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Archive | Museum Archaeology

Archaeologists working in museum environments.

A day with Macedonian archaeology – “Neolithic settlement Tumba Madzari” (VIDEO)

This short documentary was recorded for the project celebration of international day of archaeology “Day of Archaeology 2013″ by association “Archaeologica” ‘with the support of Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia.

Realization:
association Archaeologica

Interlocutor:
Elena Stojanova Kanzurova

Camera, Assembling, Music:
Jane Kacanski

Organisation:
Radomir Ivanovic
Elena Karanfilovska

Skopje, July 2013

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Curator Takes Vacation Only to Visit More Museums: How Taking My Work With Me Changed Everything

Mixing business with pleasure is not uncommon practice in the field of archaeology, as most archaeologists will tell you that they love their jobs. Sometimes, however, an opportunity will present itself so serendipitously that it can hardly be called “work” at all. Such was the case for me on a recent family vacation to Europe, where I came face to face with an important archaeological collection at the British Museum in London.

In June 2013, I accepted my first “real” job out of graduate school as Curator of Collections for the Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) in Marco Island, Florida. I had finished my M.A. in Museum Studies at the University of Florida (UF) just six months prior, and in the meantime had been teaching an undergraduate anthropology course at UF while working as a Curatorial Assistant in the Anthropology Division at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH). My first assignment for the MIHS would be to develop a permanent exhibit on the prehistory of Marco Island for installation in the Marco Island Historical Museum. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn about Marco Island, not to mention life as a museum curator.

For those who are unfamiliar with Marco Island, it’s as picturesque as it sounds. The largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco’s natural crescent beach and fertile waters make it a hotspot for retirees, vacationers, and fisher folk alike. However, many visitors don’t realize that Marco is also home to one of the most famous archaeological sites ever discovered in North America.

 

Just another day on Marco Island, Florida. Photo by Austin Bell.

 

In 1895, a retired British military officer named Charles Durnford was tarpon fishing in the area when he was informed of an unusual find in the muck of Key Marco (now Marco Island). Not wanting to miss out on the action, he quickly set sail for Marco to perform his own excavation. It was not long before he too uncovered incredibly well-preserved artifacts made of wood, gourd, and cordage, materials that often do not survive in archaeological sites. Knowing the potential significance of these rare items, Durnford took them all the way to Philadelphia in hopes of conferring with his friend at the University of Pennsylvania, where by chance he encountered Frank Hamilton Cushing. Cushing, a famous anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, confirmed the importance of the finds and was duly inspired to make his own visit to Marco. What Cushing found in his subsequent visits (1895 and 1896) is the stuff of legend, an archaeological site so spectacular that it has yet to be replicated in more than 115 years of archaeology in Southwest Florida. Among the finds were painted wooden masks, finely woven nets, fishing floats made of wood and gourd, and beautifully carved wooden figureheads, some of the finest examples of prehistoric Native American art ever discovered. The most famous of these is the “Key Marco cat,” now housed in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. The cat is so well-known that it’s been featured on a United States postage stamp (see picture)! For archaeologists and archaeology enthusiasts, the Key Marco site serves as one of best known examples of a “wet site,” where biological materials not ordinarily preserved can add greater context to our understanding of prehistoric cultures.

 

The “Key Marco cat” on a 1989 U.S. postage stamp. Image courtesy of the Marco Island Historical Society.

 

While Durnford’s cavalier removal of artifacts from Key Marco would be frowned upon today (i.e., illegal), he had the foresight to not only write up his findings in The American Naturalist (1895), but also to donate the objects to the esteemed British Museum in his home country. The fifteen objects remain there to this day, one of which (a wooden tray) has been on permanent exhibit since 1999 as a representative piece of “the Americas.”

 

The Southeastern United States section of the British Museum’s “North America” exhibit. Note the Seminole patchwork shirt at the top. The wooden artifact on the floor in the back is from Marco Island. Photo by Austin Bell (July 4, 2013). © Trustees of the British Museum.

 

The “wooden tray” discovered by Durnford at Key Marco in 1895, as seen on public exhibition at the British Museum in London. Photo by Austin Bell (July 4, 2013). © Trustees of the British Museum.

 

As fate would have it, my family had organized a trip to Europe months in advance of my hiring at Marco Island. Not wanting to miss out on a rare opportunity to spend “quality time” with my parents and two sisters (not to mention our first ever family vacation overseas), I informed the MIHS of our plans and they generously allowed me to go ahead with them. The British Museum was already on our itinerary, but with my new interest in the Durnford Collection, I put in a last-minute request to see the objects themselves. Given the short notice and my relative inexperience in the field, I was doubtful that such a request could be honored, but I figured “why not ask?” Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when the good folks at the British Museum quickly replied with an enthusiastic “yes,” as I’ve come to realize that people in the museum field often bend over backwards to help a colleague. So it came to pass that on July 4th, a date on which I normally would be celebrating my home country’s independence from Great Britain, I stood inside the British Museum’s Ethnographic Collection Storage building by the grace of several wonderful and accommodating staff members, thanking my lucky stars (and stripes) to be in Great Britain. It was there that I came face to face with the Durnford Collection, an experience I am unlikely to forget.

 

Excitement builds as we pass through the gate to the British Museum in London, England. Photo by Austin Bell (July 4, 2013).

 

Formulating a strategy for exploring the world-renowned British Museum in London, England. Photo by Austin Bell (July 4, 2013).

 

The objects themselves are relatively unremarkable, at least when compared to Cushing’s finds of 1896. The collection consists of several shell tools, some potsherds, a few wooden float pegs, some highly deteriorated netting and cordage, and several other fragmented wooden artifacts. What struck me almost immediately, however, was that these were the very artifacts that Cushing looked at in 1895, probably in a setting similar to this one (with these same artifacts strewn across a table in a non-descript room), and inspired him to take his now famous expedition to Marco Island. Not only were these fifteen objects an inspiration to Cushing, they basically set off the more than 100 years of stellar archaeology conducted in Southwest Florida since him. As a student and practitioner of both museology and archaeology, everything finally made sense in a way that sitting in a classroom never could. I had gone from the person who preserved artifacts to the person artifacts were preserved for, if only for a few fleeting hours. All those years of wondering “who will ever look at all this stuff?” seemed to wash away and my confidence in my career choice reinvigorated. Given the age of the objects (ca. 500-1500 A.D.), the fact that they had been in collections storage for nearly 117 years, and the understanding that conservation techniques were not what they are now, their condition was remarkably good. For someone who had worked with archaeological materials from Southwest Florida for the better part of five years, the thought that someday, long after I’m gone, someone will be looking at an object or collection of objects that I helped curate and be equally excited and inspired seemed to make it all worth it.

 

The Durnford Collection as it appears 117 years after its excavation. Photo by Austin Bell (July 4, 2013). © Trustees of the British Museum.

 

The point of this article, however, is not to boast about my travels or associate myself with a renowned institution like the British Museum; people visit their collections all the time. The point, rather, is to share the inspiration I felt as a professional who can sometimes take for granted the amazing things I get to work with on a daily basis. At this point in my career I am more “museum professional” than “archaeologist,” so I’m obliged to advocate for the role that museums play in preserving artifacts that archaeologists uncover. Without museums, objects like those in the Durnford Collection wouldn’t be around for new generations of hungry eyes to feast upon. What’s more, there will almost certainly be new technologies and methods of analysis for museum collections in the future, much the way that radiocarbon dating didn’t exist in 1895. This makes the role of the museum all the more important in archaeology, allowing professionals and amateurs alike the opportunity to interpret and re-interpret the meaning of material culture for centuries to come. As I now try to incorporate what I’ve learned from the British Museum into the exhibit on Marco Island, I encourage you to think about what artifact or collection of artifacts has inspired you. While it’s all just “stuff,” so often it’s the inspiration for anything from a simple idea or personal revelation to a life’s work. Little did the makers of the artifacts discovered by Durnford know that hundreds of years later, their creations would be written about in books and inspiring people from a new locale halfway around the world. So, if you find yourself lacking that personal connection to an artifact (or archaeology in general), I implore you to visit your local museum. Heck, don’t just visit it, ask for a tour of the collections. After all, museum people get excited when other people get excited about museums, so as I said before, “why not ask?”; the worst they’ll do is say “no,” but the best they’ll do is change your life!

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Tinkering with the machine and linking data

This post is rather belated, I’ve had a lot of things on over the last week. Family, server hardware problems, filming a short make believe piece for a children’s video conferencing workshop, editing and publishing posts for this website and developing new things for the Portable Antiquities Scheme website that I develop and manage. The actual ‘Day’ for me was an interesting affair that started the night before working till midnight with some tinkering with the site to iron out some bugs that has pre-released over 20 posts from RCAHMS (these were fantastic) and then rescheduling them following the discovery of the problem (an incompatible plugin) and then started again at around 5am when my son woke me up:

Then a fast cycle into work at the British Museum. Little glitches were identified in some of the plugins and these were fixed, probably without anyone noticing and the workflow for getting posts seems to work  well. Throughout the day load and activity on the server was monitored, we had no real problems and Tom Goskar asked for a cache to be enabled in case we had a surge in activity.

Whilst not editing and publishing posts via the scheduling feature, I was working on my current development work, which is an extension of the LAWDI summer school programme I participated in. I’m modelling Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) data to the CIDOC-CRM mappings that the British Museum have used to allow our data to be harmonised by the ResearchSpace project. I’ve been linking PAS records to the URIs that exist in the BM system, in the Ordnance Survey data endpoint, to Geonames, to Nomisma, to the thesauri exposed via Seneschal (see this post by Michael Charno at the ADS for more insight into what they are doing there). I think I’m getting there and you can see this N3 view of one of the records linked here (it might take a while to load as this is an external service), if you see problems with what I am doing tell me as I’m tinkering in the dark, some URIs are missing their identifier off the end of the URI string as I haven’t updated the search index on that server – for example OS ones. Once I get this working properly, we’ll have over 560,000 records in RDF format, who knows what people might do with the data – serendipity is king as my good friend Vuk is wont to say.

Enjoying the outputs

Running through the posts, many caught my eye. The content was fantastic (over 300 posts), the images (over 1,100) amazing and some of the commentary coming in (not the pingbacks) was insightful. For me, some stand out posts:

There’s too many to mention, and the LAARC ones were excellent, INRAP’s contributions ace. Every entry is superb in its own right and Janet Davis summed up the event succintly:

Back Channel

As usual, we tried as a collective to maintain a healthy presence or back channel (you can read more on this idea in this pdf by Ross, Terras, Warwick and Welsh) on social media using two platforms – Facebook and Twitter. In my eyes, the Twitter platform has been more productive (even though we gained fans/likes on Facebook). It was easy to measure whether links were being clicked on as I set up a plugin that automatically tweeted the majority of posts (except for when we exceeded the rate limit for daily photos being posted – I didn’t even know this was limited) and shortened them to a goo.gl url. Over 5,500 tweets (inc retweets) were sent using the #dayofarch hashtag – to put this into perspective, the British Museum #pompeiilive archive that I collected showed 18,000 tweets relating to their cinema extravaganza. These tweets were collected using Martin Hawksey’s  Tags Version 5 tool which is easy to set up and the only tricky bit is setting up the authorisation with Twitter, and then the conversation could be analysed. For example we could see how many people used the hashtag in their output (696) and who the top tweeters were and how many interactions or @ were made to them using the hashtag:

Top Tweeters Volume of tweets @’s % RT
dayofarch 619 4917
AdamCorsini 132 180 17%
lornarichardson 124 209 31%
portableant 122 164 32%
rcahms 121 170 13%
m_law 83 90 33%
tharrosinfo 81 3 81%
JaimeAlmansa 78 32 23%
TRArchaeology 75 8 67%
TinctureOfMuse 69 11 61%
VitaEmilia 67 48 10%

And then we could see what the network graph looked like (this one is with mentions clicked in the bottom right corner):

TAGSExplorer  Interactive archive of twitter conversations from a Google Spreadsheet for  dayofarch

And what the timeline looked like for posting frequency:

TAGS Searchable Twitter Archive

I’ll be doing some more analysis of the Twitter archive using the programming language R shortly.

Running the project

The ‘Day’ as a concept has definitely been fun to help co-organise with a fantastic team of people over the life time of the project; for 2011-12 iterations we comprised the collective of Lorna, Matt, Jess, Stu, Tom and Andrew and myself and then this year we changed slightly with the inclusion of Jaime (who made great efforts to branch out into multi-lingual contributions), and Monty Dobson. We lost Jess, who has just got married to Leif (congrats you two) and Stu along the way. The team has functioned really well. If you’re interested in how we’ve managed to keep this show on the road, a combination of tools have been used:

  • Basecamp
  • Google+ hangouts
  • Skype
  • Twitter
  • Gmail
  • Very infrequent vis-a-vis interactions as we’re a team divided by oceans

The site itself is quite straightforward. We run on:

  • a wordpress installation (even though if you look at the HTML code under the hood, you think spaghetti code) using the latest version (at all times!)
  • search is provided by the solr for wordpress plugin (which is pretty powerful and allows the faceted search)
  • the theme (overseen by Tom Goskar) is from WooThemes and is the Canvas version
  • we use OpenCalais for generating tag suggestions for post (by analysing what you have written in your contribution)
  • for posts submitted by email, we use the Postie plugin (this is superb, but you do need an account first before your post will be accepted.)
  • tweets, vimeo and youtube video links were easily converted just by placing the url in the text of a post (no need for embed)
  • Akismet stops spam comments coming through (there’s so much spam out there.)
  • A linked data view of the posts can be generated via the wp-linked-data plugin

If you’ve got any questions about the technical side, do email me (I’m easy to find on Google).

Reflection – my opinion (not the collective)

But, have we made a major impact? Reflecting on the ‘Day’ as a project, yes, we have made an impact in some ways. Readership has not been massive, the Google Analytics figures show interaction magnitude of 1000s rather then 10s of 1000s (5,818 visitors on the day). However, the people that have taken part have made a concious effort to participate and I hope that everyone that has participated has enjoyed it? Myself, I’ve been flamed on blogs for my contribution to running the site and my integrity questioned, and the author of those offered nothing to the site about his archaeological day or any positivity at all. You’ll know where to find them if you’re associated with archaeology and metal detecting debates.

I’m disappointed that more of my colleagues from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum haven’t contributed to this project (thank you to Julie Spencer, Jonathan Taylor,  Ian Richardson and  Peter Reavill for taking the time out of your working day to join in), seeing as both of these organisations were supporters of the project. I believe that this is a good project and hope that it continues for a few more years at least. The resource created, by you, the contributor, is amazing. An insight into the world of archaeology that isn’t available anywhere else in a searchable, discoverable format. It is even available as linked data.

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Team Tiger

From Lucy Moore, Leeds Museums and Galleries, UK:

Team Tiger

Team Tiger

Museum archaeology is a wondrous beast! Day of Archaeology coincided with my final few days as Archaeology Curator (Maternity Cover) at Leeds Museums. As with the close of any contract, the last few days have been a rush of tying up loose ends and reflecting on what the last six months have meant to me and my career.

Leeds Museums gave me my first post. Like everyone else (who ever walks straight into their first museum job?) I have spent the last few years balancing volunteering with a variety of part-time jobs to keep the books balanced. When I applied it was with the goal in mind of just getting the interview experience. Luckily my knowledge of Chinese hoe money and why it’s funny (to some) saw me through and since I started work in January I have succeeded in my main goal of not losing any objects!

In the last six months I have contributed to the new guidebook for Kirkstall Abbey, organised a weekend of Industrial Archaeology at Armley Mills and introduced new volunteers to the joys of working with archaeological and numismatic collections. Under my enthusiasm we’ve brought about weekly ‘Collections through Cake’ in the staff room, created a ‘SCIFAX’ dance  and made friends for life.

No day has been the same the previous and I have embraced the huge variety in the role. I know significantly more about palaeoanthropology, Cistercian architecture and geology disguised as archaeology than I did last December. However, a day that will forever stand out is the day we moved the Leeds Tiger.

Now, I am not about to confess that I am a secret Natural Scientist (clearly Archaeology is the Ultimate Science), but as I gazed at our tiger’s bottom whilst we moved him to be photographed, I reflected that what has really made this dream work has been the support and encouragement of my colleagues. The knowledge in your head is nothing if you don’t have colleagues who you can bounce ideas off, get carried away with, be inspired by, be reigned in by and enthuse and inspire. My day of archaeology is about the people and the terrific career-start I’ve had! Go Team Tiger Go!

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Nimrud for Museums and Mobiles

“Just as this bug stinks, so may your breath stink before god, king and mankind!”
– one of the chilling curses invoked in the treaty between King Esarhaddon of Assyria and his vassals in 672 BC.

I’m curator of cuneiform collections in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum. No two days are the same for me. One of the more predictable parts of my schedule is project work. Today I’ve been working on a collaborative project called Nimrud: Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production, funded by the AHRC and directed by Eleanor Robson at the University of Cambridge.

The Nimrud project explores how scientific and historical knowledge is made from archaeological objects. We’re tracing the biographies of inscribed artefacts from their manufacture and use to their current locations in museum collections and their virtual representations on the web. As part of the project, we’re assembling online resources related to the ancient Assyrian capital city of Nimrud (Kalhu/Calah), especially the finds from excavations by the British Institute for the Study of Iraq in 1950’s and 1960’s. We’ll also be hosting several related events throughout 2013.

Our resources are designed and licensed for re-use by museums in mobile gallery guides. The technical focus is on the development of Linked Data, to encourage meaningful connectivity between previously isolated resources, and to bridge the gap between the museum case and the online world.

Today I’ve been writing web pages about the “Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon”. King Esarhaddon drew up a remarkable treaty to ensure that his chosen son would succeed him on the throne. His own experience showed that a smooth succession could not be taken for granted. My biography of this object will go live on the Nimrud website in August. In the meantime, you can read the text – and all the fun curses – on the SAA website (it’s no. 6).

BM 132548. The treaty between Esarhaddon and Humbaresh.

The treaty between Esarhaddon and Humbaresh, ruler of the city of Nashimarta. BM 132548. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum.


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Day of Archaeology 2013 Garden Tour

Let me introduce myself: my name is Andrea Keller and I am the Cultural Program Coordinator at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, West Virginia, USA. Like everyone here, I “wear many hats” in a single day. Today, I shall put on my garden hat and take you on a tour of our Interpretive Garden. Let’s meet by the gift shop at the museum’s entrance. If you get there before I do, there is a display of crops and photos from previous years (our garden is in its 4th year). By the way, if you visit us during the winter season, you might find a “Holiday Tree” decorated with produce from the garden in this hallway. It’s nice to have these indoor displays, since there won’t be much to see outside in the garden in winter.

Ah, there you are – let’s go outside!

Interpretive Garden and Grave Creek Mound

Interpretive Garden and Grave Creek Mound

With the rain and warm weather this year, the Interpretive Garden has been growing like mad. It is based a traditional Native American gardening system known as a Three Sisters Garden, but also on archaeological evidence. The basic premise of a Three Sisters Garden is that the Three Sisters, Corn, Beans, and Squash, grow together in the same plot. Sister Corn is tall and supports Sister Bean, while Sister Squash spreads her vines on the ground and protects the other two. Modern science tells us that the bean’s roots put nitrogen in the soil, which the corn needs. Meanwhile, the squash’s vines and leaves protect the other two plants by shading out weeds, and holding moisture in the ground as living mulch. I am told that the prickly squash stems and leaves deter animals who otherwise would joyfully feast on the corn and beans. The prehistoric gardeners who learned about all of this must have been amazing people.

The Interpretive Garden is home to some very special “Sisters”:

Corn

Corn

The corn is “Rhode Island Eight Row Flint” originally grown by the Narragansett people of Rhode Island. A type of 8-row flint corn was found on an archaeological site near here. The corn in the garden has yellow cobs and red cobs, but since corn kernels found on archaeological sites are usually charred, I do not know what color the prehistoric version might have been.

Beans

Beans

We are growing three different kinds of beans. “Blue Shackamaxon” has small, very dark blue –black seeds. It originally came from the Lenape people of New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania and dates back to at least 1800 AD. Known as the “Treaty Bean”, it has been preserved by Quaker farmers. “Yellow Arikara” beans come from Monticello, where Thomas Jefferson found them “one of the most excellent we have had”. They were collected from the Arikara people in the Dakotas by Lewis and Clark on their “Voyage of Discovery”. The third bean is “Genuine Cornfield”. I don’t have much history about this variety, but it does grow very well amongst the corn! Look carefully among the corn stalks, and you will spot its vines.

Canada Crookneck squash

Canada Crookneck squash

The garden also contains squash, pumpkins, and gourds. The pumpkins and squash have showy orange flowers, while the gourds have white ones. Our squash is “Canada Crookneck”, and was grown by the Iroquois. It is the ancestor of the “Butternut” squash that can be found at the supermarket in the fall. The crooknecks have long necks that I am planning to cut and dry to make squash rings. Such rings were stored for winter use, but I have other plans. We will use them to make ring-and-pin skill games with our visitors.

The pumpkins and gourds in the garden are commercially available heirloom varieties – grown until varieties with more detailed histories can be obtained. I hope to use the pumpkins as décor under our “Holiday Tree,” and will cut the gourds into handy bowls.

Goosefoot

Goosefoot

In addition to the “Three Sisters”, we are growing sunflowers and goosefoot. The latter is a variety of Chenopodium and is related to a plant whose seeds were found in archaeological sites (there was even a domesticated variety). Goosefoot has diamond-shaped leaves that are supposedly resemble those of a goose. I don’t know much about the feet of a goose, but I do know the leaves of the goosefoot plant are quite tasty! Sunflowers and Chenopodium were some of the earliest plants cultivated in this part of North America. Sunflowers have a fascinating history of their own – look them up sometime, if you have the chance. There were also other plants grown in early gardens such as marsh elder, little barley, erect knotweed and maygrass.

Sunflower

Sunflower

The Interpretive Garden grows at the foot of the Grave Creek Mound, and I can’t help imagining that the Adena people who built the Mound may have been eating sunflower seeds, goosefoot greens, and possibly pumpkins or squash. They may have taken a break from their toils to drink water stored in a gourd, and probably dug up the 3 million loads of soil for the Mound with similar digging sticks and hoes used in their gardens. Imagine using tools with wooden handles and blades of stone, bone, or mussel shell to build the Grave Creek Mound!

I am glad that you joined me on this Day of Archaeology garden tour. If you have the chance to visit our area in person, please stop in and say “hello”. The Three Sisters will be happy to meet you, and so will I!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many volunteers who made the garden possible: The John Marshall High School horticulture students who prepared the soil by clearing last year’s debris, spreading mushroom compost, and rototilling; the service learning students from WVU’s native American Studies program who put up the fence and weeded and watered the young seedlings, and Steve and Martha, whose weeding efforts are very much appreciated. Thank you also to everyone who helped plant the garden and provided displays and activities on our annual public planting day. THANK YOU ALL!!!

You can learn more about the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex by reading posts by my colleagues and some of our amazing and much appreciated volunteers. We are part of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, and can be found at www.wvculture.org/museum/GraveCreekmod.html.

It has been a great growing year so far!

It has been a great growing year so far!


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Education, Documentation and Administration in The Viking Triangle

I am an Irish museum archaeologist, currently working in the historic centre of Waterford city, known locally as The Viking Triangle due to its heritage relating to the founding of the city by the Vikings in the tenth century. I work within a complex of three city museums, known collectively as Waterford Museum of Treasures ( www.waterfordtreasures.com ). The collections of the three museums range widely in chronology, beginning with Viking artefacts from the founding of the city, through the Anglo-Norman, ecclesiastical  and English monarchical influences of the medieval period, the Georgian period, and extending right up to the modern social history of the city in the late twentieth century.

As is common in most museums today, I wear many hats in my current role, which can range in tasks and content from day to day – including artefact documentation, marketing, customer services, curatorial assistance and museum education.

Documentation, one of my main responsibilities, refers to the organisation of information relating to all objects within a museum collection. When an object enters the museum collection, its details are recorded – e.g. object type, origins, dimensions and features – and it is assigned a unique museum registration number for future identification. The object is then stored in an appropriate location, and its details, registration number and current location are added to the museum database. If the object is taken out of storage, placed on exhibition, or loaned to another museum, the database record for the object is kept updated in order to monitor and track its location. A database of this nature also allows curators and researchers to search museum databases for specific object types, and to record secure curatorial and conservator information regarding a specific object. Considering that museums possess collections of thousands of objects, it would be impossible to maintain the required level of information, control and identification of their collections without the use of the documentation process.

In my documentation responsibilities, I deal with a wide and varying range of artefacts and chronologies on a daily basis, and today I am documenting a local donation of three large vintage leather suitcases into our collection. Our museum’s collection policy allows for the collection of contemporary and historical objects in order to preserve these items into the future, and the museum is extremely lucky to continually benefit from ongoing donations by Waterford citizens with a sense of civic pride for their museums.

I am currently compiling new education packs and activities for use by primary schools visiting our museums during their school terms, and that has formed the bulk of my day’s work. This will be a work pack which we will provide to visiting schools, which will provide them with worksheets and activities related to the museum exhibitions to carry out during their visit.

Due to school budget constraints relating to participation in off-site activities, it is imperative that our museum can offer a valuable, curriculum-based learning experience in order to validate the educational worth of the school visit. It is therefore vital that the questions and tasks in the education packs relate directly to necessities within the outlined curriculum targets for particular age-groups and subjects. My work trawling the primary school curriculum guidelines over the past month has given me a new-found respect for the work of school teachers! The museum provides a unique learning environment, and I hope that our work packs will reflect and enhance this advantage, and help achieve the absolute highest potential of the school visit experience. Children are a wonderful audience for archaeology, and my work in education is a great opportunity to try and pass on my enthusiasm and passion for the subject to the next generation.

I spend the morning going through our Medieval Museum in order to test the suitability of my current worksheet questions and tasks with the practical aspects of our exhibitions – such as eye levels of display cases, gallery orientation for activity trails and case lighting levels for clear observation. This involved the task of me lowering myself to a child-friendly level in front of the exhibit cases, and, understandably, I receive a number of confused looks from visitors, who quietly wonder why I am kneeling in front of the display cases!

Also to be done today is a number of administrative tasks relating to our upcoming renewal application for the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland (MSPI). This is a standards programme which aims to improve all aspects of museum practice and levels of collections care and management. Our museums currently hold full accreditation to the programme since 2009, which we will maintain by renewal application later this year. The programme is important as it helps the museum to maintain management focus and paramount collections care, and is a display of our museum’s commitment to best professional practice and management.

The day is over before I know it, and although I still have a lot of work left to do in the near future, I feel as though I’m making positive progress with it all….fingers crossed!!

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What’s that you say? Interning in an Archaeology Lab? Awesome!

By Kim Jovinelli Internship, Independence National Historical Park Archeology Lab
MA Candidate in Museum Communication University of the Arts, Philadelphia 2013 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Archaeology has always been a large influence on my life. From a young age, I had been exposed to such historical wonders, they almost didn’t seem real. I remember thinking, “How did [insert artifact name] get here?”

and “What makes it so important that it gets to sit behind glass for everyone to see?”

It didn’t hurt either that my father, Anthony, exposed me to movies portraying a Fedora clad, whip brandishing Archaeologist pretty early (though I realize now that Archaeologists don’t traipse the globe hunting down the bad guys and finding the [insert precious lost treasure here]). I was fortunate in that my parents both saw Archaeology was my passion and they nurtured that drive throughout my life. Which lead me to where I am now. Currently, I Intern in the Archaeology Lab at Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia(Pennsylvania, USA) as part of my curriculum for an Masters of Art Degree in Museum Communication, in the hopes of working with archaeological or historical collections in the future. A typical week includes some usual archaeological lab work (labeling artifacts, mending artifacts, cleaning artifacts, etc), but then there are those days where I get to play with wonderful bits and pieces of the past. Under the supervision and guidance of Deborah Miller, Collections Manager (Independence Park Archeology Lab), I have been in the beginning stages of repacking and cataloging the labs collection of wood items gathered from the site where the National Constitution Center currently stands. To some, this may seem like a daunting task, but I find it fascinating. Yes, there are those random planks or small flakes of wooden items of unknown makeup. But once in a while, there are those items that are so fascinating they require a long look and some deep thought. I like to solve puzzles by nature, so pondering the origin and use of these items is of great interest and keeps my mind working.

Along with the above mentioned project, I am also working to scan and digitize photographic slides taken when the original dig took place from 2000-2003. As someone who would like to work with collections in the future and also someone who sees a more digital future brewing, a skill even as basic as being able to convert slides to digital format and organize them in a cohesive manner is of great use. I am also in the process of pulling and packaging the labs bone (fauna) collection to be sent out for This comprises my typical week. To say it is what I had hoped it would be is an understatement. It is what I can see myself continuing with in the future. My experience at Independence National Historic Park will follow me wherever I may roam, and I like that.

Ceramic and wood artifacts in the Independence National Historical Park Archeology Lab.

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Kerry Massheder

My Day of Archaeology 2013 post is written as I am employed as the Council for British Archaeology Community Archaeology Training Placement (CATP) at National Museums Liverpool. I am based at the Museum of Liverpool Field Archaeology Unit and my day-to-day activities vary greatly. Since my post began in April 2013 I have helped to organise and supervise community archaeology excavations, building recording exercises, finds processing and grave recording. I am in the process of organising and conducting an oral history project to capture memories of Liverpool’s court style housing and I have organised a workshop for community members on the theme of oral history. I have become a Branch Assistant of the Mersey and Dee Young Archaeologists’ Club, a Council Member of the Merseyside Archaeological Society and (membership vote pending) an ‘Ordinary Council Member’ of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology. I am enjoying my placement a great deal and am hopeful it will lead to future employment in a similar field.
I am undertaking a PhD in Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. I am investigating the combined investigative approach of field archaeology and oral history to enhance our understanding of the housing experience of workers during the Industrial Revolution era-early 20th century. I am approaching my third year (part time) and I am really enjoying my research and I am appreciative of the people it brings me into contact with.
Now, onto my ‘Day of Archaeology’ ………………This year The Day of Archaeology falls in the second week of the Festival of Archaeology. Yesterday, as part of the Museum of Liverpool’s Festival of Archaeology events, I spent the day in the Museum of Liverpool helping to run an event called ‘Help an Archaeologist’ where I supported our young visitors in making Iron Age roundhouses, handling Roman pottery and sorting and recording finds. Today I am helping the Project Officer of Rainford’s Roots, a community archaeology project run by the Merseyside Archaeological Society and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, lead a heritage walking tour in Rainford. The tour aims to provide community members with an update on the Rainford’s Roots project and discuss with them how Rainford has changed and developed over time. Today’s tour is an extended version of the walk that occurred yesterday.
The walk was a great opportunity to catch up with some of the community members who have worked on various stages of the project, discuss the upcoming excavation based at Rainford Library running from the 15th August-22nd August and meet community members who could potentially be involved. The walk was extremely successful-the weather was dry and bright, people chatted amongst themselves and exchanged stories about the heritage of Rainford and they asked for further information on the project and how they could become involved.
Following the walk I continued working from home. I wrote this post! I also worked on the planning stages of a project I may become involved in. This project will explore the history of a Merseyside School through archaeological test pitting, building recording and archival research. Following an initial meeting with the school I am now in the process of creating a list of products and services we can offer in preparation for writing a funding bid. I can’t say much about the project at this stage (keep a look out on my Twitter feed for updates) but I can stay I am massively excited about it!
During the evening I turned to my PhD research. I usually go over my weekend ‘to do’ list on a Friday evening so that I am well prepared to ‘get cracking’ the next day. My plans for the weekend include writing notes for and starting to write a paper for the presentation I will give at the UCLAN ‘Public History in Perspective’ conference in September. Tonight I organised feedback I have received for papers with will be included in an upcoming edition of AP Journal. The edition will focus on paper from the two community archaeology sessions at the Theoretical Archaeology Conference in December 2012. This is being organised by myself, Dominic Walker (University of Cambridge) and Cara Jones (Archaeology Scotland) with support from authors, anonymous peer reviewers and some fantastic commentators. It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside these wonderful people.
I hope my post has illustrated how varied archaeology, and in particular community archaeology, can be. No day is ever the same! Please feel free to follow my placement activities at http://kerrymassheder.wordpress.com and @livuniMassheder.

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Day of Museum Archaeology

A day of archaeology, as previously eluded the world of Museum Archaeology inevitably takes you into other spheres. On the face of the Archaeology collections of the Museum of London, including the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) and the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology (CHB) should be enough for any day. The job brings you into contact with a host of other related and not so related matters.

Recently we had sixty interns form Bloomberg to learn about Roman London and have after hours access to the gallery.  So perhaps the first question is why?  Bloomberg are the client for Museum of London Archaeology (MoLA) excavations in the Walbrook Valley, and although the excavations are largely complete its important to carry on the conversations with Bloomberg, and speaking to a group of interns puts this major MoLA programme and its place in a wider Roman London landscape into the minds of people some of which may be the first occupants of the new building.

This week we saw the retirement party for Cath Ross, the Director of Collections and Learning Division, that public archaeology is part of at the Museum of London. There was a fine ‘eat less protein’ cake, possibly instructions I will not be following.

http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Collections-Research/Collections-online/object.aspx?objectID=object-767551&start=4&rows=1

The position of archaeology within a division that includes Learning is vital, we have close links to our learning colleagues, this year’s training and community excavation had a huge input from learning, and flourished as a result. The evaluation revealed very high level of satisfaction form both community and training excavation.

How could Day of Archaeology be complete without @adamcorsini running LAARC bingo at Eagle Wharf Road. Folk in the twittersphere call out shelf numbers, and Adam and others investigate and disseminate what is on the shelf in the world’s biggest archaeological archive. The results of the bingo can be seen here

http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/day-of-archaeology-2013-laarc-lottery-part-1-general-finds/

It just under lines what a great job the LAARC staff do, they are not specialists in any of these material types, but know London archaeology and have a broad subject knowledge and can engage at the drop of a hat.

Onwards with what to do the CHB database, I guess you osteologists out there still want to see all this top quality data on line?

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