artist

A Day at the Shopping Mall CSI lab (Conservation Science Investigations)

A bit of an introduction and general update:

I am the conservation manager at “Anglo-Saxon CSI:Sittingbourne” [www.anglosaxoncsi.wordpress.com / facebook / @CSIsitt], we reported from the lab last year and are very pleased to be taking part in Day of Archaeology again…

Our project has had some periods of closure due to lack of funding over the past year, and we are in the midst of a fundraising campaign at the moment and seeking out new ways to fund conservation of the 2nd half of the Meads cemetery; as well as expand and take forward the CSI shopping mall lab concept. We are open 10-4 Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the moment, and possibly might add Saturdays for July and August. Although we had to stop conservation work for a large part of last year, work on recording the large bead assembly, and reviewing the results of the conservation work took place, and the Assessment Report for Meads II is with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust editors and hopefully out soon. I shall be away for most of the next 2 months (family illness and then conserving on site for Rutgers University Dig in the Upper Sabina Tiberia Valley, Italy). So today we started to confirm plans to ‘down scalpels’ and carry out a further review of the conservation work and invite volunteers and visitors to attempt reconstructions of our grave groups while I am away. We also need to compile a list of research questions we may have about materials we might want to investigate further, with the portable Hitachi Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) that is coming to the lab soon – thanks to a generous scientific equipment grant that has recently been awarded to Oxford University (RLAHA) for the CSI project and general conservation use, by the Clothworkers’ Foundation.

Our partners, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum have counted well over 18,000 visitors to date; and last summer’s count of conservation volunteer hours topped 5,000 !!

The morning’s activities:

Heritage Studies MA student Vicky Price interviewing artist Rob Bloomfield about his work with CSI.

 

Volunteer Vicky Price (Heritage Studies [contemporary practice] Kingston University, MA student] and I discussed her work on shield studs from grave 111, and her main task for the day – her desire to interview me and our resident artist, Rob Bloomfield for our views on the relationship between art & science in our work, and processes of how we are working with the CSI project, for her dissertation (working title: “Narrative, craft and the investigative conservator”)

Vicky’s interview with Rob then turned into a larger discussion about authenticity vs. creativity in his drawings and also his observations that the work of the investigative conservator is a bit like that of a sculptor, but at opposite ends of the spectrum… and he came up with the term “intricate deconstruction”. It is great to have such a wide mix of people involved with this conservation project… and really great to have Rob’s fabulous range of illustrations – today he was sketching ideas for a poster to advertise summer workshops and this also resulted in a possible new T-shirt design, an Anglo-Saxon Warrior (We have an unusually high proportion of warrior graves at our site)… unfortunately, the sword ended up looking more Roman than Anglo-Saxon, so this is not the final copy – it is an interesting and sometimes tricky collaboration… Rob is an unemployed artist, and this is his first experience working with a professional archaeological project.

Rob’s sketches for designing a poster advertising summer workshops “Hands on the Past”

Rob’s Anglo-Saxon Warrior drawing (although sword and scabbard should be longer)


Historical Archaeology & Visual Art

I am an historical archaeologist who teaches at Cheyney University and at West Chester University, two campuses of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that are located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA. I am not teaching during the summer term which gives me time to pursue my research which involves studying the public’s engagement with the archaeological resources in Independence National Historical Park (a U.S. National Park Service property commemorating the birthplace of American democracy). Today, June 27th, has been a ‘catch-up’ day for me where I had time to move ahead on several items on my ‘wanting to do’ list. First, I wrote to the editor of the “Images of the Past” column of the Society for Historical Archaeology Newsletter (Benjamin Pykles) proposing a write-up about Jackson Ward ‘Smokey’ Moore, Jr.  Moore, a retired archaeologist and a Native American Chippewa, excavated in Philadelphia in the 1960’s at the site of Benjamin Franklin’s mansion.

Jackson Ward 'Smokey' Moore restoring a historic dish

Jackson Ward ‘Smokey’ Moore, Jr. in a National Park Service Public Affairs Photo, circa 1960. (Independence National Historical Park Archives).

My offer to undertake this write-up required researching the Newsletter’s back issues to determine the type of information expected for the column and I spent an hour doing this prior to contacting Pykles to make sure I had the kind of information wanted. I then turned to some on-going background research I’ve been doing for a possible book project that the art photographer John Edward Dowell Jr. and I have talked about doing. This would be a book designed for the general reader which would feature photographs John took during the excavation of the President’s House archaeological site in Independence Park. These photographs document the archaeological excavation and its findings about slavery and freedom at the birth of the American nation and, in doing so, they help create African American history. They are also art pieces made by a Black artist. Beyond documenting new American history evidence and documenting new African American history evidence, his photographs are art pieces (re’ artifacts) of black visual art. Today I spent time researching and considering how these images therefore fit into the history of Black visual art. After reading a significant portion of N.I. Painter’s Creating Black Americans I realized that Dowell’s President’s House archaeological site photographs not only help make Black history more visible but also help make black art history more “visible” and that this is something we would likely want our manuscript to address given that the history of black visual art, like African American history, has been ignored, overlooked, and excluded in the canon.

View of the President's House by J. E. Dowell

ne of artist John E. Dowell’s photographs of the President’s House Site in Independence Park (right center, above the blue tarp-covered, back dirt pile). Dowell takes large format images (2 x 5 – 4 x 20 feet) which are then digitally scanned to produce highly detailed, deeply contextualized, images. His photographic style is known to convey life in the urban metropolis and he uses both unique perspective and lighting — namely pictures shot from high-rise vantage points that are taken at sun-up and sun-down.

Later on in the day I began typing up the meeting notes taken during the last monthly meeting of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF). I am Secretary of that non-profit advocacy group and I post the meeting minutes on the PAF listserv. However, I am coordinating a local version of the Day of Archaeology for the PAF and I switched to work on this task. I am coordinating Philadelphia area Day of Archaeology contributions from local area archaeologists as well as members of the public during the period June 25th-June 28th. I will use these contributions to develop a new page of content for the PAF webpages at www.phillyarchaeology.orgthat will help demonstrate and explain what people in our area do with archaeology both at work and at play. I will also be forwarding the contributions to the coordinator of the international Day of Archaeology blogging project.

Philadelphia Archaeological Forum Logo

The logo of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, which is based on a commonly found historic dish.



Bits and Pieces

A day of many colours, it started with dark grey clouds and a blue green sea with white-topped waves, as I headed to a finds drop! I had to hand over a box of finds to a National Trust colleague,  from a dig we did on Brownsea Island so they can create a display for Festival of the British Archaeology event at the end of July. A drive through the glistening rain to the Warminster office, past lush green trees and between kamikaze birds jumping out of bushes! First another finds drop, this time a feely bag activity for another NT  colleague to use in Gloucestershire for FofBA. Then up the stairs past magnolia walls to my desk, first sort out more activities stuff for yet another FofBA event, this time  at Corfe Castle, spinning and weaving kit, colouring sheets, a notice to say we are closed for lunch (so my volunteers can get a break) and some pictures of mosaics. One thing I really wanted to get done was a photomontage in memory of ‘Gerry the Rope’, who passed away recently and we  will miss him so much at our event. He was a historical interpreter who had been coming to Corfe Castle for about twenty years doing rope making (both Medieval and Victorian), games, pole lathe demonstrations and candle making. He was a great communicator and friend.

As late afternoon approached I had to turn my mind to getting everyting ready for our excavations that start on Monday!  write and print risk assessment, get day volunteer form printed, and  go to the shed to sort the tools.  We are digging up the last of the mosaics at Chedworth Roman Villa; they had been re-covered by the Victorians. It’s the last part of a big Heritage Lottery Fund project to put a new cover building over the mosaics and the reinterpretation of the site. Three weeks of mosaic digging, Yay! Red, purple, green, yellow, blue ‘gorilla’ buckets, soft bruhses, hand shovels and a pick axe!  The last item is for prising up the tarmac path. Note to self ‘bring foot pump to blow up flat wheelbarrow tyre’

Nearly the end of the day,  just a couple of things to do before the weekend. One is to send a flint report, web link and finds drawing to an artist, Simon Ryder, who is making an art work for the ExLab project, part of he Cultural Olympiad down in Weymouth. He is getting a 3D scan and printed model of a Mesolithic Portland Chert microlith which we excavated from a site on the cliff edge near Eype in West Dorset, an exciting project. The final job was to check a newsletter article about a pottery grenade found at Corfe Castle and finally identifed 25 years after it was dug up!  Thanks to the Wessex Archaelogy  finds specialist for posting the pot on the Medieval Pottery Research Group facebook site, the wonders of social media.

So into my Red Berlingo and southwards to Weymouth, with the wheelbarrow rattling in the back.

 

 

 

Community Heritage at Heeley City Farm

I am the Community Heritage Officer at Heeley City Farm in Sheffield.

We are running a Community Excavation ‘Life at No.57: The Sheffield Terraced House Dig’, its part of the CBA Festival for British Archaeology. Today is Day 14 of 16 days of excavation. It is a community dig run in partnership with the University of Sheffield but with lots of volunteers of all sorts and ages. The project really wouldn’t be possible without our amazing volunteers who are doing everything from keeping the finds room under control to supervising the trenches and keeping me organised. The Dig is free and open to everyone.

My Day started with a live phone interview with BBC Radio Sheffield to promote the Dig, my phone contribution was part of a large piece which had been record on site the day before with interviews with Dr Roger Doonan from the University of Sheffield, Megan and Morgan two 10 year old volunteers on their first dig and Joseph one of our volunteer supervisors who began his career in Archaeology through the Sheffield YAC (Young Archaeologists Club) and who is now just waiting for his A-Level results, we all have our fingers crossed for him as he wants to take up his university place to study Archaeology. We talked about why we are excavating 3 Victorian terraced houses on a city farm, who lived in them what we have found and who has taken part so far.

Radio Interview

During the interview a lady living in rang the radio station, she lives in Hampshire and had been listening on-line as she used to live in Sheffield, it turns out that she lived on the very street we are excavating! The houses were all demolished in the 1970’s and she lived there as a child just before they were pulled down. The BBC producer passed on my number to her and we had a lovely chat, she is going to e-mail me her memories of the street.

When I began work on site the volunteers had already started and our 3 trenches were going very well. We have 3 large trenches, Trench A has the front wall of No.50 Richards Road, Trench B has the front cellars of No.52 and 54 Richards Road and a passage into the back yards, the biggest trench , trench C has the back yards of 4 houses and an outhouse.

This is the third year of this project and its getting better each year, this year we have been looking for evidence of light trades and home-working, trades such as button-making and handle-finishing, we have found evidence of this in previous years. Our work will be supported this year by an exhibition all about trades in Heeley 100 years ago at Kelham Island Museum.

I spent most of the Day supervising volunteers and the trenches. Today we had about 40? volunteers or visitors to the site (it might be more, not had time to add everyone up yet) all the children are getting credit for their involvement through the Children’s University so i spend some time registering people for this.

We had a visit from a local Heritage Photographer who is artist in residence at the moment in the Archaeology Department at Sheffield University he took lots of lovely photos of people at work in the trenches as well as a few of our reconstructed Iron Age Roundhouse which happens to be in the same field as the trenches.

We finished and packed up at 4, I said some sad goodbyes to volunteers digging for their last day, tidied and locked up up our finds room and came to do some paper work.

I’m working on getting ready for a lovely new storytelling project next week, a summer holiday week of activities built around a historical mystery with lots of trips out for 9 to 11 year old’s.

Community Heritage always involves doing at least 3 projects at once. its now 5.30 and I’m going to walk home for my tea.

2. Getting started in Archaeology: volunteering and studying as a part-time mature student

Getting started in archaeology: volunteering and studying as a part-time mature student

I’m going to explain how and why I came into archaeology (which will discuss volunteering and studying as a part-time mature student), and why I went into the field of early medieval archaeology. I hope this will show the positive effects of history and archaeology in schools, the role of museums in stimulating interest, and the significance of public access to archaeology. It will also hopefully provide some insight into the value of education, and the challenges of studying archaeology as a mature student.

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