I look forward to coming to work on Thursdays. One of my responsibilities is to change the featured object that appears on the homepage of the Smithsonian’s History Explorer Web site. Thursday is the day that I do this, and it is actually more complicated than it seems.
I face challenges trying to connect an object with an important anniversary, event, or program. For example, during the month of February, I picked objects that related to Black History Month: a rare Pullman porter’s blanket, Muhammad Ali’s robe and gloves, and a pair of slave shackles. In March, I chose a mourning picture and World War II era liquid stockings for Women’s History Month. These were relatively easy to do, but what about the weeks when there are no obvious connections to be made? I know that on many Thursdays, I have a distinct challenge awaiting me.
Today was one of those days. Last week I chose to feature a Louisville Slugger baseball bat in order to celebrate the beginning of the baseball season. This week, I knew I was going to have to do some thinking. Then, I received an email from a colleague inviting me to partake in a batch of brownies that she had baked. She jokingly said that they were in honor of the last day of the Civil War, April 9, 1865. And there it was…my connection for the week! I checked the online collections database and found a surgical set that was used by surgeons to treat battlefield wounds during the Civil War. A great object for an important anniversary, and it was all inspired by brownies!
If you are interested in seeing what inspires me next, you can subscribe to our featured artifacts RSS feed on Smithsonian’s History Explorer. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into our vast collections and learn a little bit of history every week.
Paul Molholm is an education specialist at the National Museum of American History.