Thursday, 25 June 2015

Visitor Experience Ambassador Musings

The last 2 months I have spent as a guest experience ambassador have been an incredible experience. I have had the opportunity to work on various projects that involved all staff here and help plan events, work with tours, develop a way to use technology in some Parkwood tours, and much more.

The Victory Garden Party turned out to be a huge success and had a great turn-out! It was great to see everyone take on the 1940s look and learn about the local involvement in WWII. Thanks to everyone who helped and was involved!!!

Recently I’ve been working with Alyssa on some housekeeping duties that are rather not too common such as trekking to the third floor and cleaning the skylights. For those afraid of heights, it may not be the most ideal job! Also, I’ve taken on the task of sorting out our archives and searching for information for Samantha. Having the opportunity to go through the archives was incredible as I was able to look into parts of Parkwood that I have not seen before.

Next time you come to visit Parkwood, ask for a garden tour too! One of my projects was integrating tablets in the garden tour, and very soon we will have these tablets with some of the guides to use as a tool to show archival images of the gardens. I'm excited to start hearing feedback about the use of the tablets on tours! Fingers crossed that they are a success!

Although my time with this particular position is almost officially over, I still plan to work on some of my ideas and continue with some of my "projects" for Parkwood.
Curatorial Comments: working so closely with Alanna over these last 8 weeks has been a joy. Her enthusiasm for Parkwood, and historic research is inspiring. All too often, one can become complacent about Parkwood, due to maintenance woes, or grant writing. Having keen interns like Alanna and John, who find the treasures in the most interesting places, has invigorated not only myself, but the other "oldies" on staff.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Curious Curator: The Art of the Breakfast Tray

Breakfast in bed. The idea of it evokes relaxation and indulgence. I have never really given the practice much thought and then the other day we were reorganising some of the household china in the servery and we came across the muffin dish and lid or muffiner as some lexicons reference them.
To the casual glance and perhaps unknowingly, these items, leftovers from the Victorian fervour to create utensils and plates for every possible purpose (grape snips, ice cream slices, butter forks, aspic spoons, cake crumbers, bon bon scoops, bacon forks, tomato spoons), one thinks the domed plate alarge butter dish, but that is incorrect.
This is the muffin dish with lid, and it was a must have in any well appointed home where breakfast was had (aka served) in bed. The idea of the presentation was that the muffin, crumpet, scone, would be warmed in the kitchen and the household maid would present the item on the breakfast tray still warm.

Julian Fellows captures the art of the breakfast tray with wonderful wit, candour and subtlety in all his period pieces, and rather than go on about Downton Abbey, yes a favourite of mine, I would like to reference a scene in his earlier country house presentation Gosford Park. Ignore the narrative, just watch the tray presentation. You will get to it at about the :24 mark.
In 1922 Emily Post had a great deal to say about the Breakfast Tray and how it should be presented; please take note of the covered dish,

  The advantage of having one’s guests choose breakfast upstairs, is that unless there is a separate breakfast room, a long delayed breakfast prevents the dining-room from being put in order or the lunch table set. Trays, on the other hand, stand “all set” in the pantry and interfere much less with the dining-room work. The trays are either of the plain white pantry variety or regular breakfast ones with folding legs. On each is put a tray cloth. It may be plain linen hemstitched or scalloped, or it may be much embroidered and have mosaic or filet lace.
  Every bedroom has a set of breakfast china to match it. But it is far better to send a complete set of blue china to a rose-colored room than a rose set that has pieces missing. Nothing looks worse than odd crockery. It is like unmatched paper and envelopes, or odd shoes, or a woman’s skirt and waist that do not meet in the back.  91
  There is nothing unusual in a tray set, every china and department store carries them, but only in “open” stock patterns can one buy extra dishes or replace broken ones; a fact it is well to remember. There is a tall coffee pot, hot milk pitcher, a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, a cup and saucer, two plates, an egg cup and a covered dish. A cereal is usually put in the covered dish, toast in a napkin on a plate, or eggs and bacon in place of cereal. This with fruit is the most elaborate “tray” breakfast ever provided. Most people who breakfast “in bed” take only coffee or tea, an egg, toast and possibly fruit"
Emily was so very adamant about the breakfast tray appearance, she included a picture for the well informed woman to follow. 
Breakfast trays were exclusively a female practice and rarely did men order a breakfast tray unless they were in bed ill or recovering from an injury. Emily Post references who and how the tray arrives in her 1922 etiquette edition,
"Breakfast trays for married women guests are usually carried to the bedroom floor by the butler (some butlers delegate this service to a footman) and are handed to the lady’s maid who takes the tray into the room. In small houses they are carried up by the waitress."  ( Note to reader: single women eat at the Breakfast Table)
Anthropologist Kaori O'Connor has looked at the practice of English men not receiving breakfast in bed, and she has this theory, "For the British well-to-do male, this buffet-style meal ( the Parkwood Breakfast Room demonstrates this) was fortification enough for a day of country pursuits, hunting, shooting, or fishing." She continues to look at the emergence of the English Breakfast,  "A breakfast of this size at 9 in the morning allowed men to spend the rest of the day on horseback following hounds, shooting game, or fishing for trout or salmon (the famous trio, hunting, shooting, fishing, pastimes of the country gentleman). All they needed was a picnic.  Dinner became an evening meal."

Individual coffee pot
Perfect size for the tray

Back to the Parkwood Muffin dish with lid, because I know I shall be asked.
The pattern is called Shelley Blue Rock and is bone china. The hallmark on the back suggests a production date between 1940 and 1966, so certainly 20th century, and certainly a lovely set to eat ones breakfast from while in bed.
How does your breakfast tray hold up against Emily Post's requirements of 1922?


Friday, 5 June 2015

Stromberg-Carlson Radio, Sam McLaughlin and June 6

Stromberg-Carlson Radio, Sam McLaughlin and June 6

While we relish in the beauty of this weekend, seventy one years ago; RSM, family and servants would have been listening to the radio reports, like every other day, but these days were a little different. The reports out of Europe regarding the invasion of the beaches of France by the allied forces would have been worrisome, a cause for anxiety and perhaps a little glimmer of hope would have been offered when listening in real time. The events known to us as D-Day, RSM would have been in the library of Parkwood, listening to the report on his Stromberg-Carlson “art case” radio, outfitted to the disguised speaker located behind his desk. 
The staff and volunteers of Parkwood NHS will be showcasing our amazing site to the Garden Writers and Bloggers of America this weekend, but we will not lose the opportunity to interpret the significance of radio and radio broadcasts bringing WWII into the homes and hearts of those on the Home Front.

Originally founded in 1894 to manufacture telephones, the Stromberg-Carlson company also produced radio components, and began selling their own complete sets during the early 1920s. By that time, the radio craze had fully absorbed the American public, and radio pioneer RCA was cornering the market after scooping up over 2,000 broadcasting-related patents.

Stromberg-Carlson entered the field by making smaller parts for tube radios. Eventually, the company applied its telephone-audio expertise to develop a successful line of radio headsets. In 1923, the company was licensed to produce the “Neutodyne” radio circuit designed by Dr. L. A. Hazeltine. Stromberg-Carlson’s first set came out in early 1924, and the company steadily grew its radio production, eventually requiring RCA licenses for several products.

In 1926, Stromberg-Carlson became the first manufacturer to merge phonograph and radio technology by incorporating a phonograph jack into its radio chassis. By the end of the decade, Stromberg-Carlson sold sets with fully integrated radio and turntables technologies, and the company’s radio sales surpassed that of its telephones.

The 1930s represented boom years for Stromberg-Carlson’s radio development, as it introduced new modifications like automatic volume control, improved amplifying methods, and an early push-button tuning mechanism. Ads from the late '30s emphasize other innovations, like the unique Stromberg-Carlson “acoustical labyrinth,” a complex baffle design which improved sound quality by guiding audio waves through a series of interlocking chambers, and its “Te-Lek-Tor” series, which included remote-control capabilities. “Let your dealer arrange an audition,” was the brand’s cheeky slogan, emphasizing its reputation for superior sound quality.

Over the next 20 years, Stromberg-Carlson created an array of gorgeous Art Deco inspired designs, from the sleek, ivory-colored 140-K console to the tabletop 225-H with its floral-patterned speaker grill and octagonal dial. After the company’s merger with General Dynamics in 1955, the business was restructured to focus production on telephone products, and its radios were discontinued.
Stromberg-Carlson info from Collectors Weekly magazine.