All the Rage: Cycling Photography and Stereoscopic Cameras

 Written by Rebecca Hutchins, Curator of Collections

Kinsey web
Darius Kinsey
American, 1869–1945

Crossing a glacier near Monte Cristo, 1902
Black-and-white stereograph
Whatcom Museum, 1978.84.6417



While researching cameras in our collection recently, I discovered that we hold two that were previously owned by Darius Kinsey. These two cameras, each of which is amazing in its own right, are now installed in Old City Hall. The first is a stereoscopic camera (#1978.84.2) and is actually pictured with Kinsey in one of the murals. The stereoscopic cameras took two images simultaneously from slightly different angles to create 3D images when viewed through a stereoscope. The taking and viewing of stereoscopic images was all the rage in the latter half of the 19th century.

The second is a camera that was specifically designed to be transported and used on a bicycle called a Cycle Poco (#1978.84.4) – combining the two predominate leisure activities of the time, cycling and photography.

These cameras are also beautiful pieces of craftsmanship with then state-of-the-art optical components, mahogany interiors, brass fixtures, Russian red leather bellows and small ivory details.


Stereographic Image 2259

Advertisement for the Cycle Poco camera, 1899
Rochester Came
ra & Supply Company



John Edson, His Birds, and His Museum

Written by Paul Woodcock, Vice President of the North Cascade Audubon Society, with research collaboration from Jeff Jewell, Whatcom Museum Photo Archives Historian.

AT THE END OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY THE ART OF TAXI­DERMY WAS A FAD. Mounted birds and other animals were used as home decor and most naturalists, amateur and pro­fessional alike, collected and mounted specimens. As such, the Whatcom Museum’s Edson-Edson-Booth Bird Col­lection of over 600 mounted birds is an important cultural and historical artifact. But it is much more than that.


How Your Museum: Protects the Collections


Thirty thousand objects. 170,000 photographs. 16,000 archival items.

These numbers make up the Whatcom Museum Collection and Curator of Collections, Becky Hutchins, is in charge of protecting each piece from harm. Threats are as small as the powderpost beetle and as large as a fire or flood.

For the smallest variety of threat, Hutchins employs an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach as an environmentally friendly way to monitor and regulate the bug factor throughout Museum facilities.

Using sticky traps, we can determine if our collections are in danger. Caught specimens are examined, and, depending on their numbers and where they are in their lifecycle (larvae or adult), we can determine how hospitable our environment is to them and what their food sources might be. By changing the temperature and maintaining moisture levels, monitoring our collections and keeping the museum spaces well maintained, we're able to create an unfriendly environment for pests, and protect treasures like historic maps of Bellingham Bay and 100-year old women's finery.

But who are these unwanted visitors? Turns out museum collections are at greatest risk from a few common insects, Hutchins explains, because these pests have favorite food sources as well as preferred habitats that are often found in our collections and storage spaces.

CLOTHES MOTH               

These winged menaces feed on all the protein they can find — from silk to feathers! Their wingspan is only a half-inch, but can have a big effect. Once mating has occurred, the females lay 40 to 50 eggs over a course of 4 to 21 days that hatch into eating machine larvae. These live for an unusually long period of 50 days before they pupate, all the time feeding on the fibers of feathers, wool, leather, cotton, linen, silk and even synthetic materials.



Booklice (or psocids) feed mainly on the starchy glue that binds books, but are also known to munch on paper, plywood, and plaster. They can grow between 1/25 and 1/13 of an inch — tiny but mighty! The adult female psocid lays up to 60 eggs in its short life of about 2 months.



As their name suggests, with enough time, these little beetles can reduce a post of wood to powder. They can live for years in a larval stage burrowed inside of furniture, frames and other objects. Small piles of dust indicate where the larvae have entered and small holes where the adult beetles emerge. Powderpost beetles prefer the sapwood of oak and other hardwoods and many of the insects will continue to breed in an infested piece of wood for generations. 

Hutchins and the Museum staff work together to find new ways to protect our collection through simple practices of good housekeeping and maintenance — for example, making sure that exterior doors have tight seals, and taking care not to leave food out. Flowers, though gorgeous, don't find a long-term home in the Museum since they can carry in, and attract, critters.

Visit to learn more about how collectors like museums and libraries work to keep treasures safe from pests!

Illustrations by Rifka MacDonald


Sneak Peek at Famous Peak

Hooray! The manuscript for the Vanishing Ice catalogue was emailed to the editor thirty minutes ago. Here is a sneak peek at one of my favorite artworks in the exhibition:

altThomas Hart Benton's (American, 1889-1975) journey to the Canadian Rockies inspired Trail Riders, a sweeping, cinematic view of Mount Assiniboine. The artist faithfully documents the landscape setting and the mountain's conical shape resembling the famous Matterhorn in the Alps. (According to the U.S. Geological Survey, glaciers on Mount Assiniboine have decreased 820 feet in twenty-three years, an average of more than 35 feet per year.)

Casting a nostalgic look at American history, Benton presents an unusual mid-twentieth century interpretation of Manifest Destiny. The artist, a grandnephew of a prominent, populist Missouri senator who helped shape the policies of American expansionism, harks back to a time when trailblazers settled the American West. Throughout his life, he mythologized this theme, beginning with early paintings like The Pathfinder (1926) and culminating in the grand-scaled mural, Independence and the Opening of the American West (1959-62), commissioned for the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. In the 1930s, such themes earned Benton recognition as a “regionalist” artist who celebrated Middle American values by depicting rural culture.

Trail Riders also draws upon classic Hollywood Westerns that celebrated the loners and nomads along pioneer trails. The artist’s gigs in Hollywood for Life magazine and Walt Disney enabled him to see first-hand the creation of these idealized heroes.

In this painting, Benton mediates on his personal relationship to the land: The protagonists riding along the trail represent the artist and his friend, who explored the Banff region on horseback in 1963. Benton turned to the mountains for solace after his regionalist aesthetic was scorned by an art world enamored with another movement, Abstract Expressionism, in the 1950s. The landscape assuaged the artist’s loneliness and distaste for America’s increasing urban culture.

—Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art


Benefit, Burgers and Birds: 2012 Firsts and other Highlights

Note: this entry was first posted December 28. Thanks to the nefarious meddling of holiday hackers, it was lost, reposted, and lost again. Now a week into the new year, we feel secure enough in our security to repost with a look at several firsts in 2012.

altWith 2012 in its final days, we offer our perspective on several firsts and other highlights of the year at Whatcom Museum, starting off with the utterly modern and thoroughly poetic interpretation of Lesley Dill's remarkable Shimmer installation by Kuntz & Company. The first time we've had dancers in the gallery, it was a precedent we're thrilled to set and build on in the coming years. During that same exhibition, a rare-for-Bellingham show that featured a New York artist's exceptional and often spiritual brand of language-inspired art, we collaborated with Whatcom Poetry Series for a meaningful program of poetry writing that blew the creative caps off our participants' pens. We thank Humanities Washington for making it all come true.

Other firsts include our first animated video, all about ice and art and taking part. We also held our first Art Auction, a benefit for the museum, artists and collectors. Designed as a chance to take home one of a kind artwork and support the museum at the same time, we aim to make this event better each year in our effort to make the Whatcom Museum a place you're proud to call your hometown hub of history and art.

And while we're on the subject of home, it's impossible not to mention our first experience as a participant in Project Homeless Connect – a marvelous event that has a distinctly unmarvelous reason for being. Museum educators were on hand at Bellingham High School with quick-portrait painting sittings (aligning with the museum's Population exhibition featuring portraits of community members by artist Ray Turner) as well as hands-on art projects for kids and adults. The day was fun and rewarding and necessary to fulfilling our belief that everyone deserves art. Rose Paquet, who blogs about museums and inclusivity wrote about it here.

Meanwhile the first no-condiment burger to be served at the Lightcatcher was followed by several more, along with a seemingly endless supply of fine-tasting dishes paired with equally fine beer. Cheese Meat(s) Beer was a welcome addition to the Museum in 2012.

altWe gave our 500 famous birds a rare public appearance over the summer, opening the Syre Education Center to all and offering a variety of bird-inspired programs, from nature walks to drawing workshops. July was most definitely for the birds — watch for another public appearance in 2013.

Back in the Lightcatcher, Lookout Landing, formerly known as the lounge area outside the second-floor gallery, became a place for participation during the Population exhibition. It's an ongoing experiment in what's called the "participatory museum," dubbed so by Nina Simon, a museum director and author intent on making the museum experience relevant to audiences who are ever-more flooded by choices of what to do in their ever-shrinking moments of free time. Check out the results here and let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

We had our first Porsche in the Museum, compliments of Roger Jobs, who rented the facility for a special customer event. We also hosted private events for birthdays, baby showers, lectures, concerts, staff gatherings, proms, and weddings – 30 in all between Old City Hall and the Lightcatcher.

In other numbers, our American Quilts exhibition wins the prize for the most docent tours in 2012: Eight docents provided 66 tours to serve over 400 museum visitors. Should you need a review of why docent tours are the savvy museum-goers way to play – check it out the top 5 reasons to take a tour this winter here!

Until then, a very happy new year to you. And don't forget, we have new hours starting January 2 that include another first – evening hours every Thursday. See you soon!

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