Here is an example of an antique olive press: http://db.tt/mnJIcQAF
I believe the device in question is definitely not made for compression. It’s main function seems to be related to the crank which can lower and raise the horizontal platforms. The crank can be secured in the raised position. The crank is not original to the piece, neither is the rope, obviously. The purpose of the arms are a mystery to me. We have several items at this museum that are composed solely of wood, simply because wood was more accessible than metal in this area at the time.
I have emailed the owners of the item to relay all suggestions. I did not notice any dry residue or distinctive odor upon inspection. Oils may be present, but I am looking forward to seeing the results of a pH test and have offered to assist with such. Thank you, Misha for your suggestions. South Louisiana is littered with old French terracotta olive jars. I would not be surprised if the two were related in some way, although our humid climate is not ideal for olive tree cultivation.
The owners procured this item, along with the skein winder in the photo from the New Orleans, LA area. The previous owners were collectors, of sorts. I am not certain if the two items are related. I can tell you that the base appeared to have been infested with a type of wood-boring beetle, perhaps powderpost.
I have contacted Tillers International. Thank you, Lou.
Thank you to everyone who provided input. I am definitely grateful for your insight and expertise. If I received any additional information on this item I will certainly post.