Saturday, April 18, 2015

One of the reasons I've not been blogging lately is because I've been researching and writing. Like all my writing, this one is a journey.

The journey begins with a news article in the Washington Post on February 10, 2015. I ran across it on April 4, which is unusual. That's because I'm an architecture buff, and a D.C. history buff, and a White House history buff. Yet, somehow I missed this article about a major redecoration of the Old Family Dining Room in the White House.

The White House was designated a museum in 1988 by the American Association of Museums. This means the rooms of the White House generally cannot be altered, because their decor and furnishings are historic. The only rooms at the White House which can be altered are those private rooms used by the First Family. That's because these rooms have been altered time and time again over the years and do not have a historic nature. One of these room was the Old Family Dining Room on the State Floor. Although its decor dated to 1961, it wasn't a historic decor. Yet. Michele Obama radically redecorated the room in 2014, and the room was opened to the public tour in February 2015.

I decided to add the information to the Wikipedia article on the Old Family Dining Room. And, as is usual, the article had no citations, made wild and unverifiable claims, and was woefully out of date. So I spent 10 days researching the Old Family Dining Room and upgrading the article to a semblance of excellence.

Along the way, I wrote an article about heating and HVAC registers. The term had been mentioned in the article, but nothing about registers (those grates which your hot and cold air flows through in your house) was on the site. It took me a day to do that one.

The White House itself is really three distinct buildings: The East Wing, the West Wing, and the Executive Residence.

On a lark, I went to the article on the Executive Residence. And it, too, was a completely poor article. Once more, there were no citations, unverified claims and statements, and out-of-date statements. Some of the statements were just outrageously inaccurate. So I began researching the architectural history of the Executive Residence itself. I'm lucky that I have a lot of books about the White House, and was able to do the sections of the basement, Ground Floor, and State Floor fairly easily. It took a week, but it's done.

I decided to take a break for a bit, because the State Floor research was really exhausting. The Third Floor is going to be a lot worse, because there have been so many changes there.

One of the things I came across as I worked on the Ground Floor and State Floor sections of that article was Raymond Muir. He was the Chief Usher at the White House from 1933 to 1938.

So I went to the article on Raymond Muir. I'd worked on the article for Irwin "Ike" Hoover some months ago, and wondered what the Muir article looked like. It was just a two sentence stub. So I researched Muir for two days, and completely rewrote the article.

Then I looked at the article on Howell G. Crim, Muir's successor. It was in just as bad shape. So, three days of research and a day of writing later, and it was done.

I looked at the article on the Chief Usher, and saw that all of Muir's predecessors did not have articles. So I researched and wrote articles on Thomas E. Stone, William Dubois, and Edson S. Densmore.

Typical of uncited Wikipedia articles, there was missing information. Between Densmore and Dubois, there were two names missing: Carlos E. Dexter and John McKenna. These were hard to write, as they were obscure people about whom little had been written previously. Researching them took a lot of work, and I spent two or three days in research -- finding little.

So now the Chief Ushers list is complete, and all the articles (pretty much) in good shape.

It feels good to write again. It feels good to put my hands into history and dig again. It feels good to contribute again. I know that no one really cares about what I write. I'm not writing about RuPaul's Drag Race or some cute tiger cub hugging a squirrel or something similar.

What I wrote won't draw attention. But it felt good to do it.

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