June 17, 2013
Chloe and I discovered a handy item to have part of our cataloging tool kit this past spring during our contract curator Ellen Denker's visit—a magnet.
It all started when we were looking at the pair of Oscar B. Bach benches (1922.2.239-240) that are currently on view on the Lake Porch. We got into a discussion about the material of the objects, since they were listed as bronze and iron. They have been painted, so it is difficult to tell what the underlying metal is. It occurred to us that we could as least tell if there was iron (which is magnetic) and some other non-magnetic metal (like bronze, brass, etc.) if we put a magnet to the metal.
So we scoured the Museum's kitchens and offices until we found a magnet to test out our theory. Indeed after gently holding the magnet near one bench, some parts (like the frame--iron) attracted the magnet while other parts (like the decorative sides) had no reaction. Indeed the bench is made of at least two kinds of metal. This discovery prompted us to keep a magnet with us for the remainder of cataloging. We had good fun testing the composition of objects.