The Cemetery across the Street

Dear Memphians,
If you’ve ever driven past the cemetery at Central Avenue and Lafayette Street and thought, “I wonder what that’s about,” read on:

The Pink Palace Family of Museums

If you drive west on Central Avenue towards the Memphis Pink Palace Museum, you may notice a small cemetery at the corner of Central and Lafayette Street immediately before you see the museum’s fence. This graveyard was in use well before Clarence Saunders bought the land for his palace.

Buntyn's Station Map

In the 1870s, this area was outside of the city limits of Memphis and known as the Ridgehigh section of Buntyn’s Station, a railroad stop on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. Buntyn’s Station was a large area of land that stretched east to west from Highland Street to Buntyn Street and north to south from Central Avenue to Park Avenue. Farmers who settled near Central Avenue and Buntyn Street began to call the area Ridgehigh. Buntyn’s Station was a town in its own right, and Ridgehigh was the town’s farthest settlement. The center of this neighborhood became Ridgehigh Baptist Church at…

View original post 273 more words

That time I made finger paint…

My kid loves to play with his food. Spaghetti, oatmeal, partially mashed peas–if he can smush it on his tray, he’s happy. I was home with him yesterday and decided that maybe it was time for him to try out his smearing skills with some paint.

A very quick internet search led me to many recipes for homemade finger paint. To be clear, I didn’t make it myself for any noble environmental reason or out of safety concerns. I did it because I was bored. Turns out two parts water to one part flour cooked over a low heat will turn into very respectable finger paint after about ten minutes of occasional stirring. Once it thickened, I added some salt and divided it up into reusable baby food containers. Then I followed the recipes on the back of my food coloring to make them different.

Colorful homemade finger paint on an equally colorful tablecloth

My toddler was intrigued. He was also hungry.

Eating the paint while looking at mom’s example

I got to paint while attempting to convince him to try. He decided that the orange paint tasted best. All in all, a respectable use of time by all.

Letting him eat dirt

Spotless. Pristine. Bored.

These are not words I use to describe my son.

Messy. Dirty. Inquisitive.

These are the ones I am more apt to employ. Never have they been more justified then yesterday. We moved azaleas from my grandmother’s house to our front yard. They will get the sun they need, and the front of our house will get some much needed change. Moving bushes means digging holes. Holes mean piles of dirt.

It is a special day in a child’s life when he discovers the pleasure of dirt. It squishes. It can be piled and dumped. It can go back in and then come out again. We could have trapped him in his playpen, but then he would have missed these important discoveries. We both watched him crawl around the grass and make new friends with the neighbors and their dogs. We looked on as he pulled down pots of dirt and cruised toward piles. And neither of us moved fast enough when he put a handful of it in his mouth.

We told him no, and he went back to playing. Then he did it again because he’s still a baby. Eventually, we took our slightly muddy boy with dirt caked under his nails and streaks on his face inside for dinner.

Perfect. I suppose that’s the other word I use.

An Irish Memphian

My latest post for the museum’s blog about our system’s most famous Irishman:

The Pink Palace Family of Museums

In the nineteenth century, many Irish citizens immigrated to Memphis. The poorest of these lived in an area of downtown known as the Pinch District. The name is credited to Mr. Craven Peyton, an early Memphian, who called the area “Pinch gut” after noticing the near emaciated look of the inhabitants. However, not all of Memphis’ Irish immigrants were the working poor.

Eugene Magevney

Eugene Magevney was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in 1828 before settling in Memphis in 1833. He opened a school for boys and eventually lived in a boarding house run by the McKeon family on Adams Avenue. In 1837, he purchased the white frame, six-room home for $2,500 (roughly $60,000 in 2015 dollars). Magevney continued buying real estate and purchased a pasture at the current intersection at Main and Union in 1839. As the city grew, he was able to sell the…

View original post 265 more words

Being brave

My little boy is learning how to be brave.

He wants to let go and take steps away from what is safe, but he gets scared. He wants to venture off and play next to the slightly bigger kids, but he gets timid. He watches and learns and waits until he’s figured out the outcomes. And then, maybe, he will make a move. Or maybe he will sit back down and decide that the play steps are a little too tall or he feels a bit unsteady on his feet.

So yesterday, I was happy when he came out from behind my legs at the Booksellers at Laurelwood. When he reached far for the table and walked over to a little girl. When he cruised from me to the big girl who was sitting on my right. He put his hand on her knee and looked startled that it wasn’t me. Then he smiled. Because he was brave.

2015-03-10 10.13.03
The baby in the mirror is always brave.

Our Collection by the Numbers

We have so many interesting things in our collection at the Pink Palace. Here’s a run down:

The Pink Palace Family of Museums

Pinewood Derby Car Pinewood Derby Car

Here at the Pink Palace we have a large permanent collection of artifacts related to the Mid-South’s cultural and natural history. Like all accredited museums, we have a collections policy that lays out our procedures and responsibilities for acquiring, protecting and using the objects in our care. One question that we are frequently asked is how many artifacts we have. The answer is an estimated 84,000 objects. Here’s a quick rundown of the categories:

Minerals, rocks and fossils44,536
Zoology, invertebrate6,092
Chipped stone, pottery, shell, bone2,956
Culinary equipment2,766
Medical equipment2,122
Zoology, vertebrate1,159
Recreational equipment1,072
Military equipment690
Advertising media646
Jewelry and token items454
Paintings, prints, etchings, murals373
Communication equipment313
Sculptures, pedestals, vases201
Musical items

View original post 82 more words

Stop the junk

I love getting mail. On occasion my niece mails me one of her paintings or a person I met through LibraryThing mails a postcard. My grandparents always, without fail, mail me a homemade card for my birthday. So I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I love getting real mail.

Conversely, I hate junk mail. It wastes my time disposing of it, and it wastes the paper that it’s printed on. I especially dislike pre-approved credit offers. If I want a credit card, I am smart enough to do research on my own. I decided that it’s time to take charge of this situation. Here are the websites I have enlisted to reduce the clutter in my mailbox:

  • Catalog Choice is a free service that helps you request which catalogs you would like to stop receiving. As junk mail gets to my house, I open the site, search for the catalog, fill out the information exactly as it is on the envelope, and Catalog Choice files my request with the company. On occasion (I’m looking at you Yellow Pages), the company in question makes you fill out a request on their own website. However, Catalog Choice still makes a record of your request that you can access.
  • I’ve also signed up with DMA Choice (Direct Marketing Association) to remove me from direct marketing lists like campaign postcards.
  • To stop getting credit card offers, I added us to This site adds you to a list that opts you out of firm credit and insurance offers for five years. You can be permanently taken off the list, but you have to mail in a form that includes your social security number. That gives me the heebie jeebies, so I’ll just re-opt-out when I start getting them again.

None of these sites can get you out of everything. There are loopholes that can allow companies that you do business with (like your bank) to mail you offers. If you happen to be a Bank of America customer, you know that they will frequently send you offers for credit cards. The good news is that you can also opt-out of these requests through their privacy page.

I decided that it is well worth my time to put in a small amount of effort now to keep clutter and extra paper out of my home. It’s better for me, and it’s better for the environment. Win.

2015 in books, March

March is weird. This past weekend I helped with a neighborhood clean up and it started snowing. The next day was 72 degrees and sunny. Similarly, my reading choices have been all over the place.

  • On This Day in Memphis History by G. Wayne Dowdy
    • I could have listened to Willy Bearden read me this book during the WKNO segments of NPR’s All Things Considered, but I decided to read it. It’s exactly what the title would lead you to believe– a historical blurb about things that happened in Memphis for each day of the year. It’s a good jumping off point for some of the research I’m doing at the museum.
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
    • I forgot how much I enjoy reading fantasy. Nothing makes me vacate the ordinary like a new world with its own vocabulary and operating instructions. Robin McKinley creates a place with cohesive rules that provide structure and move the story forward. Rather than bog you down with the details, she jumps right in and lets the reader do some of the work of figuring out how Damar runs. I loved this story. Major thanks to my LibraryThing Secret Santa for the reminder.
  • Black No More by George Schuyler
    • Harlem Renaissance. 1931. Satire. Biting, unforgiving and funny.
  • Burton Callicott: A Retrospective by Ray Kass and the Brooks Museum of Art
    • This exhibition catalog from the Brooks Museum explains “…Callicott’s artistic development, which has always emphasized specific content, originally drawn from the physical, social and moral ‘backyard’ of contemporary Memphis…” I’m doing research about his early PWAP murals at the Pink Palace, which is what prompted me to read my first art catalog.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    • Fantastically well written love story. Rowell’s descriptions of both main characters’ thoughts and feelings about their relationship rang intrinsically true. The way they over thought every aspect of sitting together or holding hands flew me straight back to my first boyfriend. It was a nice thing to remember. And it was even nicer to realize how far I’ve come.
  • 9 1/2 Narrow: My Life in Shoes by Patricia Morrisroe
    • I read this book for the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. Patricia Morrisroe tells her personal story by reflecting on the shoes that she wore at certain points in her life. She is at her best when describing the history of particular shoe styles and relating that history to her memories. Some of the chapters work significantly better than others, but it is an overall worthwhile read if you like reading about style.
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
    • I first read Karen Russell a few months ago when my boss loaned me Swamplandia! Much like that novel, this collection of short stories is well conceived and nicely written. The common theme throughout these stories is an element of the fantastical, whether it is vampires attempting to sate their thirst by sucking on lemons or several United States presidents trying to come to terms with their reincarnated horse selves. I especially liked her story that was set on the prairie a few years after the passage of the Homestead Act. The Act itself drove each person’s and phantasmagorical creature’s actions, and the end results are horrifying and thoughtful. All of the stories can stand independently, but it was nice to read them as a collected whole.