The hats are finished! As of last Friday, I have labeled and photographed all 148 hats, and stored them in acid-free tissue in aluminum-foil lined boxes. As in most small historical museums, money is short, and they can’t afford archival boxes for them right now. Hence the aluminum foil, which is supposed to be helpful to keep the acid in the boxes from damaging the hats. I felt like I was protecting the hats from aliens. There are a few loose ends to tie up — some of the hat boxes are antiques themselves, and I want to accession and catalog them, too, and I need to do some minor rearranging so that everything is in as chronological an order as I can make it, but it’s done. Except for entering them into PastPerfect, the museum’s cataloging software. I don’t know whether I’m to be allowed to do that, though. We’ll see.
Just in time, too. Between my supervisor’s trip to California next week and my upcoming trip to Yellowstone, I won’t be back at the Meeker Mansion again for several weeks.
Dorothy’s part of True Gold is coming along as well. I’m about two-thirds of the way done with that half of the book, which will eventually consist of chapters that alternate between Dorothy’s point of view from the middle of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, and the point of view of Emma (the heroine of Repeating History, which took place twenty years earlier) back home in Yellowstone and Montana. How it all ties together is something that will happen at the very end. In the interest of historical accuracy and a good rich texture for her story I’ve been researching the Klondike Gold Rush for some months now, and I am very fortunate in that some of the largest collections of material on the gold rush (as well as a national historic site dedicated to Seattle’s role as a major jumping off point) are located within commuting distance of my home.
Which brings me to the title of this post. And not just in a historical research sense, but in a world-building in general sense. A couple of things have been pushing me to think about this. One was a PBS airing of a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet this past week, with David Tennant (the 10th Doctor Who, for those who might recognize him) as Hamlet. He was fabulous. No arguments there. But the production itself, which was in modern dress and rather minimal, felt like a brand-new child’s coloring book. As if very few of the possibilities inherent in the play had been taken advantage of, both in the setting and in the way it was cut, or of the hints and suggestions Shakespeare left in the text when he wrote it.
Now, I admit to being a fan of Branagh’s film from fourteen years ago, which can, with a perfectly straight face, be accused of going over the top and down the other side in places. But it was rich and full and textured, and not just in the costumes and setting. Tennant almost seemed to be shortchanged — his performance outclassed the rest of the production (yes, even Patrick Stewart’s Claudius, in my humble opinion). It left me wishing for more.
The other thing was attending my very first Civil War re-enactment on Saturday. No, there were no actual Civil War battles in Washington state [g]. This was a re-enactment of one of the major battles of the war. I was told First Bull Run/Manassas, although it didn’t jibe with what I remembered from studying the war, which admittedly was a very long time ago. It was fascinating to watch, and it was obvious from the — does one call it a performance? — that the re-enactors had gone to a great deal of trouble to get the details right, to color all the way to the edge of the page. If it didn’t feel that way, it wasn’t for lack of trying, it was for lack of numbers and the obvious artificiality of re-enacting a battle 3000 miles from where the actual battle took place.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of reasons for something not to feel finished. Some of them are in the artist’s control and some of them aren’t. But it’s important, for all kinds of creative endeavors, to make the best attempt to color all the way to the edge of the page. To make the creation feel rich and full and satisfying.
The way nature does. And here, as an example, is the first bearded iris of the year in my garden. Iris are my alltime favorite flower, and I think it’s at least partly because they’re rich and full and maybe even over the top and coming down the other side. Nobody will ever accuse an iris of not coloring all the way to the edge. And then some.