Stratford Hall 2009 Summer Interns


Hello everyone! Greetings from Kat, Kate and Abby, three of Stratford Hall’s summer 2009 interns, here to talk about our experiences thus far. The first six weeks of our internships have flown by.
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As Sarah’s Collection Management Intern, I have kept very busy making steady progress on the comprehensive inventory of the decorative arts collection. We have completed the Parlor, Boys Bedchamber, and are now knee-deep in the Dining Room and Dining Room Closet. Tackling the object movement, cleaning, and renovation of the Slave Quarters have been a priority since the beginning of the internship. However, local barn swallows, who have decided to use the Slave Quarters as their home for the summer months, have halted our progress on that front (see Sarah’s recent blog for more details).

I have been getting useful hands-on experience from working with the ReDiscovery database as part of the inventory for updating all of the collections records. Through some rather close encounters, I have gotten to know more about pest management and I have also dabbled in assisting with environmental concerns such as HVAC issues and an incident involving a sprinkler leak. My background has mainly been in the fine arts field, so coming into a historic house museum has been a positive change for me. It has given me a different perspective on Collections Management and a new interest in a different type of museum. I am looking forward to the remainder of the internship and learning even more from Sarah.
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Kate and Abby:
Phil, not to be outdone, wasted no time putting us to work. By the end of the first few weeks as the Preservation Interns, we had braved the attic, survived a week without Phil, and began the process of restoring the Southwest Outhouse windows.
We are now sufficiently comfortable with the scraping, reglazing, and painting process. Students from Belmont Technical College joined us during our third week for the first Preservation Field School at Stratford Hall. Throughout their restoration of one of the springhouses, we assisted with documentation of the structure and work completed. While the students were here, we also had the opportunity to visit the historical sites of Menokin and Kenmore with them. After the field school was completed, our primary focus became the Southwest Outhouse.

The bedroom south wall was tackled first, removing all failing plaster (and a few knuckles along with it). We also applied the fine art of poulticing to the salt ridden fireplaces using wet toilet paper. So far the toilet paper has been successful in removing the salts. This past week we began scraping the main door frame and the second window frame of the outhouse. It has been a productive but slow process due to the extreme deterioration of the paint. Our next focus will be centered on the remaining window of the outhouse and the beginning stages of patching and painting all of the wall surfaces in the interior.

However, our internship thus far has not just been all work and no play. Phil has planned several day trips to various suppliers including Virginia Limeworks and also to Williamsburg to meet Susan Buck, the renowned paint analyst.

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From the first six weeks on the job, the three of us will certainly have countless memories of Stratford and the surrounding areas of Virginia. We have battled bugs the size of our palms, become obsessed with hunting for shark’s teeth at the beach, and encountered all kinds of wildlife – foxes, turkeys, an abundance of squirrels (those who have been to Stratford know there are no lack of squirrels here), and for Kat, two rather precarious incidents with raccoons.

Taking full advantage of being somewhere new and exciting for the summer, we have done quite well filling our weekends to the brim with activities. We have taken trips to D.C., and Fredericksburg (including a ghost tour), sampled local wines, picked various berries at Westmoreland Berry Farm (and indulged in pie and ice cream for lunch of course!), eaten on the water at Colonial Beach, and will soon add a weekend trip to Williamsburg to the list. We are so grateful to be able to have this opportunity to live and work at Stratford Hall for the summer and will certainly keep everyone updated on our work and adventures.