Your Invitation to Endless Wonder

Those of you who have been following along with my blog will note that a) I post infrequently and b) I tend to post from my honours thesis from my senior year at Beloit College.  Mainly, this is because I am intensely proud of that thesis and wish to share it with you, secondarily because I have been intensely busy with working my way through graduate school, and tertiarily because I have had an idea for a post that I’m still doing research before I post.  However, this summer I find myself with a little more time on my hands – internships and intensive online Latin courses aside.  Therefore, I want to branch out a bit.  While that research-oriented post has yet to be completed, I wish to talk a bit about my favourite television show, Warehouse 13.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Warehouse 13, it is a SyFy Original series.  This show is fantastic in all of its nerdy elements, and especially interesting for museum (and Classics!) – oriented people.  To put it simply, Warehouse 13 is what happens when you combine all that is awesome about the trilogy of Indiana Jones with steampunk.  Yes, you read that right – steampunk Indy.  Don’t believe me ? Check out the trailer:

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Awesome, right? Here’s a video introduction (SPOILER ALERT):

Warehouse 13 is now in a season 4.5 (yes, they have an intermediary season).  Unfortunately, SyFy has only renewed it for one more season, making the fifth its final one! 😦

The basic premise of the show is the concept of ‘historical cooties.’ For those who are not on the up-and-up regarding material culture, historical cooties is the difference between a simple white dress and the one (in)famously worn by Marilyn Monroe.  It’s why Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” jacket was purchased for $1.8 million and why Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory freaked out over a napkin.  What this show proposes is that, far from being just perceived differences in the objects, these ‘historical cooties’ actually imbue the object with mystical properties (aka Indiana Jones-type objects). Similarly, other objects on the show proof the adage that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (i.e. the steampunk element).  References to historical figures abound, such as: Hatshepsut, Alexander the Great, Nikola Tesla, and Philio Farnsworth (he invented the television).  All of these objects are “snagged, bagged, and tagged” by the main characters, and housed in a humongous government Warehouse (I’m not going to tell you the significance of 13!), which is located seemingly randomly in South Dakota.  This way, the world is protected from certain destruction by these objects.

Each object has an upside (the reason why they are initially used) and a downside (which is almost ALWAYS worse than the upside).  A hilarious example of an object mentioned in passing is that of Pavlov’s Bell, which has the ability to call dogs to you, but you will drool uncontrollably for 24 hours as a result of using it.  As you can see, the use of such objects created a layered morality that the characters often have to navigate carefully while on the job.  While it takes on a “monster of the week” feel, there are multi-episode story arcs that keep the show layered and interesting.  What I find the most interesting, however, is how closely it mirrors actual museum work (minus the exhibitions).  Because these objects are, by the essence they are imbued with, ‘alive,’ special care has to be taken for each object – especially relating to how they are stored because some objects need to be separated to keep from reacting and have different preservation needs.  Thus, the Warehouse has a caretaker (read: collections manager/registrar) and its own database to keep the objects in check.  They also have special “conservation” techniques to keep the objects from getting out of control.  And then, of course, there’s the nickname that Arty gives the Warehouse: ‘America’s Attic.” (I wonder how the Smithsonian feels about losing their title?) Arty, maybe a better nickname would be “The World’s Attic, since the objects span all of human existence.

As you can see, I sincerely love this show, so I am going to devote several posts to it, over the coming weeks.  Keep an eye out for them!

Welcome…to Warehouse 13!


Works Cited:

Divirgilio, Andrea. “Most expensive celebrity memorabilia.” BornRich: Home of Luxury. last updated: April 3, 2012.

OdyWorld. “Official Trailer for Warehouse 13 VOSTFR.” YouTube video, posted August 21, 2009.

SyFy. “Best of Warehouse 13: Endless Wonder.” YouTube video, posted: April 4, 2013.

usafrmajor. “Big Bang Theory – Sheldon and the Leonard Nimoy Napkin” YouTube video, posted April 26, 2012. Original episode: Ep. 2.11, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis.” First aired: December 15, 2008.

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