Monday, June 28, 2021

The Briny Deep at Fort Sewall and Fort Beach


Fort Beach, Marblehead, MA
Photo by Dr. Mary F. Zawadzki

Hello everyone! Happy Monday! Boy, oh boy! Is it hot out there! Granted, it's not West Coast hot ... or Texas hot ... but, for us, it's pretty brutal. Ed and I have been beating the heat by swimming in the ice cold waters of Fort Beach. It's a rocky beach that is somewhat protected by a rock barrier and the harbor. The beach is frequented mostly by locals. During high tide the entire beach is under water, making it perfect for open water laps and serious swimming. During low tide, it's wonderful for families with small children or for searching for ocean critters like crabs and starfish. Its rocky barrier makes it manageable for inexperienced swimmers. You just need to get into the water first .... brrrrr .....

The ebb and flow of the tide at Fort Beach.
Photo by Dr. Mary F. Zawadzki

I've featured photos of this beach on my Instagram and various blogs throughout the years. It's one of our favorite spots in Marblehead and one that holds very special meaning for us. 

Plaque honoring General Casimir Pulaski, Fort Sewall, Marblehead
Photo by Dr. Mary F. Zawadzki

The beach flanks Fort Sewall. The fort was stablished in 1644 as "a defensive breastwork on Gale's Head" (Fort Sewall: Essex National Heritage Area) and was expanded twice throughout the 18th century. Fort Sewall was named after Chief Justice Samuel Sewall in 1814. For more than 150 years, the fort provided the community of Marblehead and the surrounding areas with protection from invasion and attack.

On July 23, 1777, General Casimir Pulaski landed at Fort Sewall. Upon arrival, Pulaski wrote to George Washington, "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it." As a Polish-American, General Pulaski holds a very special place in my heart. Fort Sewall's cannons also provided protection to the USS Constitution as it fled from two British frigates on April 3, 1814 during the War of 1812.  

Fort Sewall Stockade, Marblehead, MA
Photo by Fletcher 6, 5/1/2010

Much of the fort and underground bunkers are still there, but aren't open to the public. I am happy to report that the site is getting the well-needed love that it deserves. The upper walkway is open to the public, but the area around the fort is closed for restoration

Kitchen room inside the fort, Fort Sewall, Marblehead, MA
Image Source: Salem Evening News, 11/14/2014

The plans for the restoration includes a summer Park Intern who will oversee the site, answer questions, and lead tours. The part of the plan that I'm most excited for is that the project organizers plan to open the inside areas of the fort to the public, at least for guided tours. I can't wait to see what the renovated site looks like!!!

These days the fort and its elevation is used by site-seers, historical reenactors, dog walkers, and marriage proposers looking for a romantic spot to pop the question. Ok, the last one was Ed and me. Ed proposed to me at Fort Sewall under a most glorious full moon the weekend before Halloween in 1999. The fort and beach will always have a deep connection to our relationship, making our afternoon swims even more special.

Works Cited:
Bode, Kelsey. "Committee Launches $1.1M Campaign to Restore Fort Sewall," Salem Evening News, 14 November, 2014,
"Fort Sewall." Essex National Heritage Area

Monday, June 21, 2021

Celebrating Another Year Around the Sun: Updates and Musings


The Birthday Girl
To say that I'm grateful would be an understatement. Ed and I managed to stay alive and healthy long enough to get both doses of our vaccinations. I am acutely aware that the pandemic is far from over and that we have no idea what to expect from the new variants. However, as I celebrated my 49th birthday last week, I felt incredibly blessed and overwhelmingly grateful to be living my best life in the place we've wanted to come back to the moment we left over 20 years ago: Salem, MA. 

Essex Walking Mall and Derby Square
Ed and I spent my birthday week on a "Staycation." I'm sure a lot of you are sick and tired of staying home, especially after a year of lock downs and closures. I'd probably feel the same way if we were still living in Staten Island, NYC. We hated our apartment. We hated our neighbors. We felt trapped in a two bedroom apartment surrounded by people who didn't -- and don't -- take COVID seriously. We felt like we were suffocating. 

But here in Salem, things are very different. We've been walking every night since the weather has gotten nice and we've met some wonderful people just by exploring our new home town. Our community has taken this pandemic seriously and, up until very recently when of governor dropped the mask mandate, everyone wore a mask and gave each other space. Even now some folks are wearing masks inside stores. It's made us feel safe.

Private Home in Salem, in Celebration of Pride. 
What? You didn't know we moved to Salem? Yup, after a particularly horrible weekend of dealing with inconsiderate Staten Island neighbors, Ed and I had a long talk ... we made plans. The original goal was to move to Salem in Spring 2021. That changed in October 2020 when we found the apartment we are currently renting. We packed up our Staten Island apartment, hired movers, and moved to Salem in December. It was the best thing we've done in a long, long time. 

The Eastern Glow from the Sunset: Derby Wharf
We had been talking about moving back to Salem for years. Most long time readers of this blog will recall the multiple trips we took every year. I've referred to Salem and Boston as my "second home towns" for over 20 years. The pandemic made us focus on what's important to us. It made us come to terms with where we were and where we wanted to be; with who we are ... and who we wanted to become. The move back "home" to Salem has given us the quality of life that we sorely missed in NYC or Texas. 

Sunset in Salem, the Day Before My Birthday
Our life here is simple. We both work at home, at least for the time being. Ed is still at his old job and I'm teaching online. After work we have a very early dinner and then we go for our walk down to Derby Wharf. We weave up and down the streets to look at the old houses. These June days we've been stopping to smell the roses, literally. Salem residents love roses! Sometimes we grab a coffee and sit on the Wharf. Sometimes we sit in the Common. And we talk. We talk about our plans and our dreams. We talk about history and magic. We talk about us. 

The Evening Sky After the Rain
We talk about the upcoming school year. I'm going to be a student again! I applied to Simmons University for a MS LIS in Cultural Heritage Informatics. Not only did I get accepted, they gave me a pretty good merit scholarship! They're going to transfer six credits from the Queens MLIS program. Most importantly, they waived the core classes. YAY! That means I get to start with the "meat" of the program! HURRAY! 

I started to look for GLAM (gallery, library, archives, and museum) positions in collections management,  curatorial research, and education; and I've started to look for local adjuncting opportunities. CUNY is moving to in person instruction starting this Fall, and that means my City Tech gig will probably end soon. It's ok. It's time to firmly plant my roots here.

First Time Eating at a Restaurant Since March 2020! (Yes, we were outside)
While this year has been challenging and awful, it brought unexpected revelations and opportunities. I'm not sure we would have moved back to Salem if it wasn't for the pandemic. I don't think I would have applied to Simmons. Teaching online during a pandemic took everything out of me. It also showed me that there are multiple ways to teach to multiple audiences. The pandemic and the Trump presidency demonstrated the importance of good, accessible public education and the necessity of information literacy education for everyone. As the GLAMs shut down in the pandemic, many figured out new and inventive ways to reach their public. I want to be part of this new digital era of GLAM collection access.

Happy Birthday!
This birthday was special in so many ways. I'm alive, healthy, and vaccinated. That's worth a celebration in of itself. I'm embracing this new Path and new me. I'm counting my blessings and creating a life that I want to live. Moving to Salem with my Ed is only the beginning of this awesome journey. Change is happening and it's good. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Halloween in Spring: A Series. "The Witch City" and Souvenirs

"The Witch of Salem, MA." Lithographic postcard, c. 1892-1900.

NOTE: This series, "Halloween in the Spring," is based on the posts I wrote for my Halloween 2020 Take-Over of AHNCA's (Art Historians of Nineteenth Century Art) social media accounts. It's a jolly bit of writing and the inspiration for this blog. I've left the posts almost identical to the originals to preserve the rollicking tone; however, I've added links to the original sources, museum websites, or other information you, dear reader, might find interesting. Without further ado, it's time to celebrate Halloween in the springtime!

If you’ve ever been to Salem, MA, you know that the image of the pointed-hat, broom-riding witch is on everything from the official Police Department patches to kitschy souvenirs for tourists. Even the mascot of the local high school in Salem is a witch! These days Salem, MA is synonymous with modern day Witchcraft and Paganism, the 1692 Witch Trials, and witchy commercialism and tourism. However, this wasn’t always the case.

After the Witch hysteria, many of the judges who sat for the trials either showed remorse for their involvement or shifted the blame to others. One judge, John Hathorne (1641-1717) showed no remorse at all, causing his great-grandson, Nathanial Hawthorne to add the "w" to his name in an attempt to disassociate himself from his family’s involvement. The city, itself, tried to bury its past and move on from this dark period in its history.

People’s interest in the Witch Trials and Salem never really disappeared. It was Charles W. Upham’s 1867 history of the subject, "Salem Witchcraft," that made Salem a witchy tourist destination. The 1892 Bicentennial of the Witch Trials sealed Salem’s fate of being "The Witch City." 

Salem Witch Spoons

Of course, all good tourist destinations need good souvenirs. That’s where Daniel Low, a silversmith who had a shop on Essex Street, comes in. After a trip to Germany where he encountered collectable spoons, Low returned to Salem to create its first witch-themed souvenir in 1891: the Witch Spoon. 

The first pattern is a simple design consisting of a witch and three pins. The pins refer to the accounts given by the victims of the "witches" during the 1692 trials. In 1892, Low started to sell a second Witch Spoon. This design is much more intricate. The handle of the spoon is a witch’s broom with the three aforementioned pins. An arching cat is perched on the bowl of the spoon and "Salem 1692" marks the year. 

Salem Witch Plate

The success of the spoons prompted Low to design collectable, flow-blue souvenir plates featuring the Salem Witch in 1900. These plates were produced in England and imported by Low to sell in his shop.

Salem Witch Plate

Salem Witch Spoons. Retrieved from
Salem Witch Plate. Retrieved from
Salem Witch Plate. Retrieved from
Upham, Charles W. Salem Witchcraft, With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects, Volumes I-II. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1978 (originally published in 1867).

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Blog Maintenance: Comments are Now Turned On and Email Subscriptions


Oh for Pete's sake! This blog has been in existence since January 2021. My readership has been consistent -- some blogs posts have better engagement than others. However, none have received comments. I have to admit, it bothered me a bit ... until today.

A friend just pointed out that the comments were "turned off." What? I looked under the settings. No, comments are enabled. A little more digging and VOILA! This generation of Google blogs requires the blogger to "turn on" the comments in the "blog post" section of the layout designer. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Why in the world is there an EXTRA step? ugh.

With that said, I apologize. If you wanted to make a comment on a past post but couldn't, now is your chance. *grumble* Damned Blogger.

For those of you who subscribe to this blog via email, FeedBurner issued this statement in April:
FeedBurner has been a part of Google for almost 14 years, and we're making several upcoming changes to support the product's next chapter. If you use FeedBurner to manage your RSS feeds, here's what you can expect to change and what you can do now to ensure that you’re prepared.

Starting in July, we are transitioning FeedBurner onto a more stable, modern infrastructure. This will keep the product up and running for all users, but it also means that we will be turning down most non-core feed management features, including email subscriptions, at that time. For those who use FeedBurner to manage email subscriptions, we recommend downloading your email subscribers so that you can migrate to a new email subscription service. This data will also still be available for download after July.
If you subscribe to this blog via email, I will be exploring a new email subscription service for this blog. In the mean time, you should follow this blog the good, ol' fashioned way.

Sorry for all of the confusion!

Once Upon A Time There Was A Goth Girl Who Was Into Cool Stuff

Image Source. Public Domain.
Sometimes you have to go on a journey and sometimes that journey is filled with challenges that will forever change you. If you allow yourself to face the challenges and if you allow yourself to metaphysically die and go through the process of rebirth, you are forever transformed. Folks often get stuck in the mire of challenges, refusing to accept the pain as part of the process. Others see death as the end of the journey and give up hope. And then there are some who embrace the Hero's Journey. Like a phoenix, they rise from the ashes, stronger and wiser. 
“It's an awful truth that suffering can deepen us, give a greater lustre to our colours, a richer resonance to our words. That is, if it doesn't destroy us, if it doesn't burn away the optimism and the spirit, the capacity for visions, and the respect for simple yet indispensable things.” Anne Rice, Queen of the Damned

It's been a very long fifteen years and a lot has happened -- some good, some horrific, all life-changing. I'm no longer the same person I was when I set out on this journey. I lost a lot in those fifteen years. Both of my parents died. Ed's father died. I had a hysterectomy. Friends came and went. I had a crisis of faith and a crisis of self. I realized that I never really had my siblings in my life because they were so much older and because they never treated me like their sibling. This became glaringly apparent when my Mom died. I lost my childhood home.

I also gained a lot. I got my Masters and PhD in Art History. I published some essays, though not nearly enough. I presented at many different conferences and met some awesome colleagues and friends. I chaired sessions, was a member of boards, and spearheaded multiple projects. I landed a full-time, non-tenured gig at a huge R1. We moved to Texas, then back to NYC, and now to Salem. I quickly figured out that full-time teaching just wasn't for me ... or maybe that university wasn't for me ... or maybe that university and Texas wasn’t for me. Needless to say, my experiences brought me back to museum work. I had a false start at the MLS program at Queens College. And then the pandemic hit and I lost my job at the New-York Historical Society ... a job that I loved with a curator I respect and adore.

Now I'm at Simmons for an MS in Cultural Heritage Informatics, and yes, they transferred six credits from Queens and waved the core classes. The best thing is that they gave me a merit scholarship! A MERIT scholarship! Do you realize this is the first time in my life that I got any money for school? I start classes on September 1. I'm over-the-moon. 

And here we are.
I would be lying if I said that I haven't had any trauma from all this, that I'm ok and not at all depressed. I'd be lying if I said that I haven't been lost. I have. Horribly. Somewhere along this journey I lost my religion. I lost my sense of direction. I lost myself. 

As I worked towards building my career, I forgot that the self is very much a part of the whole package. I toned down and normed out to be accepted by hiring committees. I lost sight of who I am when no one is watching. It never worked. It doesn't matter what I wear or who I try to be, I either get the job because of what I know or my experience .... or I don't. I'm only coming to realize that it doesn't matter.

Sunset over Salem Common.
I'm also coming to realize that this whole hoopla around maintaining an "professional" online profile is usually bullpoopies. I fell into this trap. I thought that I needed to create "professional" content and to "clean up" so that prospective employers would be impressed, or, at least, not offended. Sure, there are extremes, but let's be serious ... how many employers are really going to be offended by the fact that I'm an old Goth who's into some cool stuff? How many employers are going to rustle over the excess eyeliner? How many are going to say, "Nope. This gal is a Witch. We can't hire her!" And if those employers are thinking this, do I really want to be employed by them? No. No, I don't.

My happy place ... at least one of them.
I'm into some seriously cool stuff. Yes, I'm a Goth ... and old Punk Rocker, thank you very much. Yes, I have tattoos and often wear a lot of makeup. I listen to all sorts of music, though my CD cabinet is fulled with Goth CDs. I'm into vintage clothing and antiques. I love visiting historic sites and would love to get into Reenacting. I go camping and I go dancing ... sometimes in the same weekend. I can spend hours at a museum or a zoo. And it's no secret that I ADORE. LOVE. art and visual culture. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are my jam, especially if its a printed image in a book or magazine or on ceramics or other household goods. 

I'm complicated and that can often be confusing to me and others. I originally wanted to make this blog a reflection of my scholarly interests. My Analog World, my other blog (now deleted), was going to be personal. I realized today that my personal interests are my scholarly interests and my scholarly interests are my personal interests. I also realized that I'm tired of hiding who I am because I'm so afraid of being passed up for a job. 

Yet another happy place: an old cemetery.
Dear readers, if you don't mind, I'd like to speak to prospective employers. Hello, person with whom I'd like to work. Take a look at my CV. Read my published essays. I'm working on more essays to be published. I'm an awesome educator. I'm a DIVINE researcher -- if it's out there, I will find it. I'm a fabulous colleague and an extremely hard worker. I have enormous amounts of patience and tact, especially in situations that might be ... challenging and politically sensitive. Yes, I can tone it down in the workplace, but this is who I am. Tattoos and all! If you hire me, you WILL NOT be disappointed. I promise that I will bust my tush and move mountains. You need to promise that you will support my endeavors and goals. You need to promise to provide me with opportunities to grow and learn. Most of all, you need to promise that you believe in this weirdo. 

A Goth Mermaid in her natural habitat ... well, one of them.
Today is the first day of June, my birthday month. I'm going to be 49 this year. 49! Good grief. I'm tired of compromising my dreams, my values, myself for something that may or may not happen. This is me in all of my messy, wondrous, crazy, and insanely fun glory. I have no idea where this blog is going to go, but I can tell you it's not going to be boring. The only thing I can promise is that I'm just going to be me and write about all of the things that I love. 

It's time to start another journey together. Are you ready?