Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Hidden Part of the new MOHAI

Posted by on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 12:39 PM

I went to three places to write about the new MOHAI: Montlake (the old MOHAI, in a state of ruin) and South Lake Union (shiny new MOHAI), of course—but also the fancy new secret private storage facility in Georgetown.

The only public area there is the small research library, holding MOHAI's four million photos. If you visit (by appointment), be sure to ask the photo historian to take you into the walk-in freezer for the negatives. He's proud of it, and it's like being in early James Bond.

Then there's the huge warehouse of rows and rows and stacks and stacks of storage, where they forbid me to take pictures of the scene for security reasons.

It's a clean, well-lighted place to the extreme—though the light is specially designed not to damage objects. In the closed wing that contains the textiles and fashions, from Victorian corsets to gay-pride wind-socks, the temperature is a shade cooler. In a corner of the main wing, near where canoes and race cars and buggies just hang out waiting for movement, there's a separate chamber where the temperature is micro-controlled for newly arrived objects that need to acclimate to their new hyper-refined-environment: a quarantine loading dock.

In the old MOHAI in Montlake, the conservation area was like a makeshift morgue. Note to friends and family: A morgue is bad enough. Please let me not end up in a makeshift one. It didn't even have doors and was in the basement. You have to imagine conservators, in plastic gloves and goggles trying to remove every speck of dirt from some old hunk of terra cotta, with janitors sweeping dustily by. It must have been ridiculous. The new conservation studio is an airlocked spaceship by comparison.

They showed me a couple of objects they've restored already. One of them is Bobo, who's not on display in the new MOHAI, but who, I can attest, has been given a nice new case for future display. It was very, very, very unnerving to come this close to Bobo's great dark unthumping chest when they were working on his box during one of my visits.

I could capture two pieces of restoration in decent photographs. One is a neon sign—who recalls spending all night at Bob Murray's Dog House? Anyone?

This old neon sign is not on display in the new museum. Rather, its in storage at MOHAIs new storage facility in Georgetown. It was restored to mint condition during the move so that its ready for exhibition.
  • This old neon sign is not on display in the new museum. Rather, it's in storage at MOHAI's new storage facility in Georgetown. It was restored to mint condition during the move so that it's ready for exhibition.

The other is a sign from Turf Smoke Shop. It's caked in nicotine, and it's a restoration conundrum. Should they remove the nicotine? It's historical, for sure. If this were a painting instead, they'd clean it, no questions asked. But on a smoking artifact, they're thinking about removing patches (!) of nicotine to reveal the contrast, a hybrid solution I like because it collapses multiple periods of time on one enduring surface (maybe my body can relate).

The areas around the gloves and the muralists signature have been cleaned. All else is left caked with nicotine.
  • The areas around the gloves and the muralist's signature have been cleaned. All else is left caked with nicotine.


Comments (11) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Really looking forward to seeing the new MOHAI. One of the best things about is that the Naval Armory will be preserved, which is a great old pile of a building.
Posted by Westside forever on January 9, 2013 at 1:25 PM · Report this
Lucas Spivey 2
Mo space for MOHAI!
Posted by Lucas Spivey on January 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 3
Man that's cool.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on January 9, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
Marlow 4
Ah, that's nice to see the neon sign from The Doghouse has been restored. My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding there, before it closed. All roads DO lead to The Doghouse!
Posted by Marlow on January 9, 2013 at 1:39 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 5
The old Thiry building had some lovely spaces, but the way it also didn't serve the museum well is sad to read.

P.s. They must, MUST put that Doghouse sign on display!
Posted by Dr_Awesome on January 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM · Report this
Of course I remember my last meal at The Doghouse - December 31/January 1, 1994 to be precise. They'd already announced the closing scheduled for the end of the month, and people were in the process of trying to scavenge whatever souvenirs they could. They went through a lot of menus & paper place mats during the last couple of months, one of which rests in a place of honor on top of my scanner at home.
Posted by COMTE on January 9, 2013 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Blueberry pancakes at the Doghouse, 1982. Wonderful.
Posted by Fire Chief on January 9, 2013 at 2:42 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 8
Some horrid old woman in the bar at the Doghouse called me a twerp for knowing all the words to "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" sometime in the 80's.

But more to the point - is the huge mosaic from the front of the old City Light Building on display?

(and btw - I am in one of the permanent displays!)
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on January 9, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
The storage area is often my favorite part of any museum. That why I loveartiat Fred Wilson's work so much.…
Posted by timmiche on January 9, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
As a relative newcomer (1993) those old landmark businesses and their signs didn't leave an impression... but Bud's Jazz Records in Pioneer Square with it's handpainted sign marking the steps downward to a basement retail treasure trove...that should be preserved.
Posted by publicadministrator on January 10, 2013 at 1:06 AM · Report this
I miss the Doghouse. My neighbor was a waitress there for eons.
Posted by BallardBoy on January 10, 2013 at 2:18 AM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy