Friday, January 16, 2015

Why We Need A New Deal Museum (part 2 of 10): Artifacts need homes

(If you saw a pick that was used by a WPA or CCC worker during the construction of, let's say, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or Reagan (Washington) National Airport, or the presidential retreat Camp David, would you want that pick in a museum, or would you rather it rot away in a barn?)

Every once in a while, someone contacts me and asks, "Hey, I have this item, and I'm wondering if there is a museum I can donate or loan it to." Off the top of my head, I can remember people asking me about a few tools with WPA markings on them and a sculpture created by an artist (a relative) who was in the WPA. I also talked to someone in Mississippi who had an elderly friend who owned a WPA quilt, given to her by an aunt who was in a WPA quilt-making project. I also met a CCC alumni a few years ago, at Lost River State Park (West Virginia) and he had his original CCC cap and a CCC yearbook to show us. Well, wouldn't it be nice if I could have asked, "Hey, would you be interested in donating anything, now or sometime in the future, to the New Deal Museum?"

Unfortunately, because a New Deal museum does not exist, I have to tell the people who contact me, "Um, sorry, but..." I do try to refer them to someone or some organization that might be able to offer some bit of useful information, but it's obvious that we are at risk of losing some really nice artifacts due to the lack of a museum. This is really tragic, because there is not necessarily a lot of artifacts out there. Many New Deal tools, for example, were scrapped or given to the allies for the war effort. Other items have been lost, forgotten, or thrown away. Every year we don't have a New Deal museum, it's inevitable that more of our history is being lost.

As New Deal artifacts become older and more scarce, they need a home not a landfill--they need a museum.

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