Archive for January, 2009

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update — Preparing for Paint Part 3

Written on January 31, 2009 at 11:26 am, by Lain Shakespeare

For most of the 20th Century, the Wren’s Nest was painted light gray with darker gray trim.

Exterior Paint Study, 1990


When the Joel Chandler Harris Association restored the Wren’s Nest starting in 1985, restoration architect Lane Greene suspected that gray on gray was not how the house was painted in 1900.  He was right.  After some layman’s paint sampling, Greene determined that the house should be yellow and red ocher.

Wren's Nest Postcard from 1909 featuring Joel Chandler Harris and Brer Rabbit

You can sort of see as much in this watercolor postcard from 1909.  Sort of.

The Association painted according to Greene’s findings in 1988.   This was not a popular decision.

Many old codgers maintain that the Wren’s Nest should be and has always been beautiful gray on gray, and what are these stinkin’ colors on there now, and gosh I just hate them.  I have listened to hours of complaints about our paint colors, every minute more exciting than the next.

In 1990, members of the Harris family — so I’m told — hired Robert Furhoff of Chicago to perform an architectural finishes analysis to confirm or contest Greene’s analysis.  The Furhoff document is extensive* and confirms Lane Greene was more or less right.  Fancy that, a guy named Lane being right.

The color is, however, slightly different than what’s on our walls now.

Wren's Nest Paint Colors

I’m not sure this picture does the difference justice, but the house will be a little darker than it has been for the past twenty years.  Get ready.

* The Furhoff document is not exhaustive, however.  We do not have documentation on how the latticework should be painted, nor do we have information on the window sashes.

We’re performing a small analysis and amending Furhoff’s document.

Previously: Preparing for Paint 1 and 2

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update — Preparing for Paint Part 2

Written on January 29, 2009 at 12:01 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

As I learned while working at Aubuchon Hardware, primer is important when you’re fixing to paint.

The Wren's Nest Somewhat Primed For Paint

For our benefit, our contractors are using tinted primer.  This way we can easily see their progress and make sure that no area goes unprimed.

Yes, they are spraying on the primer.  They’ll spray on some of the paint, too, but then brush on the final coat of paint.  This saves time and money without compromising the historical integrity of the paint job.

Wren's Nest Primed for Paint on the Back of the House

They covered most of the back of the Wren’s Nest on Tuesday.  The plastic sheets over the windows make me feel like we’re being quarantined.  It’s probably for the best.

Previously: Preparing for Paint

Robert Burns Cottage of Atlanta — Atlanta’s Oldest House Museum?

Written on January 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

This morning Christa T of Pecanne Log was all like, “Did you know that there’s an exact replica of Robert Burns’ childhood home in Atlanta?”

And I was all like, “No, Christa T via Pecanne Log, no I did not.”  Then I looked up Robert Burns to refresh my memory.

Then I stopped at the Robert Burns Cottage on my way to work this morning to check it out.

Robert Burns Cottage in Atlanta

The place isn’t really open to the public.  And it reminds me more of my old Cub Scout Troop House up on Log Cabin Road than a house museum.

Still, it was built in 1910, preceding the public opening of the Wren’s Nest by 3 years.  Is it a museum?  Is it a Robert Burns Cottage Clubhouse?  Do I have to become a member of Burns Club Atlanta to find out?  Pecanne Log, please have answers to these questions on my desk in the morning.

I only snapped a couple more pictures.  It was raining, and I was busy keeping it real.

Robert Burns Cottage Front Door in Atlanta

This sign is my favorite —

Replica of the Birthplace of Robert Burns Atlanta


I Can Justify Writing About Paste’s Indie Rock Alphabet Book Release

Written on January 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm, by Amelia

Technically, the release of the delightful An Indie Rock Alphabet Book has nothing to do with the Wren’s Nest.   But there are plenty of reasons this space should be devoted to it, many with undeniable connections to the Nest.

An Indie Rock Alphabet Book

Need proof?  Game on.

1. Rachael Maddux, author of “Dummies in the Attic,” our feature in the July ’08 Paste Magazine, is also an author of An Indie Rock Alphabet.  Easy.

2. The release party was at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur.  Wait, do I mean the store managed by Duck and Herring Co. editor and Wren’s Nest volunteer Terra McVoy?  The very place we held half of the meetings for the Wren’s Nest Publishing Company?  I do!  How convenient!

3. The entire administrative staff of the Wren’s Nest was there.  Sure, that’s only two people, but they’re the two people who write this blog.

4. The party was totally awesome.  The Wren’s Nest is totally awesome!  Maybe that should have been #1.

5.  The book was released by Paste Magazine, which we toured with the Wren’s Nest Publishing Company.  Ta da!

6. There was beer, complete and total rocking out, and every hip baby this side of the Ole Mississip’.   There were even toddlers sitting in a semi-circle while Judi Chicago jammed like no one has jammed (in front of a stroller while using a keytar) before.

An Indie Rock Alphabet Book Release Party -- Judi Chicago

(Thanks to Josh Jackson at Paste for letting me steal this photo.)

Why were the kids sitting like that?  Because that’s all they know how to do.  So maybe this one wasn’t a connection, per se, but did I mention beer and funny babies?!

In short, we asked Rachael if she could publish another book by next Sunday so that we could all do this again.  It was great.  Buy the book at Little Shop of Stories and check out more pictures over at Paste.

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update — Installing Data Loggers

Written on January 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

This week I installed data loggers throughout the Wren’s Nest that measure relative humidity and temperature.  It’s the first step in planning for a new and exciting HVAC system.

Lain Shakespeare Installing HOBO U10-003 Data Loggers

Our HVAC system was installed about twenty years ago.  Since that time, there have been tremendous advances in technology and efficiency.  Perhaps you have heard of a little thing I like to call “computers.”

Plus, an aging system often hemorrhages money.  As you might have guessed, ours is no exception.

To evaluate your HVAC system properly, you’re going to need a lot of data.  Like, a year or two’s worth of data.  Hence, we’ve put data loggers in just about every room, though I can’t always remember exactly where.

HOBO U10-003 Data Logger at the Wren's Nest House musuem

From what I’ve gathered about HVAC systems in historic preservation settings — which is, admittedly, very little — there are two schools of thought:

  1. “You need a system that’s going to cost $30,000.”
  2. “You need a system that’s going to cost $400,000.”

That’s… a difference.  I think it breaks down to being pretty darn efficient for $30K or being ridiculously efficient for nearly half a million dollars.

Luckily for the Wren’s Nest, many house museums are finding that their HVAC systems are over-designed and inefficient.  I wonder what it’s like to discover something in your museum is over-designed.  A boy can dream, I guess.

The most exciting part of data logging is that once a month I have the honor of collecting the data and refreshing each data logger.  It’s almost hard to believe I get paid to do it.

Thinking About the Wren’s Nest Website for 2009

Written on January 22, 2009 at 12:57 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

The Wren’s Nest website is soooooo 2007.

Wren's Nest Website, 2007 Design

We’re giving it a little tweak.  Below is a list of what we’re committed to —

  1. Simplicity

Otherwise, the design is up in the air.

Come to think of it, so is the content.  What else do you want to see here?  Want to make sure something stays put?  Have you even seen any pages aside from our blog?

Or maybe you just want us to bring back our 2006 site, coded by yours truly.

…or maybe not.  Leave a comment below or shoot me an email with your ideas:

Need inspiration?  See what these other house museums have to offer —

Cool Wren’s Nest Business Cards From Virgil O. Stamps

Written on January 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

At the risk of sounding like Patrick Bateman, I just wanted to let you know that I got new business cards.

Here’s the front, designed by Lauren over at Lampe-Farley.

Shakespeare Business Card Front

The back is part of a page taken from a beat up, 104 year-old Uncle Remus book.

Virgil O. Stamps Business Card Back - The Wren's Nest

Virgil O. Stamps pressed it in his letterpress laboratory.

Each card is different, since the backs are all different pages.  Some have pictures, some are all text, and some have a lot of white space.

In general, I don’t really covet things — or condone chopping up antique books.  And previously I didn’t take much stock in business cards.  But then I saw what Virgil O. Stamps could do, and I knew that this would be a unique way to build brand equity with a physical representation of our mission and our history.  Plus, they’re totally sweet.

And as I read this morning, the Atlanta Business Chronicle agrees.

Before you start worrying, stop — the Wren’s Nest didn’t pay for this.  My stimulus check, part of it anyway, provided the funding.

For more, check out the other stuff Virgil prints or become a fan on Facebook.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Written on January 19, 2009 at 8:47 am, by Amelia

But you probably knew that.


Though I’m loathe to admit it, I still haven’t visited Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home here in Atlanta.  I know, I know.

In the meantime, this gallery of the home in the AJC is great. I seriously love house museums where the rooms are set up like the family just went to lunch and will be back in an hour.   Maybe we’ll start hiring children to run around all over the place here to give it a sense of realism.

NPR’s Museum Series and the Disappearing Field Trip

Written on January 15, 2009 at 3:59 pm, by Amelia

The staff of the Wren’s Nest just finished listening to NPR’s series, Museums in the 21st Century.  Thanks to Museum 2.0 for the heads up.  The part about school field trips hit especially close to home.

Go on, listen to it here.  I dare you.

Uh-oh: Dwindling Field Trips

The story focuses on the enormous drop in field trips taken overall these days compared to, you know, other days.  They mention that at Chicago’s Field Museum field trip* numbers dropped from 300,000 visitors to less than 200,000 visitors in about 3 years.  Yikes.


As a survival measure, museum administrators have begun designing trips specifically tailored to include skills students will be tested on in school.   They see this as an opportunity to “demonstrate relevance.”  Cool, I guess.

Others worry “the real value of museums… wonder and discovery” will be eclipsed.


Pretty legit concern if you ask me.  And tricky, either way.

The Case of the Wren’s Nest

We host a fair number of field trips here at the Wren’s Nest.  Luckily, we fit neatly into many Georgia history and literature units at the ol’ elementary schools.

However, I have a favorite field trip moment from working here, and on a scale of 1 to educational relevance, I would give it about a 3.

Perhaps you recall cramming 20 kids in our office and having them all dance to our theme song?  Oh, I do.

Sure, it probably wasn’t the most academic of moments.  But I’ll bet you anything those kids will (a) remember the Wren’s Nest fondly, and (b) not become those awful people who claim all museums are boring.  Aren’t they the worst.

But really, what our museum and so, so many others do is provide the visuals to history.  And come on — that’s so dope!  Though if it would get us another 500 visitors, I might consider chanting basic arithmetic as we tour.  But I won’t be happy about it.

Striving to Have Standards

Regardless of my personal sentiments, there’s no question that being able to link to these educational standards is important currency.  Which is why we went ahead — well, Susie, Lain’s sister went ahead — and made sure our proposed programming adhered to the Georgia Performance Standards.


You may recall our hopes to work with a local middle school, which remain well planned but unimplemented.  With Susie’s help, they’ve become quite a bit more legitimate.

Flashy Marketing

In the meantime, we can’t have schools reject us if we don’t ask them to visit.  So we recently designed a brochure specifically aimed to lure in educators.

Lauren and the School Brochure

The kind teachers we know are currently inspecting it around the clock, looking for typos.

Really, it’s not much more than a colorful (literally …not full of curses) way of answering the questions teachers and trip organizers ask most.  But our hope is that sending something eye catching will help us grab those many educators we haven’t yet reached.

Consider it a supplement to our  “be nice and hope they tell someone!” marketing strategy.

*No, but seriously guys, how awesome were field trips to the Field Museum?!  The pharoah’s tomb scared me silly.  I loved it.

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update — Basement Door

Written on January 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

The old basement door to the Wren’s Nest is a lot like my pants often are — full of holes and a little short.

Old Wren's Nest Door

The door was missing about eight inches in some places.  Critters of all sizes could come and go as they pleased.

Our carpenter made us a real, live, working door with hinges and everything.  It even goes down to the bottom!  It’s like a fairytale.

New Wren's Nest Door

We’ll have more updates about this entryway in the future — specifically, the part where we clean up the rubble that threatens to twist ankles left and right.  For now, I’m super-satisfied with the door.