It Can Always Be Better

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mission to Dixon

Galena Avenue in Dixon Illinois by Eric Basir
Photo: Eric Basir
I lost count of how many times I passed Dixon, Illinois while driving east and west on Interstate 88. Each time I saw signs reading "Hometown of President Reagan." I am over 40 years old and in my mind, I have only a picture of a sign when it comes to the early history of my country's 40th president. On May 2nd, all of that changed.

This all began with an invitation to exhibit and speak at the Lee County Small Museum Conference in my mind's most mysterious place: Dixon, Illinois. I did not have much luck finding it at first (I do not have a GPS; I use an ancient navigation tool known as a map).

Photo: Eric Basir
Photo: Eric Basir
Hoping I could see the museum from room 179 at the Comfort Inn on Plaza Drive, I was thoroughly disappointed with the view. A walk to the town store (Wal-Mart) to purchase much needed avocados also left me wondering about the Ronald Reagan boyhood home. I must be getting close, I kept thinking.

I got here first!
Photo: Eric Basir
Early in the morning on my way to the conference, I finally found Mr. Reagan's home. However, not before the red squirrel found me first.

Ronald Reagan statue at the Dixon Reagan home
Photo: Eric Basir
Eventually, I made it to the house. Unfortunately I was too early and it was closed. This big statue of President Reagan adorns an immaculate lawn and landscape.
Photo: Eric Basir
Nicolette Meister speaking about preservation
Photo: Eric Basir

Photo: Eric Basir
For the conference, I had the opportunity to listen to all the speakers as I had the final session. I can say without equivocation that they knew exactly what they were talking about. Nicolette Meister of Beloit College's Logan Museum of Anthropology explained all the details about caring for originals. She brought samples of damaged originals for students to examine.

I missed Pat Miller's talk on the Five Core Documents. But I'm sure it was great. Sharon Welton from the Stephenson County Historical Society gave us the history of photographic prints and how to estimate the date photos were taken according to style of prints and how people dressed. This was the best, most comprehensive photo identification workshop I have seen, heard or read. The on-screen presentation was also highly informative. I kept wishing she had a book. However, she was generous enough to give me permission to share her bibliography with you (this link may only remain active through June 2015).

Andew Holt from Big River Bindery in Iowa. A trained conservator, he focused on caring for and restoring paper documents. From the history of paper to choosing storage materials, everyone learned something new about taking care of their originals. He is also another speaker that needs to publish a book about their work.

For lunch, I stopped at a Touch of Thai in a very well-preserved and lively downtown Dixon. While waiting for my take-out order, I bought a Thor omnibus comic book at The Paper Escape down the block. This was a jam-packed comic book and game store with a very friendly owner.

Eric Basir listening to a lecture behind exhibit
Photo: Pat Gorman
Eventually it would be my turn to present. After eating lunch with President Reagan in statue form along the Rock River, I made my way back to the conference. My presentation was about organizing photos using metadata. It is available at no charge at the Photo Grafix Youtube Channel.

For a small museum, this was a big group. It was an honor to be a part of the event. 

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