One of the Center’s Little Mysteries

Part of the Beaumier Heritage Center’s mission is to collect and preserve items from the U.P. and NMU. The types of items and artifacts that fall under this sphere is very broad and, as such, we have numerous kinds of items in our collection and it is full of interesting gems. We have also inherited and collected many new objects over the years. This broadness of items and always increasing volume has had the unintended consequence of creating a lot of mystery within the collection.

One mysterious item is this one. On the outside it seems like a very straight forward artifact, as the note says it is a “Single crystal of polonium from Poland.” Odd, but not out of the ordinary for the Beaumier Center. But then there is the second part, written in a different hand, “from Marie Curie’s workplace?”

PoloniumWow. That would be an amazing thing to have in our collection; a piece from the laboratory of the famed scientist. But we are unable to make that claim. We don’t know who wrote either parts of the note, we don’t know why the second person thought it might have belonged to Marie Curie and, unfortunately, we have no other history of the item.

As someone who wants to have a career in the museum world, this item has taught me a very valuable lesson. When items are brought to a museum, the person taking in the object really need to know as much of its history as possible and record that information for posterity. What makes the item important and worth saving? How did it get here? What did it do? Who used it? Basically, what is its story?

I wonder all of these things about this little bit of mystery we have in our storage area and I hope one day we all will get to know its story.

The item is currently in storage at the Beaumier Heritage Center, off display.

Written by Stephen Glover of the BHC.

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