Thursday, July 16, 2020

Our Main Stairs

I was recently talking to someone about opening our skylight a few years ago. We were talking about the staircase, and how unusual it is, and how the stairs work with the skylight. 

The stairs are grey marble, which was probably locally quarried, perhaps in one of Baltimore County's well-known quarries. I have the builder's specs somewhere, and the actual marble is specified in there. I know the outside stonework is. 
We are fortunate to have a copy of the original blueprints, and on them, you can see the staircase clearly, and the genius of the architects, Ellicott & Emmart. 
On the ground floor, with the center hallway with its tesserae marble floor and beautiful wood trimwork, the staircase is wide and sweeping. 
As you rise up through the floors, the stairs narrow and the opening between the sides widens. This effectively funnels the light down through the staircase so that each set of stairs is well-lit. When you get to the set leading from the ground floor to the basement, there is no space between them. Once we re-opened the skylight, the true intent of the architects became apparent.
Each set of stairs is actually three sets, intersected with two landings, as you can see in the image above. From the basement to the third floor, the stairs are Calacatta marble in grey and white pattern. The landings are one-inch by one-inch marble tessarae tiles, surrounded by black marble. 

From the basement, to the top of the fourth floor, the railings have a classically elegant ironwork in an oval and ball pattern. You can see it behind another hunk of marble!
When I walk down from the third floor to the basement kitchen, I always count the steps, and there are 78 of them. I think that there are probably another 20 steps up to the top floor. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

John Whitridge, MD

We are in the process of conducting a survey of our art collection with the intention of having it re-valued for insurance purposes. We do this every so often, but the years tend to slip by between valuations. 

In my quest to make sure that everything is included in this round, I have been poking in vacant rooms, storage spaces and other places in our vast buildings which are not frequented more than once every few years. Of course, this is the perfect time to do this hunting, since 95% of our offices are not being used.

I've learned to shift boxes and look into closets to check them out. As I searched a storage room, I moved a media trolley, only to see someone staring back at me from the corner. After my heart stopped pounding, I realized it was another marble bust!
I tried to shift him to see if there was any identifying information, but couldn't even budge him an inch. A few days later, we loaded him on a cart and brought him up to my office. He was absolutely filthy!
I ran a Magic Eraser over him a few times, and you can see the result above! Although some of my museum friends freak out about this, I am taking the advice of another museum conservator and being gentle with the whole process. I even brought in Q-tips to clean out his ears. 

Once I cleaned him up a bit, the hunt was on to find out who he was. He was another Rinehart bust, so that narrowed the field greatly. He was sculpted in Rome in 1874.
Armed with those details, I checked the 1948 catalogue raisonnĂ© to cross reference the information and see if I could find out who he was.  

Sadly, there isn't too much information on Dr. Whitridge. He was important enough to have his picture in the Library's 100th Anniversary book, but scanning it, there's really no mention of him. 

And he is mentioned in the Annals a few times, mostly as a committee member, and with a very brief biography. 
In 1874, there was an article in the Baltimore Sun talking about the arrival of two busts by Rinehart at the marble salesrooms of Mr. Hugh Sisson, located in the Rinehart Building at 140 West Baltimore Street. 
The bust is really quite handsome, and after it was cleaned up (and the penciled in eyeballs removed!), it turned out to be a lovely piece, in a wonderful luminescent white marble. 
The other piece I found in the Sun was a brief mention of Dr. Whitridge's death and burial in Rhode Island. There is a reference to what was written about him earlier, but I can find no other article. 

Just another little mystery to try and research and unravel!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Dino Zoom!

Please Join MedChi for a Virtual Tour of Fossil Hall at the Smithsonian on
Wednesday, July 15 at 4:30 p.m.
Which living animal is the closest descendant to dinosaurs?
Do humans share genetic makeup with a macaque monkey?
How about a banana?

Why is the Coronavirus not considered a lifeform?   
The answers to these questions and more will be revealed as we take a physician-led virtual tour of the Fossil Hall at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, July 15 at 4:30 p.m. Travel back in time from the comfort of your own home through a virtual guided tour of the Fossil Hall and trace the early origins of life, examine patterns of evolution, dig through the age of dinosaurs and our ancient, and not-so-ancient, ancestors.
Your physician tour guide will be Dr. Stephen Rockower (@DrBonesMd), Bethesda-based Orthopaedic Surgeon, Past President of MedChi, and official docent at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Please join us for this entertaining, insightful discovery of the Fossil Hall, without the traffic, crowds or parking. This Zoom webinar is open to physicians and their families (children 10+ years old).
RSVP here. Upon receiving your response, we will send you an email with the Zoom link and password. The tour is limited to the first 100 participants. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020