Hidden Features: Microphotography

Boston Children’s Museum collects and houses many unique artifacts and specimens from around the world. Sometimes, we find artifacts with hidden unique features. In one of the many shelves in collection’s storage, there sits a Swiss chalet model, measuring roughly 2 inches tall, among a drawer of other Swiss miniatures. On the front of the model, the words “Rigi Kaltbad” are carved. Upon searching “Rigi Kaltbad” online, I learned that it is a historic resort area in the Swiss Alps. This little model, which was donated in 1942, was likely a souvenir novelty acquired on someone’s travels in Switzerland. One of the model’s interesting features includes its roof flipping to the side to uncover an area for an inkwell, but the chimney contains the hidden unique feature.

    

A very small piece of glass is situated in the chimney, and by holding the glass to a light source and then looking into the chimney, it reveals 4 microphotographs! For each image, they measure about 1 millimeter wide, which is about the size of a pencil’s tip. These types of viewing devices are called Stanhopes and were invented by René Dagron around 1857. Stanhopes came in an array of objects from pens, rings, pendants, and many other objects.

View from the back of the chimney glass, where 4 microphotographs are seen.

The 4 microphotographs in our object display and label areas of the Swiss Alps including Rigi Kaltbad, Rigi Staffel, Schnurtobel-Brücke, and Rigi Känzli. When searching those labels online, I found similar historic images of these areas from the early 1900s that match the sites and imagery in the microphotographs. I then experimented with trying to capture the 4 photographs. Since the museum does not have a microscope with the ability to take pictures, I went through a trial and error process to find the best way to capture the 4 microphotographs. I attempted different angles and lighting with a macro lens and even the museum’s exhibit microscope component, Scope on a Rope, but unfortunately none of those options worked. Lastly, I decided to try and use my iPhone, and surprisingly, it worked better than the other options! Explore the images and video below as you take a virtual peak at a Stanhope!

    

    

 

Source:

The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography: Digital Imaging, Theory and Applications, History, and Science by Michael R. Peres

 

Artifacts Telling Stories

Bark Painting - OI 86-10

Artifacts carry an array of stories from who used it, who made it, what was it used for, and even how it came to the museum. Boston Children’s Museum’s collection holds 50,000 artifacts with countless compelling stories about people, places, and things from all over the world. Sometimes, a story can be told from the donation of an artifact, otherwise known as “provenance”.

Recently, I digitized all of the Australian artifacts in the collection. Many artifacts come from a specific donation from the Melbourne Children’s Museum presented by the Indibundji Aboriginal Dance Group in 1986. The twenty-two artifacts from this donation include a boomerang, a coolamon (an item used as a cradle or bowl), a tjara (a shield), and jewelry. Aboriginal peoples from all over Australia made these artifacts during the 1980’s. The donation tells unique stories about the artifacts, Boston Children’s Museum, and Aboriginal cultures.

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What’s Hiding in Collections? Ancient Egyptian Artifacts!

Contratto_blog imageIt’s been quite an exciting beginning to my internship at the Museum. The first month has gone by in the blink of an eye! I never guessed how extensive and diverse Boston Children’s Museum’s collections were. Lately, I’ve been drawn to the Museum’s ancient artifacts from Egypt, Israel, Greece, Iran and Italy, just to name a few. Ceramics, jewelry, stone carvings, lamps, wooden figures, and even mummy linen are some of the artifacts that are in the collection.

Recently, I just finished cataloging 213 Ancient Egyptian artifacts. Each artifact is unique and beautiful, but some of their stories are lost to time. The majority of the artifacts were gifted to the Museum between the 1920s and 1950s by Bostonians who traveled to Egypt. Other artifacts came from archaeological excavations that occurred in Egyptian cities such as Deir el-Bahari and Faiyum.

I’ve picked out a few of my favorite Ancient Egyptian artifacts to share with you. Continue reading