Doll photo shoot…

One of my favorite projects this summer involved Winterthur’s doll collection. With about 50 dolls in the collection, only half had photographs in the online catalog. I took photographs of the other half, and then I learned how to add metadata to the images and edit them in Photoshop. Now the cataloguer shots that I took are available to the public on Winterthur’s online catalogue, which was exciting to see.

The second part of this project involved distilling several papers written by Winterthur graduate students into descriptions for the catalogue. This job had the double benefit of updating the detail and accuracy of the catalogue entries and teaching me more about doll history.

Taking the photographs was also a wonderful way for me to familiarize myself with the dolls Winterthur owns and as well as doll-making history and styles. The reference books that I looked at from Winterthur’s library and the student papers that I read about certain dolls stayed far more firmly in my mind with the framework provided by actually handling these objects.

I find dolls to be a particularly compelling because they give a concrete connection to children from the past, and how they might have played. I think that my favorites were the “Grödner Tal” dolls, a type of wooden doll with painted features manufactured in Germany in the 19th century and exported for sale to other parts of Europe and North America. However, several of the larger dolls with cloth bodies also reminded me a lot of modern American Girl dolls- children’s preferences have not changed much over the centuries!

Doll, 1964.1362, Winterthur Museum                                                       My favorite Grödner Tal doll

One of my favorite parts of working at Winterthur was the fact that whenever we went into the storage rooms to get an object, it felt like a treasure hunt- I had no idea what I would find when I lifted a lid. However, I will admit that uncovering several of the dolls gave me a bit of a shock (they were slightly scary for children’s toys!).

1958.1137 Doll, view 1
Doll, 1958.1137, Europe (1775-1850), Winterthur Museum These arms are extremely lifelike, the head is… less so
2000.0074.001 A Doll, view 1
Doll, 2000.0074.001, Winterthur Museum                          While the arms are mildly terrifying, this doll really reminded me of an American Girl doll with its elaborate wardrobe (she has knitted stays, a chemise, a petticoat, and a dress).

(Note: While I took all the photographs included in this blog post, I sourced them from Winterthur’s online catalog, and the copyright belongs to the Winterthur Museum)


The Order of the Spoons

Curtains weren’t the only thing we moved this summer- I am now proud to say that I have been inducted to what we all jokingly dubbed the “Order of the Spoons.”

A bit of background information is possibly in order.

Winterthur possesses a large study collection of silver spoons (around 9,000 pieces), built up over the years into an extremely useful resource for scholars. However, the storage situation for many of these spoons was less than ideal. Hundreds, for instance, were jumbled together in small boxes (making it nearly impossible to find a single spoon quickly). New cabinets for the spoon collection were purchased and moved into metal storage, but then Vivien and Rachel (along with myself and any other graduate fellows or assistants that they could borrow for several hours at a time) had to move thousands of silver spoons into these new cabinets. First, we had to line all the drawers with ethafoam.

Spoons ready to be moved
Spoons ready to be moved

To make matters more complicated, most of the spoons had 3 numbers written on them: 2 that we ignored, and one accession number attached with a paper tag. Without 3 people, the process became extremely slow. With 3, however, our system went something like this…

Person 1:  Take spoons out of their tray or box, arrange on a table in accession-number order. Depending on how many spoons were in the box, this could take quite some time (particularly as I never seemed to be able to judge how much room I needed on the table and would sometimes be blindsided by a series of 6 or 7 spoons all in the same set).

Person 2: Arrange spoons in the new drawer, placing them in alternating directions and making sure that the spoon lay “comfortably.” All the while, they read out the accession numbers of the spoons they are placing.

Person 3: Records the new drawer location of the spoon in question on a huge online spreadsheet.

We periodically switched jobs, so that no one got too tired of one task. It was pretty amusing how excited we all got when there was an occasional silver item that wasn’t a spoon- we would all try to guess what some of the stranger ones were before looking them up in the catalogue. Some of our favorites included: a boatswain’s whistle, a salt sifter, and a commemorative Salem spoon with a witch riding a broomstick!

1998.0004.1740 whistle underside
Silver boatswain’s whistle, 1998.0004.1740, Winterthur Museum                                                                                           The temptation to blow this whistle was difficult to resist!
1998.0004.1242 Silver Sifter upper surface
Salt Sifter, 1998.0004.1242, Winterthur Museum
Souvenir spoon, 1998.0004.1448, Winterthur Museum                                                                                       This was my absolute favorite spoon! The broomstick handle is adorable, and apparently the spoon was made in the late 19th-century. I think it is fascinating that even in the 1890s people were buying souvenir spoons!


Curtain Storage: Phase 2

Phase 2 involved actually clearing out Curtain Storage II. The days that I worked on this part of the project, I joined a team composed of interns and staff members from registration and textile conservation. We needed as many hands as possible to fold up the curtains, because they were so large (and some were quite delicate).

First, textile conservation took down a tester curtain and took it back to their lab to figure out the best kinds of supports to make for the rest of the curtains, and approximate how many boxes we would need to make (and order) for the rest of the room. Before the folding could start, I helped make countless “snakes” from batting and stockinette, which we then inserted every time the fabric folded or pleated so that sharp creases would not form and lead to rips.

Curtain storage emptying out- you can see the copper frames here that used to hold curtains.
Curtain storage emptying out- you can see the copper frames here that used to hold curtains.

With multiple teams folding, making boxes, and stuffing snakes, the storage rooms were a whirlwind of paper and fabric. One of the most fun and challenging hangings that I helped pack had a curved arch of fabric with curtains hanging from each side, like a very fancy children’s puppet theater. Ultimately the hanging required 8 fabric snakes, one supporting each gather in the fabric!

The bed hanging in question: It looked like a puppet theater hanging up, and a little bit like a Disney prince's cloak folded up in the box! You can see all 8 snakes poking out from the folds at the edge of the fabric.
The bed hanging in question: It looked like a puppet theater hanging up, and a little bit like a Disney prince’s cloak folded up in the box! You can see all 8 snakes poking out from the folds at the edge of the fabric.

Curtain valences also lined the walls of Curtain Storage II, and needed removal. Almost all of them went into Curtain Storage I, where the walls now bristle with every style of curtain valence imaginable. Helping remove them from the walls and re-install them next door was slightly difficult, however, because Winterthur uses a lot of what seem to be old DIY snap tape. A piece of ribbon with snaps sewn into it at slightly irregular intervals kept many of the valences attached to the walls, and metal snaps had been sewn into many of the valences as well (this was many decades ago, and not very good for the fabric!). Unfortunately, this meant that when we tried to match up the snaps on the wall and the snaps on the valences, they didn’t always line up. Attempting to find an arrangement that put minimal stress on the valence while also keeping it on the wall was sometimes quite a challenge.

Finally, though, it was “curtains for curtains,” as one of the textile interns joked. It turns out that you start coming up with lots of bad curtain-related puns when that is all you have been thinking about for 8 hours. In all seriousness, though, it was a huge undertaking to empty Curtain Storage II, and I really enjoyed getting the chance to work with and learn from the textile conservators. While the curtain storage project continued after “phase 2,” the next part of the project involved contractors who came in to prepare the room for shelving and to actually install the shelving. I was not involved with either of these stages.




Curtain Storage: Phase 1

A 175-room mansion has a lot of windows, and those windows all need curtains. In fact, for many of the more public rooms, HF duPont commissioned multiple sets of curtains and matching slipcovers for different seasons. The practical implications of these stylistic choices?Winterthur owns a lot of curtains.

I became personally familiar with many of these curtains and valences this summer, during the day per week that I helped the registration department. Winterthur is currently embarking on a 10 year-long project aimed at greatly improving the quality and accessibility of their collections storage. One of the biggest projects this summer was to install new shelving in Curtain Storage II.

Some background information might be required to explain why this project was such a mammoth task. Winterthur has two adjacent storage rooms for curtains, both containing dozens of hanging curtains on specially-made copper racks. The curtains hang from the ceiling, and because of this the storage room is two-stories high. The rooms are both extremely impressive, stuffed to the brim with an eclectic assortment of fabrics. Because curtain storage is a popular place to take behind the scenes tours, the plan was to keep the outermost room (Curtain Storage I)  in its original configuration. However, hanging places stress on the curtain fabric, and every time someone visits the rooms (which is frequently), the curtains are all exposed to light. To solve this problem, the curtains in Curtain Storage II were taken down and carefully packed in textile storage boxes to be placed on new shelving.

Curtain Storage I
Curtain Storage I

Phase 1. The Hagley Move

In order to put in shelves, we needed a completely empty room. Workmen, electricians, power tools, and moving shelves are not conducive to a safe environment for delicate textiles! There was not enough room to put all the inventory of Curtain Storage I in any other part of the museum. Solving this problem, Winterthur moved some of its other textiles (mostly slipcovers and curtains not in heavy rotation) into temporary storage at Hagley, a nearby museum. The extra space could then hold curtains while the shelving went in.

First, an inventory had to be taken of the items being sent. I arrived just as registration was finishing up the inventory process, but I did help Devon (one of the registration assistants) with a little bit of inventorying, digging in folds of fabric to find well-hidden accession numbers and holding out swathes of fabric to be photographed.

After inventorying, the boxes had to be packed up for moving. I spent one full day helping pack up textile boxes in plastic bags that Jesse (the graduate student project manager) crimped with a terrifying melting tool that looked like an industrial hair-straightener. The finished product looked a lot like a cereal bag.

Another day, I wrapped most of the trolleys being moved to Hagley in plastic wrap. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that the plastic wrap almost defeated me- I was exhausted by the end of the morning! I accomplished my task in an extremely dignified manner: running backwards around the trolley as fast as possible, stopping halfway up to catch my breath and get rid of my dizziness!

Ta da! One Lydia-wrapped trolley...
Ta da! One Lydia-wrapped trolley…

After that, Jesse, one of the other storage interns (Vivien), and I slowly moved all 17 trolleys in batches of 2 down to the loading bay. With 2 elevators, 4 doors, countless hallways, and occasional tour groups to contend with, the route was truly an obstacle course! Because this project was so different from the reading and computer work that I typically performed both at Winterthur and at school, it was really valuable to realize all the processes that go into moving delicate items. I think that seeing all 17 trolleys collected and ready to be moved offsite also inspired a strong sense of accomplishment for everyone involved!

MIGA Memories: Takeaways and Thank-yous

I learned so much during my internship at MIGA. The E&S specialists I worked with were very helpful, supportive, and welcoming. MIGA does incredible work promoting foreign direct investment in developing countries. It was great to be a part of this agency and to support its cause.

Interning at MIGA gave me new insights into the international development community, which I had previously only explored through my international relations and economics coursework. I will return to school with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of development finance, as well as how international institutions function, and the role that environmental and social sustainability concerns play in them.

I have met many people during my time at MIGA, who I intend to keep in touch with as I continue my studies (one E&S specialist even went to William & Mary for business school!). In addition, my writing and research skills improved over the course of my internship. I was lucky to have a supervisor who gave me detailed feedback on my assignments, and who walked me through how to use new research tools, including RepRisk and IBAT. When I completed ad hoc assignments for other E&S specialists, they took the time to explain what was expected of me and the best way to approach the assignments.

Looking back on my time at MIGA, I realize how much I have learned, both in terms of knowledge and skills. I made close relationships with the people I worked with, and I learned how to navigate a professional work environment. I also had a lot of fun over the course of my internship, spending the 4th of July watching the fireworks over the National Mall from the windows of my office, going on the company picnic at a nearby resort, and mingling with colleagues at happy hours. I am so grateful to the Charles Center for allowing me to complete this internship. It was an amazing experience and a great way to spend my summer!

Internship Specifics: Additional Assignments

In addition to updating ESRD and running contextual risk and IBAT screenings, I also supported E&S team members in the completion of other ad hoc assignments. For example, to assist the climate specialist in the development of MIGA’s approach to financing adaptation, I researched barriers to private sector investment in climate adaptation projects. I reviewed documents published by other international institutions, and compiled the findings into a summary report, which included lessons learned and possible solutions. I enjoyed this assignment because it allowed me to learn about the interactions between the economy and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It also allowed me to explore what MIGA and other international institutions can do to facilitate investment in this area.

I also had the opportunity to get a better understanding of MIGA’s Financial Intermediary (FI) portfolio. I reviewed all FI projects in the portfolio and created a table indicating the types of business activities undertaken by each FI. Through the information that I compiled, the E&S team was able to quickly identify and summarize the range of business activities supported through their FI clients.

Another responsibility I was given involved completing a Back to Office Report (BTOR) for an E&S specialist who had just returned from conducting a site visit to a potential project. With the notes the specialist took on her mission and extensive documents provided by the client, I created a project description and wrote a summary of the project’s progress in meeting the Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability. Contributing to this BTOR gave me more insight into how the E&S specialists review projects and how integral site visits are to their work. Assisting with these ad hoc tasks has greatly strengthened my writing and research skills as well as my knowledge of development and climate finance.

Internship Update: Contextual Risk Screenings!

These past few weeks, one of my favorite parts of my internship has been running potential projects through contextual risk screenings. Contextual risk screening is undertaken at the beginning of the due diligence phase to identify issues that specialists may need to look into further during due diligence. MIGA specialists run searches using an online Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) database called RepRisk, which scours the internet for any ESG-related information on companies, projects, sectors and countries. I screen projects by running keywords through RepRisk and reading through all of the articles it finds to determine if these are relevant risks for MIGA to consider. I also use Google to find more general information about project owners, investors, contractors, as well as the project country and sector. Then, I write up a summary of the findings, indicating the reputational, environmental and social risks that may be associated with such a project.

The contextual risk screenings inform the E&S specialists’ due diligence program and allows them to ensure that due diligence site visits and pre-visit meetings address the specific issues identified in the screening. I have really enjoyed this work, as it has allowed me to learn about many issues affecting different countries and business sectors. The screenings that I have undertaken have identified issues related to land tenure rights, indigenous peoples rights, and government policies that may affect certain sectors. Many of the topics I research concern national governments and their relationship with other countries, international institutions, and corporations. As an International Relations major and someone who wants to pursue a career in international law, learning about these links fascinates me.

I was also tasked with undertaking the initial biodiversity risk screening, which used the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT). IBAT is a site that compares a project’s location with publicly available information on the environmental and biodiversity features of the area, including bird migration flyways, nationally and internationally recognized protected areas, key biodiversity areas, WWF ecoregions, and unique/highly threatened ecosystems. MIGA uses this tool to help determine whether Performance Standard 6 on biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of living natural resources, will apply to a certain project.

To run a project through IBAT, first I have to identify its exact location, which I determine by reading through documents provided by the client. Then, IBAT prepares a report on the overlapping and nearby environmental features. Using the report and the map layering feature that shows the location of different areas in relation to the project site, I summarize the risks a project could pose to the environment, paying special attention to protecting biodiversity and critical habitats.

Running projects through IBAT is exciting, not only because I learn so much about biodiversity in many different places, but also because I know the background research I am doing will inform how MIGA ensures that their guaranteed projects are employing sound environmental practices. Conducting contextual risk and IBAT screenings has given me the chance to improve my writing skills, expand my knowledge of world events, and contribute to the work of the E&S team.

My E&S Internship: ESRD Updating!

One of the tasks I have been working on at MIGA is updating the E&S Review Database (ESRD). ESRD tracks all MIGA-guaranteed projects, as well as projects being considered for a guarantee. Projects are entered at the due diligence stage (prior to issuing a Contract of Guarantee), when a project is evaluated for compliance with MIGA’s Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability. The database is updated as the Project progresses through due diligence, and once the Contract is signed, the Project is monitored periodically for compliance with MIGA’s Performance Standards, and the results of the monitoring are captured in the database.

The database contains information on the performance standards that projects trigger, how projects are working to meet the standards, and site visits that E&S specialists have made to conduct due diligence and monitoring on projects. ESRD allows the E&S team to aggregate data across the portfolio of projects, so, for example, the team can see how many projects trigger a certain performance standard, or how many site visits were undertaken in a given year. This data is used to generate annual and quarterly reports to MIGA’s Management Team, as well as to help identify trends. Consolidating project information onto one platform also provides E&S specialists with the ability to see the progress of their colleagues’ projects and to share updates on their own.

While much of the information in ESRD is either autopopulated from other MIGA information systems or captured by uploading MS Word documents, there are some fields that must be manually completed. My work updating ESRD has consisted of reading through clearance memoranda, Environmental and Social Risk Ratings (ESRRs), Back to Office Reports (BTORs) and other documents to fill in the information that the program cannot capture automatically and to check that existing information is accurate.  Working on this task has allowed me to explore the way MIGA ensures that its projects are in compliance with the requirements of the Performance Standards. I have been able to learn so much about the projects supported by MIGA guarantees and the environmental and social risks associated with them. In addition to being a valuable learning experience for me, my work updating ESRD will allow MIGA to improve portfolio-wide reporting on the performance of its projects.

Project Runway: Paper Doll Edition (aka. Terrific Tuesdays, Part 2)

Mystery Objects: Texture Week

For Texture Week I ran a game, which was a nice change of pace. The game also allowed me to interact a bit more with the kids, which was especially rewarding because I finally started to recognize families who came every week (and they started to recognize me). First, we placed mystery objects in cloth bags. Then, the children felt inside, told me what textures described the item in the bag, and guessed what it was. Depending on the age of the children, some were more successful than others at not looking before they guessed…

Taken from the study collection (a group of objects catalogued separately from the main collection, that can be handled with less care) and the “Touch it” room in the museum, the items were mostly reproductions. For instance, one bag held a spool of flax and another held a piece of linen. I enjoyed explaining that flax felt like hair, but is actually a plant fiber (and that the linen fabric was made from flax – they felt the same substance twice, but in very different forms). For older children, we provided a large selection of cards with texture words on them, which they could match to each bag. However, one bag remained a mystery to every single person who felt inside (even the adults). Undaunted, and inspired by the challenge, some kids spent most of their time at the station attempting to guess what they held in their hands.

Some of the best guesses: A unicorn horn, a honey dipper, a screwdriver, a drumstick, and a magic wand!

Mystery Object
The most mysterious object!

Well, I wish we had a unicorn horn or a magic wand to display, but this is actually the far more mundane drop spindle, used to spin thread. Most of the children had no idea what a drop spindle was or how it worked. References to Sleeping Beauty became surprisingly helpful, even though she pricked her finger on  a spinning wheel’s spindle (not a drop spindle). One kid who had recently been in his school’s production of Sleeping Beauty even pretended to faint, in order to demonstrate what happened when her finger touched the spindle!

Blackboard Drawing: Value Week

Artist at work...
Artist at work…

Value Week’s activity required kids to experiment with how you can represent black and white with different techniques and materials. Rather than connecting to a specific piece of art in the Winterthur collection, this table provided children with the opportunity to practice thinking like an artist. Each child took a black and a white piece of card stock, and using white chalk and black graphite, they drew the same image on both papers but in contrasting colors. The adventurous could also practice covering their paper with a layer of pigment and then erasing away to reveal shapes. For inspiration, we provided a variety of printed examples of modern and historical black and white sketches.

Paper Doll Clothing Patterns: Pattern Week (upcoming)

Sadly I was not able to see the result of this activity planning, as Pattern Week has not yet happened and I have finished my internship. However, during my last week I developed part of this activity. The table will include a matching game for children to think about the relationship between clothing patterns and finished outfits. After kids finish the game, the plan is for them to make and decorate their own clothing for large cardboard paper dolls that Lois (the Associate Curator of Education, who runs Terrific Tuesdays) found online. I was excited by the challenge of coming up with doll clothing patterns, especially since I now had plenty of experience working with the Terrific Tuesdays kids and a much better idea of their crafting abilities than I did at the beginning of the summer.

Image result for 1930s kids dress
Design Source (found on Pinterest)
Girl's Outfit
Girl’s Outfit
Dress Pattern
Dress Pattern








I decided to design 1930s inspired clothing for the dolls, evoking the kinds of clothes that H.F. duPont’s children and their friends might have worn while growing up at Winterthur. Armed with lots of construction paper, my desk quickly disappeared under a pile of failed attempts and paper scraps. My goal was to come up with a pattern that required as little gluing as possible, and relatively simple cutting. After much trial and error (I truly felt like a project runway contestant, fitting my sample dress onto the paper doll and cutting away to ensure the perfect fit), I finally developed a girl’s dress and a boy’s shirt and shorts that I hope kids and their families will like!

Boy's Outfit
Boy’s Outfit
Shirt and Shorts Patterns
Shirt and Shorts Patterns

Terrific Tuesdays, Part 1: Flowers and Food

Every Tuesday from July until the end of August, Winterthur offers “Terrific Tuesdays,” a family program that exposes kids to objects in the museum and museum work with crafts and games. This summer’s theme was the “Elements of Art” (color, value, shape, line, texture, form, and pattern), and each week’s activities revolved around one element. Along with about 5 tables staffed and developed by Public Programs, the conservation department and the gardens also manned tables. One or two local artists also came to give demonstrations each week (block printers, basket makers, and weavers, for instance).

I was “on loan” to Public Programs all day every Tuesday, working with  two interns from the University of Delaware (Carolanne and AnnaLivia) who spent their whole summer working exclusively on family programming. A group of about 7 teen volunteers also came in to staff tables on Tuesday and Thursday, when Winterthur took a selection of the week’s activities to the Salvation Army’s summer camp in Wilmington. I didn’t go to the Salvation Army every week, but I did go several times to help out, which was a lot of fun.

Here are the first two tables that I helped run this summer:

Bubble Hydrangea Cards: Color Week

Bubble Hydrangea Craft Station
Bubble Hydrangea Craft Station
Winterthur Hydrangeas
Winterthur Hydrangeas

I came up with bubble hydrangeas (or, rather, found the craft idea after lots of searching through Pinterest and mommy blogs!), and developed it (with indispensable help from the wonderful Carolanne and AnnaLivia). At first, the only how-to videos we could find on YouTube were in German, which might explain why the first round of testing ended in failure…

The internet showed children successfully making bubble patterns in paper with dye- we figured that we should be able to make successful bubbles too! We eventually discovered that glycerin is the  magic ingredient, and after that the craft went forward without a hitch.

The Winterthur gardens are full of hydrangeas, so we used the flowers as an anchor for the activity and also provided pH strips for kids to test in acidic and basic solutions. This taught them about pH, and we encouraged them to think about how hydrangea petals change colors based on the acidity of the soil. Both the litmus paper and the bubbles were popular with kids, parents, and grandparents! We did have to make sure that some of the smaller children blew bubbles out rather than drinking up paint through the straws, though.

Paint ready to be used...
Paint ready to be used…
My own attempt at making some bubble hydrangeas...
My own attempt at making some bubble hydrangeas…








Clay Pretzels: Line Week

Pretzel Station (before the children arrived- this was the tidiest it looked all day!)
Pretzel Station (before the children arrived- this was the tidiest it looked all day!)

With model magic, paint, and salt, we made our own “fake food” like the imitation food found in the collection. Winterthur’s large Pennsylvania German collection and the fact that this week was “Line Week” made pretzels a natural choice. These pretzels were almost too realistic, however. My heart almost stopped when I looked down halfway through the day and saw a bite taken out of the sample pretzel- I turned and right next to me, a toddler had a mouth full of clay! Thankfully, his mother was nearby and quickly handled the problem, but then I had to move the pretzel to the center of the table because this child kept reaching for it! You would think that after one mouthful of clay he wouldn’t have been interested in seconds…

My sample pretzel (before it was almost eaten)
My sample pretzel (before it was almost eaten)