This week we share with you some thoughts from the second of our two college interns this semester. Our interns were great this spring and provided an enormous amount of support for tasks associated with analysis and curation of collections. These students offer a fresh perspective to the curation process and often provide valuable suggestions. We applaud and thank both Krissy Kramer our intern and guest blogger this week and Sean O’Hara from our blog on May 3, 2013.
I’m Krissy Kramer. I am majoring in Public History and minoring in Anthropology at Shippensburg University. After volunteering with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Section of Archaeology for a year-at Fort Hunter, the Farm Show, and in the lab- I decided I’d like to try my hand at an internship.
Intern Krissy Kramer (right) assists Liz Wagner (left) and Andrea Carr (middle) with mapping of a prehistoric level at Fort Hunter (36Da159)
Working with the State Museum, the archaeology lab works to preserve, interpret, and provide the public with information focused around our archaeological heritage. Not all history is written down. History that occurs before writing is deemed prehistoric. As a result, an archaeology site may consist of prehistoric or historic artifacts, or a combination of both. The site that I was specifically looking at was City Island (36Da12), a prehistoric site that also included later historic occupations. As a result, I've dealt with looking at a majority of prehistoric artifacts and ecofacts such as fire-cracked rocks, projectile points, hammerstones, animal bone, and debitage. However, I also identified several historic artifacts such as various glass and ceramic vessels but also nails and the occasional coin, comb, or button.
Block excavation at City Island (36Da12)
From cleaning artifacts, to identifying, labeling, and preserving, this internship has taught me that although tedious, context means nearly everything to the archaeologist. Attention to detail, organization, and patience are key traits to working as an archaeologist. As history often incorporates written documents and artifacts, it’s important to study and preserve artifacts correctly in order to fill in the gaps that exist in the written documents. Similarly, many written documents or oral histories may express biased accounts or exclude certain aspects of a peoples or a culture. So by enhancing these traits I am better able to understand what it is like to be a detective, an archaeologist, a historian. These traits are beneficial to a plethora of careers. With that said, these traits will better prepare me for future careers. While I am highly interested in public history, this internship has provided me with a wide array of tasks accompanied by explanations as to why they are necessary in addition to another field that may coincide and intertwine with public history.
Like many other fields, concepts and ideas are always changing. Archaeological and museum standards continuously change as well. I have thoroughly discovered the challenges of dealing with an excavation that has extended over several years and have been processed to varying degrees of completion. As a result, Andrea, my mentor, and I have taken nearly three months to correct and update all of the artifacts from site 36Da12. To bring the collection up to current standards, we corrected and updated artifact inventories, and rehoused artifacts and ecofacts for long term curation. We also edited existing catalog information for digital entry into Microsoft Access. In addition to sorting out these inconsistencies in the collection, we applied the current artifact coding system of The State Museum of Pennsylvania for inventory purposes. In other words, this code is unique only to their archaeology lab and so we needed to properly catalogue the artifacts and their codes and label their bags accordingly. Needless to say, site 36Da12 required a lot of tender loving care. Although the project is still ongoing, Andrea and I, with the help of other lab volunteers, have bagged, coded, preserved, labeled, boxed, and cataloged nearly all of the artifacts from both the prehistoric and historic levels of occupation at the site. Because of this, I became more familiar with Microsoft Access databases, identifying lithic materials and types of artifacts, correct archival materials for storing artifacts, cataloguing color slides, finding artifact proveniences based off of photographs and grid drawings, and more.
cataloging individual fire-cracked rock specimens from City Island (36Da12) in the lab
In addition to focusing on 36Da12, I was able to assist several other archaeologists and perform various tasks throughout my internship. On certain days, I would assist an archaeologist on another project; often times the site that they are currently focused on. One such task involved uncovering specific artifacts that were provided to the lab by PennDot. Another task involved rehousing artifacts to ensure its protection and preservation. Furthermore, I assisted in storing artifact boxes in the storage area, studied artifacts under a microscope, and helped prepare and photograph artifacts in the photo room.
Join our senior curators Kurt Carr and Janet Johnson as they take the dugout canoe on the road again. This Saturday, May 18th, they will be at the grand opening of the Lancaster Longhouse located at the Hans Herr House and Museum, 1849 Hans Herr Drive, Willow Street, PA. Come check out the replica canoe and the traditional tools used in it's construction from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. For more information about the event visit the following websites. Lancaster Longhouse or Hans Herr House.
For more information, visit PAarchaeology.state.pa.us or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .