All posts by Barb

What’s In a Collection? Fact or Fiction Night

Each month we have a special event for our members. Last month was Fact or Fiction, where we provided two stories for each object brought from the collections storage. It was up to the members to decide which story was the correct one.

Many of these objects might not see the inside of an exhibit space and to have the opportunity to highlight them is fun for us. We thought that since not everyone could be at the event we would share the facts with all of you.

Enjoy this in-depth look at some of the artifacts that caught our interest!


HygrometerMonitoring the weather was one of many tasks assigned to a lighthouse keeper. They would use a tool called a hygrometer, which we highlighted in a previous blog, to take humidity readings. Horsehair was strung across, which would react to the change in humidity causing the needle to move indicating the relative humidity of the area. Here are the inner workings for a 19th century Hygrometer.  It was found during an archaeological excavation of the keepers’ trash pit while building our visitor center. We have found many objects that the keepers had discarded that we have used to help us better understand their lives. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Bathing Suit

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum houses a large collection that ranges from ship building tools to Fresnel Lenses. Hidden among these objects on a high shelf in a box is a pink, wool bathing suit.

IMG_8780This iconic piece of woman’s history was designed by the Rugby Company and dates back to the 1930s. The wool swimsuit, called a tank suit, has a scoop neck, low cut bib that has blue stars, and an anchor embroidered on the front. This swimsuit represents a shift in ladies fashion that was not welcome at the time.

In the beginning of the 19th century respectable women wore wool sailor dresses, bloomers, and stockings to the beach. The wool suits were itchy and when wet it would become heavy which caused the suit to sag and stretch.

By the late 1800s women were ready for a change and wanted to wear more freeing suits similar to what men were wearing. Annette Kellerman, a Vaudeville performer and competitive swimmer from Australia, changed the industry for women`s swimsuits forever with her skin tight onesie which cut off mid-thigh.IMG_8782

Although this style had been accepted in Australia it had not made its way into the United States and in 1907, on a beach in Boston, Kellerman was arrested for indecency. It is the museum’s job to preserve this history. Continue reading

What’s in a Collection? Hygrometers

What is a Hygrometer?


First documented in the late 1700s, the Hygrometer was invented to measure the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere caused by condensation and evaporation better known as humidity.

There are two types of humidity: absolute and relative.

Absolute humidity tells us how much water vapor is in the atmosphere and how close we are to the saturation point. While relative humidity tells us an approximation of how much water vapor is in the atmosphere and what it is going to feel like when we step outside in the morning. Continue reading

What’s In a Collection?
A Brief History of Saw Setting

Saw Wrest
Figure 1 Nineteenth Century Saw-Wrest

Being an historian, or in my case a collections manager, does not make you all knowing about history. There are times when you will look at an item in your collections and say “What could that possibly be?”

This was the case a few weeks ago while working on a complete inventory of the museum’s collection.

In one of our tool collections we came across a small, unlabeled, metal piece that had small notches on either side. Ideas were thrown out “it could be a gauge,” “it might go with a saw,” or “maybe it’s for electrical wires” however without being a hundred percent sure we decided to do some digging. Through our research we discovered that it was a saw-wrest, modern versions are referred to as saw-sets. Continue reading