- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Many visitors to the Calvert Marine Museum may not notice or think about the work that goes into the exhibits, but that’s exactly Tim Scheirer’s objective.
Scheirer, who works on the exhibits at the museum, left a zoo in Massachusetts in 1999 to be a part of one of the remaining museums with its own exhibits team.
“One of the important things is, we’re one of the few museums left that still has their own in-house exhibits,” Scheirer said. “We do most everything in-house,” including building and casting artifacts and the physical displays — “a lot of things that aren’t necessarily apparent,” he said.
“Nobody makes these,” he said, stroking the long, vibrant green leaf of a faux phragmite plant in the “Evasive Species” exhibit. He laughed and said he just walked over to his neighbor’s house and harvested a few.
Scheirer spent hours, meticulously flat ironing and air brushing each leaf of a large, dried out phragmite to make it appear living.
He said, laughing, staff gets asked by museum visitors how the plant’s growth is kept under control and how it’s kept alive. In reality, he said, it’s been replaced a few times with another dead, but seemingly alive plant that he had to dry out, air brush and flat iron.
Another part of Scheirer’s job at the museum is creating the murals and other illustrations to enhance the exhibits.
But before Scheirer ever picks up a pencil to begin drawing, or a paintbrush, he puts a lot of work into figuring out what the thing is he is drawing.
“How do you draw things? You have to know about it. You have to research it.”
For every piece he creates, “I have to do a lot of research, reading and consult with a lot of people that are experts. ... It’s an awful lot of research,” he said.
After he completes a small scale draft drawing of the larger, backdrop murals, he sends them out to experts for feedback.
Many of the exhibits’ pieces begin with a theme, and from there, Scheirer and the exhibits team have to create the entire exhibit.
“We take a theme, take whatever we have that’s available and make it work, make a relationship,” Scheirer said.
For the “People of the Patuxent” exhibit, Scheirer said he used the artifacts the museum had to create the setting mural that highlights how the American Indians used those particular artifacts in everyday life.
“It was a learning process in this one,” he said. He had to research how the American Indians did certain things.
For example, he said, he learned that American Indians didn’t cut down a tree like people would expect, but would burn a section of the trunk until it would fall over.
In other exhibits, Scheirer has to look at various accounts of one thing before he can begin his work.
He explained that for the “Battle of the Patuxent” exhibit drawing, he had to weigh the British account of what happened and how things appeared to them, and the American account of what happened “to get it as accurate as you think it could be in the middle of things.”
The “Paleontology” exhibit which showcases a timeline of Earth includes many fossils and drawings from Earth's prehistoric past that are constantly evolving as more scientific information is released.
“I do all of the drawings from reconstructing what we think it looks like,” he explained, adding that he has to be flexible and assume it may change or be altered.
Many of the graphics and other visual illustrations Scheirer creates for the exhibits “become valuable teaching aids,” he said. “It’s all for the purpose of education.”
In several of the exhibit murals, Scheirer has left his personal touch, even if most museum visitors don’t notice.
Some visitors, he said, have created a game out of finding the hidden images he placed in the murals.
“What I do oftentimes is include things,” Scheirer said of his paintings.
In the “Rays and Skates” exhibit, Scheirer included faces of museum volunteers, locals and even a mermaid.
In the “Discovery Room,” he included lions, tigers and bears, the “Three Little Pigs” and many other animals like an elephant, a zebra and a mouse.
In one of the painted boats in the mural, which are all taken from the boats on display at the museum, stands Alton Kersey, a well-known Solomons local.
Scheirer also painted a portrait of his Shelty/golden retriever mix, Ginger, into the cliffs in the “Discovery Room” mural.
Visitors with a keen eye may notice something in the window of the painted house on the extreme edge of the cliff in the “Calvert Cliffs” exhibit.
Scheirer said, laughing, he painted his depiction of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in the window.
“I tell everybody that’s Adam and Eve,” he said, pointing to the center of a painted ball of fire and gases representing Earth’s formation in the “Earth Timeline” exhibit.
“I get somewhat of a free hand,” Scheirer said of his work.