July 22, 2014 at 11:04 am #131829Amy SnyderParticipant
I’m searching for advice on how best to display a late 1800s clear glass Mt. Airy Saloon bottle. There is a logo on the bottle but it’s not very visible in a display case. Do I add colored/dyed water or would it hurt to actually put liquor in the bottle? It will be on exhibit for 3 months.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History
July 22, 2014 at 11:54 am #131833Helena JaeschkeMember
Please don’t put colored water in the bottle as it will almost certainly stain or mark the glass and the added weight may make it a problem. If you can measure the height of the wide vertical part of the bottle (before it narrows in to the shoulder, then you can cut a piece of paper the same height and wide enough to wrap around the bottle. It can be any color that shows up the design – black or a dark color may be the best. Sew a piece of thread to one of the corners of the paper, making sure that you use a couple of wide stitches. Roll the paper up into a tube and insert it into the neck of the bottle. You can use a bamboo skewer to adjust it if you need to. Make sure you keep the end of the thread outside the bottle as you will be able to use that to help to remove the paper in future. Very long straight thin forceps also help!
If the bottle shape is too curved for a cylinder of paper you can use a fine fabric to line the inside of the bottle – but again, make sure one corner pokes out of the top so it’s easy to get out later.
Other alternatives are to display it with a dark card behind the bottle or to place it on a translucent panel and light it from beneath with a cool light such as LED lighting.
Hope this helps
July 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm #131832Ron KleyParticipant
From what I’ve seen in museums and in laboratories of various sorts, glass doesn’t stain easily, and any residual surface stains can be quite easily swabbed away. I’d be inclined to suggest tea as a reasonable liquor lookalike (assuming that the original booze was something of the bourbon/rye sort).
Although you probably wouldn’t be hauled into court for putting real liquor in the bottle, I’d bet that there’s some federal regulation against putting any liquor into a bottle other than the one in which it was originally sold (a reasonable provision to prevent the sale of rotgut whiskey in recycled Crown Royal, Jim Beam, Cheval Regal or Makers’ Mark bottles).
July 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm #131831Ella RayburnMember
I believe tea decomposes and gets scummy.
If the bottle is narrow necked, any liquid will be hard to clean out.
I once saw some tiny styro balls put into bottles, but they were highlighting milk bottles, not brown liquor.
I learned something from Helena’s post and thank her for those exhibit suggestions.
July 23, 2014 at 4:39 am #131830Helena JaeschkeMember
Ella is right to point out that tea (and most other waterbased solutions) will be likely to grow moulds or algae. These will not only look unsightly and require more intervention to clean out and replace, they may also result in etching of the glass from microbial action.
Tap water doesn’t usually stain, but it does leave marks and the longer waterbased solutions are left in glass, the more likely it is to leave marks and the more difficult they will be to remove.
The problem, as is so often the case in museums and heritage sites, is that we are not dealing with the pure world of theory. In theory water is just hydrogen and oxygen bonded in a specific way. In practice water contains minerals, salts, microorganisms, dissolved gases, traces of organic compounds and tiny particles. Even distilled water of laboratory analytical grade purity will gradually accumulate dust from the atmosphere and dissolved gases.
Similarly glass is a complex substance – different mixture and manufacturing conditions can result in glass with a different composition and stability. The conditions it has been exposed to will also have affected it. It may even have begun to devitrify in places.
We have to balance the need to exhibit an item in a way that makes it understandable and enjoyable with the need to reduce or eliminate risk. The primary need in this case, was to show the design on the glass. It would be nice also, to give people an accurate idea of the function of the bottle – are we sure exactly what it contained when in use? However, every time the bottle is handled we increase the risk of physical damage, so we need to avoid unnecessary contact. Adding weight to the bottle may place a strain on it – it is now more than a century old and may have weaknesses or damage that we’re not aware of. Filling a bottle with liquid and placing it among other objects increases the risk to them if something goes wrong. Is it a justifiable or necessary risk?
We have a duty to make sure that nothing we do permanently changes the artefact or increases the risk of damage. We are only the custodians of the object now: others will have to look after it in future and we hope to pass it on to them without additional complications.
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