(Just as a warning- this is a long post. If you have always wanted to know the inner working of Antiques Roadshow, this is your lucky day. If you barely care, skip to the last paragraph for the #1 best part of the story.)
We had training on the Friday before and got our jobs assigned. Some assignments seemed uninteresting, but also low pressure (standing at the front door and greeting people) and others seemed exciting and high pressure (working with the camera crew but wearing a headset and running around all day). In the end, I played my cards exactly right and found the perfect job: working on the set, directing people into the line for the Rugs and Textile appraisals.
When the day started, I chatted with the appraisers and tried to casually let it slip that I knew a bit about fashion and was sort of an expert on local stuff. One of them was actually interested, and before I knew it I had him jotting down notes about John Doyle Bishop.
|The set at the beginning of the day before the hoards arrived|
Speaking of waiting, I realized that if you were excited about the possibility of getting an on-camera appraisal, you should be careful what you wish for. If an appraiser thought you had a TV-worthy story they would call a volunteer like me over, I would go to the volunteer in my section with a headset, and he would send in a request for a producer to come to the table. The owner of the object was sent away to wait, and when the producer came over the appraiser pitched the story to them and they decided if it is camera-worthy. Getting on television is also the goal of the appraisers because it means exposure for them and their business. So at any given time, there are a number of appraisers wanting to speak to the producer. At one point, there were people with objects waiting an hour and a half just to have the producer come over and decide if they were going to get filmed. IF they were picked for filming (sometimes they weren't) they would go into the green room to get makeup and wait to be called onto set. That wait could also stretch into an hour plus.
When it was time for my own appraisals, I found out that not every table worked that way. The line for textiles was long, but some of the lines, like painting, were INSANE and so the appraisers had to work very quickly. I brought in two pottery pieces that my parents owned that we had reason to believe were somewhat interesting and possibly valuable. I saw a different appraiser for each one, but I felt like both pieces were dealt with hastily and dismissed as unimportant. I was told one was "the type of thing you see a lot at garage sales" and the other was "only $300 to $500." I walked away defeated, but later realized that they could have told me all the same information in a better way and I would have felt a lot better. $300 to $500 for a tiny tea bowl that my Dad got for free?? Hot dog!
The day ended up being longer than planned. At our 6:30 release time there were still some substantial lines, so we all just kept going. Finally at 8, when most of the lines were done or at least down to the people inside the set, they told us to go home (the appraisers apparently stayed until the last appraisal was done). I was exhausted, but it was an awesome, fascinating, totally worth-it day. They said they would make Seattle into three episodes, airing sometime in early 2013. I think there is a good chance that the back of my head will be in a shot somewhere!
Ok, but I saved the best story for last. In the middle of the day, the appraiser I had connected with in the morning called me over by name (to be fair, I had a giant name tag on) to come look at something. In front of me was a woman with several hats. "What can you tell us about John Eaton?" he asked. I couldn't believe it! As a museum person I couldn't say anything about value (I didn't really know anyway) but I talked about his store, his career as a milliner, and his legacy as a teacher. I even slipped in something about Gigi and Voulez-Vous. I shared my knowledge with this nationally recognized appraiser and got to tell the owner of the hats something interesting that she didn't know. Totally worth waking up at 5:30 am and standing around for 13 hours!