Out West Blog for Summer Interns »