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Modern Technology Used to Decode Historic Artifacts at Klondike Gold Rush NHP
National Park Service- Klondike Gold Rush NHP
Skagway's Dahl Memorial Clinic had an unusual patient in Dangerous Dan McGrew on June 6, 2012. The clinic assisted the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park museum team by X-raying the animatronic mannequin built by Martin Itjen for Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum in the 1930s. Although the museum team knew that the mannequin moved when it was installed in the museum, the exact mechanism of action was unclear. The images produced by the clinic's medical assistants, Sarah Phillips and Melissa Horman, allowed the park's artifact conservation interns a look inside the mannequin. "It looks like he's a toe-tapper," said intern Nicole Peters.
The images showed that Dan's foot moved and his eyes, made from small electric light bulbs, lit up.
Dangerous Dan is one of three mannequins that will go back on display in Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum in time for the museum's re-opening in 2016. Skagway entrepreneur and showman Martin Itjen installed a complex mechanical system to animate the mannequins when he started the museum in the 1930s. This summer, Klondike Gold Rush NHP's two artifact conservation interns, Nicole Peters and Katie Bonanno, will clean, repair and stabilize Dangerous Dan and his sister mannequin, Lady Lou. The program is receiving technical support from conservators Scott and Ellen Carrlee of the Alaska State Museum.
The X-ray images were made possible by an in-kind donation by the Dahl Memorial Clinic. "The staff was very kind to help us with this. You could tell that Sarah and Melissa were committed to providing us with the best images possible even though Dan presented kind of a curveball," said Curator Samantha Richert.
Did You Know?
No gold was ever found in the Skagway River valley. The actual gold fields were approximately 550 miles north, near the junction of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers in Dawson City. Skagway became known as the gateway to the Klondike gold fields, a bustling supply town.