THE PREPARATOR!

At BOHO we love the people who make this city amazing. There are honestly too many to count, but we’ve got to start somewhere. We’re excited to kick off our “People We Love” series today. 

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THE PREPARATOR

I firmly believe we all have a personal super power. It’s not always something obvious, like the ability to fly or teleport. It might be the ability to arrange furniture in a huge room flawlessly, or to bake quiches in a time of crisis, or host garden brews at the drop of a hat. We all have one. If you’re not sure what yours is, ask your friends. 

The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) has a super hero—The Preparator!. BOHO, meet Jamie Davis, Visual Resource Manager and Exhibit Preparatory. I’ve known Jamie for a few years and realized I wasn’t exactly sure what he did, so I inquired and he told me his job title. I said, “Huh?” Then he started to explain the ins and outs of his day. Of course! There has to be someone to install the art displays and make sure they look nice, someone to eliminate the glare of overhead lighting and create easy-to-read labels. As a patron, I hadn’t given exhibit preparation a second thought. I walk in, I ooh and ahhh and point, then I leave. Little did I know how much work the Preparator had been doing to elicit those oohs and ahhhs.

But the more Jamie and I chatted, the better I understood that his day is not just about preparing displays. He’s really a jack of all trades. Suffice it to say, Jamie appears to have more than one super power. In the eight years Jamie as been at VHS, he has curated the History on Tap shows, digitized approximately one-tenth of their eight and a half million artifacts, installed more than 35 shows, manufactured endless display mounts, handled thousands of artifacts, and read George Washington’s dairy.

“No day is the same,” says Jamie. “This is what I love. And the museum is huge, I’m all over that place. And the number of stairs—the day is a workout.” Getting in your fitness at work is such a double whammy. Bravo, Jamie. Bravo! 

Let’s focus on a couple of the above. Eight and a half million artifacts! I cannot wrap my head around this number or the amount of storage required. These include everything from Confederate war uniforms, dishes, cookbooks and paintings, to letters written by soldiers to loved ones on the home front, and even antique toys. And, as we are well into 2016, we need to digitize every single one of these artifacts for future generations. That’s right: each artifact needs to be photographed, one by one.

History on Tap is one of the VHS’s most creative shows. This ongoing program series collaborates with local breweries to recreate historic recipes found in our collection. They pull a cookbook from the archives and challenge a local brewery to recreate a historic brew. Voila! Ardent’s version of Jane’s Persimmon Beer.

The Story of Virginia exhibit boasts a section on Virginia’s history with beer, mead, and liquor. Jamie wondered how do you tell this story; “well, you start by collecting beer taps from the 150 breweries in Virginia, then you save a can of Hardywood Singel for display.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jamie’s day. There are endless happenings behind the scenes so that we, the visitors, can learn the amazing and entertaining stories of our commonwealth.

And one day, if you see Jamie at a local bar, remember this: “I’m a baller at trivia nights. I’ve installed hundreds of artifacts and their labels. So you read them and think, ‘Oh, so that is what this axe is for.’ ”