Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Museums and Firearms - why I do what I do

Well, today finds me in Montana, relaxing at my in-laws place. Tomorrow will find me at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman (where my museum career effectively began). I will be presenting my day-long seminar on Museums and Firearms at the Museums Association of Montana (MAM) Conference.

The first time I did this presentation was for the 2004 Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA) Conference in Casper, Wyoming. I had been at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center as the Firearms Curator for about a year-and-a-half. I was leading a charmed life. I had my (at the time) dream job, I was being paid to talk to people about guns, history, and museums, and I was starting to build some great friendships in MPMA.

Anyway, here I am, almost eight years later. I moved on to a great (and in many ways better) job at a different museum. I am still involved with MPMA (I've been a board member for 6 of the last 8 years). I still love talking to people about guns!

Part of what I love about this is that I get to help cross the great divide - the divide between the gun guys and the Museum world. It's not that there are no gun guys in the museum field or museum folks who like guns. However, this is a small slice of a huge Venn diagram. There are lots of gun guys out there who like - but misunderstand - museum operations. There are many museum professionals who are responsible for firearms in their collections but don't fully understand them as objects or have concerns about guns and their accoutrements.

Unfortunately, the channels of communication between the two groups are limited. There are about a half dozen titled Firearms Curators in the country. I know most of them by first name. Some of these guys, by choice or job description, don't have the opportunity to talk to the general museum field. The museum field, tending to skew politically liberal, are often not gun owners. I, on the other hand, fall into both areas to a certain extent. As I have titled the blog, I am a Liberal Gun Guy.

Having set myself apart and acknowledging this difficult and sometimes tenuous position, I am more than happy to talk to both groups about how we can all get along. Tomorrow will be the sixth time I have presented this specific seminar. It has been seen by about 100 museum professionals and others to this point. I had several hunters skip the opening day of deer season to catch the talk in Bismark, North Dakota (thanks to the State Historical Society of North Dakota). I have had input from the (at the time) Firearms Conservator from Springfield Armory National Historic Site. I even have done the unthinkable - I enlist the aid of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

With the aid of these folks (and the host organizations I have dealt with), I get to talk to 20 more people about two of my loves - museums and firearms. Safety and identification, legal issues, conservation and care, and exhibition and curation will all be covered.

It'll be a great day!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mmmm... New Computer Smell...

OK, I'm a nerd. I'm not proud. Well, I think I fit more into the geek category than nerd. Different sides of the same coin, but with social skills being the determining factor.

So, with that stated, there is an expectation that I would have the newest, greatest technology at hand. I would tell that expectation to not get ahead of itself.

We have had a pair of Dell Dimension 4600s since about 2005. They weren't bad when they came out. However, time took its toll. We added RAM - one is at 1.5GB, the other at 2.0GB. We added a DVD drive to one when the CD crapped out. We added some hard drive space. We upgraded the video cards. They weren't bad figuring the biggest load they had to operate under was playing World of Warcraft (we don't play anymore, but tell me if you want an invite).

So, here we are in 2012, with one computer running World of Tanks at about 12 FPS and the other freezing up on Frontierville (holler at Heidi if you want a neighbor). This doesn't even take into consideration the time needed to copy files, load graphics, or download video from Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go, or any of the Anime herself has been watching...

Now, thanks to me overpaying my taxes last year (that is SOOOO getting fixed), we (well, OK, I) bought a pair of new PCs. We now have matching Dell Inspiron 620STs (review is for the MT). 3.0 i5 processors (go Sandy Bridge!), 8GB RAM, 1TB hdd... shweet! We kept our old monitors (we have extra still...).

Now for the hard work to kick in. Windows 7, while awesome in many respects (Have you tried Vista???), does come with a learning curve from the administration side, having spent most of the last decade in XP. It does work, though, and the hurdles are worth it.
  • Admin account - Check!
  • My account without admin privileges - Check!
  • Kid's account without admin privileges - Check!
OK, copying over the files we want from the old PCs...
  • Documents - 7800 files = 6.5GB... that seems a lot... I'll need to go through and cull some of those later... Check!
  • Music -  3239 files = 11GB... and all legal - Check!
  • Movies - 146 files = 2.5 GB... We will need to start culling some of those as well... The little girl likes to shoot videos of the TV sometimes... Check!
  • Images - 8200 files = 19 GB... Goodness... that will take a bit. Waiting until no one needs the system
Copying over some various game files I don't want to lose... (I didn't work that hard to get to the last stage of Medal of Honor: Airborne Assault just to have to start over again...) Oh, and the pirated copy of the old D&D software (check my D&D Posts here, here, and here)...

Now... for the old PC... hmmm... kid's PC... paperweight... Let's check Lifehacker... they are always good for things like this... hunh... Media Box or Network attached storage (NAS)...

NAS it is!

We have about 1 TB spread across several hdds in the house. Once everything is off these, they will go into one of the old PCs, the RAM will get consolidated, and then I have a decision:

  • Install Ubuntu and go from there,
  • Install Free NAS, or
  • Keep XP, remove all the crapware and set up a dual-boot with Ubuntu...
For now, I think I may go with the latter... Always open to input. No action taken as of yet.

The Upshot - What works here as NAS or backup or whatever you want to call it may end up being what I end up using at the museum. We have been looking at a couple options for backups or fileshares. Unfortunately, we may be limited to the use of Windows...