I work in a building that’s full of paper—an old building with a lot of old paper. I’m Nell Pratt, president of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society for the past few months, and I’m still trying to get used to the job. When I heard about the warehouse fire that destroyed most of the collection of historic firefighting equipment from the Fireman’s Museum, and somebody died in the fire, I was scared—paper burns too easily. You can see why I worry.
But it’s a great job, being the head of a museum that preserves Philadelphia’s past, and since so much American history took place right here, that means it’s America’s past too. It’s also a big responsibility. And there’s never enough money to do everything we’d like to do, to make all the wonderful materials we have available to the public, both in the building and through our website. It’s a never-ending challenge.
I wouldn’t have a chance of making it without Marty Terwilliger—board member, connected to about ten generations of Philadelphia movers and shakers, and more recently, friend. I guess I’d have to say I’m lucky that one of her many cousins is James Morrison (Jimmy to her and only her), who happens to be an FBI agent. I never would have thought knowing an FBI agent up close and personal would be useful, but you’d be surprised how much crime goes on behind the scenes in our local museum community. I know I’ve been surprised at how often I end up in the middle of those, trying to sort things out—to help friends and colleagues and to save collections. That wasn’t on any job description I saw.
James is definitely one of the good guys. He’s smart and he’s honest, but he’s willing to bend a few rules to get things done, and to look the other way if I take a slightly unusual approach to find out what we need to know. I guess I’d have to say that makes us a good team, at least for crime-solving. Anything more than that? Well . . . maybe.
As for the rest, I manage a motley assortment of employees and try to keep the heat and lights on in our century-old building. And every now and then I treat myself to the pleasure of just wandering among the collections and enjoying the wonderful assortment of books and papers that we’ve collected. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
You can read more about Nell in FIRE ENGINE DEAD, the third book in the “Museum” mystery series. The first book in the series is Fundraising the Dead.
** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of FIRE ENGINE DEAD to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends March 14. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **
Meet the author
After exploring careers ranging from art historian to investment banker to professional genealogist, Sheila Connolly began writing mysteries in 2001, and is now a full-time writer. Bitter Harvest, the fifth book in her Orchard Mystery series, came out in August 2011, and the sixth, Sour Apples, will be published in August 2012. She also writes the Museum Mystery series, based in Philadelphia, whose third book, Fire Engine Dead, comes out this month. In addition, she’s working on a new series set in Ireland, that will debut in 2013. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America, and was President of Sisters in Crime New England for 2011. Sheila lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three cats. Visit Sheila at www.sheilaconnolly.com
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