Department of Historic Resources

A Day at the Department of Historic Resources

Welcome to the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond, Virginia!  My name is Maura Stephens, and I am an intern here at the DHR.  The Department works alongside many museums and organizations across the state in order to preserve and promote Virginia’s fascinating and important history.  Our facilities include a conservation laboratory and a study collections room.

Our study collections room

This is the DHR's study collections room. Here, visiting researchers can view and study artifacts from our collections.

The artifacts housed in the collections room are just a small sample of what we have.  In our large storage area, we have over 7000 boxes and millions of individual artifacts from archaeological sites all over Virginia.

The DHR storage room

This is just one of dozens of rows in our storage room. Boxes as far as the eye can see!

A typical day for me includes washing artifacts, bagging and labeling them, storing and sorting boxes of artifacts in the storage room, and doing research.  Today specifically, I and a couple of high school volunteers are washing artifacts that were delivered to the DHR earlier this week.  They are from a clay smoking pipe factory that operated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Pamplin, Virginia (44AP01).

Volunteers washing artifacts

Here are two of our volunteers washing artifacts from the clay smoking pipe factory in Pamplin, Virginia.

I have been researching the Pamplin pipe factory this summer, and I have also been designing an exhibit that will be on display in the Department.  We have hundreds of the pipes in many styles and colors in our collections, and I have grown quite fond of them over the past couple of months!

Two Pamplin smoking pipes

Here are two examples of Pamplin smoking pipes. The style of the pipe on the left is called "Ole Virginny Shaker" and the one on the right is an "Akron Hamburg."

As well as washing pipe and sagger fragments with the volunteers, I am sorting washed and dried pipes by style and bagging and labeling them for storage.  I also bag other artifacts from the site, such as brick fragments and glass shards.


I have learned a great deal while working at the DHR this summer, and I look forward to more experiences in the wonderful field of archaeology!

The Big Picture: Archaeological Records after the Project is Done

Greetings! I’m Jolene Smith. I work for the Department of Historic Resources in Virginia, USA. I decided to post on Day of Archaeology because I am most certainly not what most people would consider a “typical” archaeologist. I manage digital and paper records and mapping for nearly 43,000 recorded archaeological sites in Virginia through our government agency, which is also the State Historic Preservation Office.

Sometimes I miss being out in the field, but certainly not today. It’s currently 100°F/38°C outside at lunch time, so I’m very happy in my air conditioned office cubicle.

Distribution of Sites in Virginia by County

Distribution of Recorded Archaeological Sites in Virginia (work-in-progress!)

My work so far today has been very heavy on GIS (Geographic Information Systems). I spent the morning creating a quick map showing the density of recorded sites in Virginia’s counties for a publication of the Archeological Society of Virginia (our state’s wonderful avocational archaeological organization). It’s still a major work-in-progress, but I’m happy I was able to easily generate this data. The ASV hopes to use this info as a guide for where to conduct future archaeological surveys. With a little more work, I’ll be able to clean up some errors, pretty it up, and label everything so the data will be easily understandable.

I spent much of the rest of the morning working on creating records for a large project conducted by a CRM (cultural resource management) consultant, making sure the GIS mapping is accurate and matches the information in our databases and in the printed site form records. Quality control is a big part of what I do. It’s fundamental to remember that archaeology is inherently destructive, so it’s critical to have good, clear records.

Here’s what I have on tap for the rest of the day: I’ll work with some more consultants to create records for new archaeological sites and add information to previously recorded sites. I’ll also be responding to a few emails from members of the public interested in recording small cemeteries in our inventory. Then, I’ll probably review a few archaeological projects that have been conducted at the future sites of mobile phone/telecommunications towers as part of Section 106 compliance to make sure that there won’t be impacts to important archaeological deposits. Quite a variety, isn’t it?