Many museum folks have a love for tattoos—their cultural significance, their artistic quality, their documentation of the natural world, and some, just for their own personal meaning. For years, we have talked about tattoos, the ones we want, the design, the stories behind them, and the artists who create them. So, lets post our tats and our stories!
Charissa Ruth is a freelance educator working primarily in museums.
Here's what she had to say about her tattoos:
I love museums (as do probably most people who work in museums). To me museums are a reminder of just how amazing the world we live in is.
My family didn't visit too many museums growing up, but we did make it our business to stop into Civil War battlefield sites and old churches whenever possible. My dad is both a church historian and a Civil War buff.
I was first introduced to the image of a skull with wings in the many cemeteries we visited as part of our old churches field trips. The skull with wings was a popular symbol used on tombstones in colonial America and was known as "Death's Head." For that time, death was a much more regular occurrence and it had not yet become popular or acceptable to use more flowery or sweet images such as flowers, cherubs, and crosses. I like this practical approach; death comes for us all so let's face it head on.
The Big Dipper constellation also has historical significance. For those familiar with the history and stories surrounding the Underground Railroad, the Big Dipper constellation was a trick for finding the North Star which pointed North and North meant freedom.
The people who traveled that road as well as the "conductors" and people who offered shelter knew the risk involved- fines, violence, repercussions. If families or individuals were found aiding runaway slaves, homes were burned, families ostracized, disowned, possessions seized, jail time was served Everyone involved lived in fear of being discovered.
And yet, the Underground Railroad covered hundreds of miles and helped untold number of people. Like those persons who hid Jews during World War II, they did a courageous thing. They harbored those that were hunted. They overcame their fears and their doubts to put others before themselves. Others who may never be able to pay them back, others who they may never see again.
So for me, the constellation is a reminder to be brave. When the chips are down, when it really counts, will I also rise to the occasion to do what's right? Will I also be able to look death in the face if need be?
Jen Elliott, a Museum Educator in School and Teacher Programs at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum was kind enough to share the story of her subtle, but meaningful, tattoo:
My tattoo is fairly straightforward, but means a great deal. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and then went to college in Gainesville, Florida before moving up north for grad school and the inevitable job hunt. I visit as often as I can - seeing family, dear friends, and hitting the beach - but I'm slowly realizing that the chances of going back and settling are decreasing the longer I live and work in NY/NJ. So now I have home with me...
This is my first tattoo and I love it! It was done by Mandy Fabrizi at Clockwork Tattoo in Lyndhurst, NJ.
Want to share your own story and tattoo?
Email Beth: bredmondjones (at) sdnhm (dot) org
or Paul: info (at) orselli (dot) net.