If These Walls Could Talk...Oh Wait, They Can!

C.O.W.'s picture

Today, Collections Operations Watchdog (COW) takes you behind the scenes for a very exclusive interview with one of the unsung heroes of the museum. While many of our bloggers focus on objects and staff members, nobody seems to be talking about the very brick and mortar that holds this institution together. This week, we had the honor to speak with one of the core members of the infrastructure: Kroeber 20A Mezzanine Banister.

Interviewers & Banister, Berkeley, 2013
COW: So, Kroeber 20A Mezzanine Banister...
Kroeber 20A Mezzanine Banister: Please, just Banister.
COW: Banister., how long have you been working at the Museum? 
B: I was installed here in 1959 and have been chugging along ever since.
Kroeber Hall, Berkeley, 1959
COW: What made you want to become a Banister in the Museum?
B: It's sort of always been the family business, my Mom was a banister, so was my Dad, but they weren't really in any exciting places. They were really proud when I started working at the Museum.   
COW: So the question we all want to know is, who are some of the "big names" you have seen here?
B: I don't want to name-drop or anything, but I was around when Alfred Kroeber was alive - only for the last year of his life though. I really miss ol' Alf. I definitely saw William Bascom a few times as well. Once I even gave him a hand up the stairs, but really he was a spry old thing. James Bennyhoff was around too. He always had students following him around while he talked about rocks. I never really understood that much about rocks, but to each his own! Speaking of big though, there used to be a huuuuge totem pole on the patio off of Bancroft! People talked about it all the time. It sounded really interesting, but I'm tied to my job so I never saw it. However, some tell me the foundation for the pole still stands.
Museum Patio, Berkeley, 1974
COW: Has anything else exciting happened during your time here?
B: Where do I even begin! The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake really shook things up. The stairs and I hung onto each other for dear life and luckily nothing broke! I heard people talking about a pot that tipped over but I was really impressed with how stable things stayed. They built us well, I suppose. A while ago some of the cabinets were complaining about a toilet that flooded, but it never caused me any trouble. Those cabinets really like to complain! They won't stop talking about the new move! People opening and closing and opening and closing them. I'd be thrilled to get that much attention! 
COW: Do you feel like you get the appreciation you deserve after being here for so long?
B: Definitely not! Honestly, most of the time, people are going up and down the stairs, and they are paying attention to the steps while they hold objects. They don't really see the support I give and hardly ever have a hand to spare anyway. 
COW: Well thanks so much for your time. It's been a real pleasure talking to you. Do you have any questions for us before we sign off?
B: Yes. What made you want to speak with me after all these years?
COW: We're a new team here with the move going on and we recognize that everything and everyone here has an integral part to play and a story to tell. If you can think of anything or anyone else we should talk to, please let us know!
B: Will do. Thanks so much and don't forget, I'm always here to help!
This series brought to you by Katie Fleming & Gráinne Hebeler.




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