Meeting Lesley

This week brought the beginning of a new semester and, as always, new assignments and challenges. One of the firsts came at the Independence Seaport Museum where HIST 8151 (Studies in American Material Culture) met Lesley, or rather, the Lesley, which is a sneakbox-style boat. This class is meeting at the ISM for the semester, documenting Lesley before she (eye-roll all you want) goes off to the bit marina in the sky. The boat is too damaged to be put to work and ISM lacks the resources to take care of it.

Our documentation of the Lesley will take a variety of forms but we spent the bulk of our first class period at ISM familiarizing ourselves with the boat by doing a lot of silent staring and a bit of silent sketching. We were tasked with picking one piece or facet of the boat and making observational study of it. Here are my notebook pages from the hour-long exercise:

To give you a sense of what I was looking at, here’s a photo I snapped after the hour had ended:

See it? Right there in the middle of the shadow.

Other folks examined the remnants of paint, the shipbuilder’s label, the octagonal berth for the mast, the damage to the boat, the gas tanks, and the seats. When we all got back together, it was interesting to see the different approaches my classmates took. Some immediately wanted to solve the provenance of the sneakbox–which had been presented as a sort of mystery by Dr. Seth Bruggeman–with Google searches, while others were content to muse on what the material in front of them might mean. I confess that during the hour I followed much the same line of internal inquiry as the Holmesian faction of the class; it was only during our sharing time that I realized that it wasn’t really the point of the exercise.

So we’ve made our first impressions of Lesley (Bruggeman was quick to point out that we could never again do so), and parted ways for the week. Next Wednesday, we’ll reconvene to learn more about sneakboxes, apparently.

A fuller shot of Lesley with ISM chief curator Craig Bruns.

This is the first of several blogs assigned as part of the class. To follow the Lesley documentation project, check out the Facebook page, Twitter, or the project website.

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