Philadelphia Archaeological Forum

Carol Nickolai – My Day in Random Archaeology

The house just after the gas explosion.

The house just after the gas explosion.

The only archaeology I planned for the day was the one I barely touched. I’ve been working on a book review for Historical Archaeology, but I couldn’t bring myself to stay inside — and stay hungry — all day so I went out for lunch at my favorite cafe. My errands took me past a place where a gas problem caused a house to explode and burn and destroy the house on one side and part of a condo complex on the other (no injuries! thankfully the people smelled the gas and started evacuating their neighbors before it exploded). I stopped to see how the re-construction on the condo complex is coming along and to look at the mounds of earth and rock where the two houses were demolished after the fire. I wonder what happened to the things it wasn’t safe for people to retrieve, are those things buried here or were they separated for the residents to go through during demolition? Sometimes I find little bits of things, some not surprising like pieces of ceramic and some almost tragic like half of a flip-style cell phone. And I try not to think about what my apartment would look like if this happened; what’s the point of a fireproof box if you can’t get to it? Sometimes I’m tempted by a little experimental archaeology excavating the houses, and think about what it means for future archaeology that the places we live and work will be almost devoid of “stuff”. At the cafe, I read a magazine article about the use of pneumatic tubes in the late 19th and early 20th century — I remember my Mom using these at the drive-through windows of banks, though I don’t know if banks still use them. A couple of technology companies want to use these to build high-speed transport for people between major cities. Considering how often it seemed the bank containers got stuck somewhere in the system, I’m not ready to ride in one myself! Finally I checked on the repair work going on in my new apartment, a 1915 building which might have some original woodwork under all the paint, and went back to my early 1970s apartment building to work on that book review — my friends have always laughed that in 20 years in Philadelphia this historical archaeologist has never lived in an old building!

Carol A. Nickolai, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, Community College of Philadelphia
Adjunct Instructor of Anthropology, Rowan University

Historical Archaeology New Technologies and Community

Glen Muschio –
A Day of Archaeology, 2014

As an associate professor of Digital Media at Drexel University and as a cultural anthropologist my interests focus on using digital technologies to explore issues relating to cultural heritage. I work with digital media students, Philadelphia area archaeologists, operators of historic sites and archaeologists, historians and museum curators at Independence National Historical Park (INHP) to produce 3D digital models of historical artifacts, structures and sites. Several of the 3D house models are visualizations based on archaeological evidence and historical documents. One such model is the James Oronoco Dexter House.
Dexter House original model

The archaeological remains of the house were discovered during excavations conducted in 2001-2003 in association with the construction of the National Constitution Center on INHP grounds. The Dexter House is of considerable historic interest, it was occupied in the 1790’s by James Oronoco Dexter, a manumitted slave active in Philadelphia’s emerging African American community. The house was used as a meeting place for discussions relating to the founding of the African Episcopal Church of St Thomas. Historical records document meetings attended by Absalom Jones, the church’s founder and the first ordained African American priest in the Episcopal Church. Other attendees included prominent Philadelphia African Americans and Euro Americans.
Dexter House front and rear

Over the years the 3D model of the Dexter House has developed in consultation with archaeologists and other experts. Each iteration of the model seeks to refine its historic accuracy. The first version was produced in 2005. Helpful critiques led to a 2007 refinement of the exterior house model. In 2012 models of the house interior were produced and the model was placed in a game engine enabling explorers to navigate around the exterior and the first floor interior of the house.
Dexter model Large room

Historically appropriate virtual furnishings were added. Also added were virtual ceramic artifacts produced from 3D scans of artifacts excavated at the archaeological site and believed to be associated with Dexter’s occupation of the house.
James Dexter Model

Last night the latest iteration of the model was shown to members of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF) and demonstrated in the Oculus Rift, a head mounted 3D immersive display system enabling wearers to virtually stroll around the exterior and interior of the house.
Matt and Chester demo prep
We also discussed plans to produce 3D interior models of the 2nd floor and garret. PAF members provided feedback on preliminary models. The long-range plan is to produce a 3D interactive environment in which visitors to the site can discuss 18th century views on race, religion and class as well as their 21st century legacies and consequences. Today I am reviewing notes from last night’s meeting.

PAF tour

Glen Muschio, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Antionette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design
Drexel University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)

One Day of Archaeology for the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum’s Webmaster

Slide4
Besides my teaching and my public archaeology research, my archaeological life includes serving as webmaster for the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of archaeological resources in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. PAF advises agencies and the general public on archaeological matters and encourages communication about, and support for, the publication of information concerning the archaeology of the city. The group’s webpages are designed to be the ‘go to’ place for information on the area’s archaeology. PAF is open to all and its membership includes, among others, avocational archaeologists, architects, historians, journalists, school teachers, college students, community organizers, university researchers, private sector archaeologists, retired persons, preservation specialists, and museum professionals.

What I did today, July 14th, is coordinate contributions from our area for the Philadelphia Day of Archaeology, which is a local version of the international Day of Archaeology blogging project. The Philadelphia version gathers and collates local project submissions and posts them both at the webpages of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum and at the international project’s blog posting site. The Philadelphia version of the project also welcomes archaeologists as well as anyone else working with or even visiting archaeology resources locally in the Philadelphia area – be they tour guides, media specialists, volunteers, students, local historians, journalists, teachers, preservation specialists, cultural resource managers, park rangers, museum folks, artists, etc., etc. PAF’s localized objective is to learn about, and share information about, what people in the Philadelphia area do with archaeology on a given day. In past years this has included the writing of archaeological reports and the reading of such reports, presenting a tour featuring archaeological sites and excavating a site. We have heard from volunteers washing artifacts for reconstructing objects and from college students photographing artifacts for 3D computational modeling of artifacts. Others used archaeology in preparing and teaching their lectures and graded papers that used archaeology evidence. Some spent their day writing for the public about archaeology and others were evaluating archaeology evidence for a state agency, supervising volunteers on archaeology projects and some just checked the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum Facebook page on the day in question.

So far this year (today) I have been fielding entries from a forensic archaeologist (Kimberlee Sue Moran) teaching teachers at a Forensic Science Education Conference, an historical archaeologist bringing her insights to family history and genealogy studies (Karen Lind Brauer), and a Ph.D. candidate working with volunteers to process artifacts recovered from the oldest extant residential street in the US (Deirdre Kelleher). I’ve been posting write ups about the busy day of the President of a local CRM firm (Kenneth J. Basalik) and the workday of two university researchers (David G. Orr and Michael Stewart). Three individuals are reporting on activities with local archaeology societies in the area (myself, with the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum, and Ilene Grossman-Bailey and Jesse Walker with the Archaeological Society of New Jersey). Lastly, there are three entries I am creating pages for that deal with a local university research effort using cutting edge digital media to interpret African American archaeology in the Philadelphia area (Glen Muschio, Chester Cunanan and Matt Moldzienski).

Taken together, these entries provide an important look at how archaeology is used in our area. By posting these at the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum webpage we can easily demonstrate that both archaeological research and the use of such research results contributes in multiple ways to the Philadelphia area. Forwarded to the international blogging project, these entries stand shoulder to shoulder with the important and exciting work of our global colleagues profiled as part of the international Day of Archaeology project!

Patrice L. Jeppson, Ph.D.
Philadelphia Archaeological Forum
Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA

A Day of Catching Up

Patrice L. Jeppson, Ph.D. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

Today I am digging into the ‘middens’ covering my desk in my home office. In other words, tackling the pile of ‘things needing to be done’ that got sidelined during a heavy teaching load this past spring. First thing I did was organize materials dating back to my Ph.D. dissertation research days. I’ve been gathering slides and papers about that research for scanning so that I can send the information on to a postgraduate student studying at the University of South Africa. This student is researching metal and glass found at several archaeological sites that I worked on in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa – a Methodist mission station, a British fort, a hinterland (British) settler fortified farm, and a town dump site. I am very excited about her project and look forward to seeing what she discovers. I have been promising this material for months but have not had time to get to it.

I next compiled a list of conference papers, publications, courses, and public presentations related to a recently completed National Science Foundation grant. This list was requested by a cultural resource manager at Independence National Historical Park, here in Philadelphia where I live. The park is doing one of its periodic updates of research implications — exhibits, publications, presentations — related to excavations at the site of the National Constitution Center (NCC) in Independence NHP. The grant research, a computational archaeology study based at Drexel University, made use of a ceramic assemblage recovered from the site of the NCC. I have been trying to keep the park and its archive up to date with titles, and if possible, copies of reported findings resulting from our work with their collections. The senior researcher publications are easy to find and forward but I’ve been behind in getting copies of the various undergraduate student research papers and posters. I also added to the list in my capacity as web master for the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. Our local archaeology society has posted popular write- ups of NCC artifacts as part of its ‘Artifact of the Month’ feature (http://www.phillyarchaeology.net/philly-archaeology/artifactindex/july-2013/, http://phillyarchaeology.org/artifacts/feb2011.htm and http://phillyarchaeology.org/artifacts/may2011.htm). I also added to the list several recent publications based upon my own, long-term research at the park. I research how the public makes use of the park’s archaeological resources overtime for national and other social identity uses.

Lastly, I re-edited a few paragraphs I wrote up yesterday for possible use in a small grant proposal that would provide a small sum of money for a project I recently joined up with. The project involves the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust which is a two-hundred year old property. This property is the oldest privately owned piece of land held in African American hands. My involvement = aims to help make the farm’s important history of free blacks after the American Revolution more widely available. One aim of the Trust is to introduce African American high school females to the non-traditional career choice of heritage preservation. My proposal paragraphs are toward this end, trying to secure some funding to help bring female African American high school students together to learn about archaeology as a career – using archaeology at the Dennis Farm as a case study.

I also corresponded with two colleagues today. I wrote to the President of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum in regards to a letter I prepared on behalf of PAF for sending to a local Congressman. We are inviting him to visit a local project during his legislative summer recess. The other email came from a colleague who wrote with a links to a student paper on line at StudyMode.com and a YouTube video of a sock puppet play (see the end of this post for the video, both of which deal with the life of James Oronoko Dexter, an early free black resident in Philadelphia whose house site was excavated here in Philadelphia. Also sent, which I was so interested to see, was a liturgical lesson web site (African American Lectionary, a collaborative project of the African American Pulpit and American Baptist College of Nashville) that references an online video short of a feature video about the archaeological search for James Dexter. The video segment, which features multiple archaeologists and historians, is provided as a talking point for the subject of “why the full history of America, positive and negative, is important”. I found the content of these emails very touching. They help prove that our work is worthwhile – and they make the goal of this Day of Archaeology project all that more relevant! They also lead me to do a google key word search for the Dexter site which led me to a term paper on Dexter that is available for sale at one of those college paper mills!

http://youtu.be/giGHz_yAPbk