Exploring Your World, or Having a Little pHun

Despite the fact that every museum professional is task-saturated, which is a less stressful way of saying over-worked, we do occasionally find ourselves with down time. Usually during those moments we might surf the internet, chat with our work spouse, or dream of our perfect job (which is increasingly not the one we have). Instead, why not use the time to explore your world a little more.

Fun that fits in your pocket.

Uncap the fun –
words never said about pH pens before.

If you aren’t the curator or collections manager, go ask to borrow one of her pH tester pens (if you are the curator or collections manager, this should be much easier). You know the pens. They instantly reveal whether something is acidic (the mark turns yellow) or neutral (the mark turns purple).

Once you’ve assured the curator or collections manager you won’t lose it, carry the pen with you throughout the day and test everything you see. By everything, we mean everything; post-it notes, toilette paper, wooden crates, fabric, drywall, whatever you can reach. Be aware though, it is less than effective on plastics and skin.

There is an etiquette for using pH pens this way, which should be obvious but bears repeating: if something is not yours, ask before you put pen to paraphernalia. This will help you avoid unpleasant scenes, damaging collection items, and harassment lawsuits.

Good luck and have fun. We think you will be surprised at what you find.

Oh, and don’t worry if the curator or collections manager says you can’t borrow her pen. It’s not that she doesn’t trust you. It’s because she’s not finished “exploring” her office.

Curator’s Comments: If you like this idea, or even if you don’t, check out our suggestion to Easter egg the collections database.


About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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