In recent weeks, our TWIPA blog has discussed a number of collections that have been donated to The State Museum of Pennsylvania. Have you ever wondered what happens to these collections once they are cataloged and accessioned into the museum’s inventory? Do they just disappear onto dusty shelves where they never see the light of day again? Does the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark come to mind?
One of the most important uses of the State Museum collections is in scientific or scholarly research. A main objective of the collections policy is to acquire those collections that have research value. Many of these researchers are college students examining collections as part of completing a masters or doctoral thesis. For example, one of our recent visitors, Dan, spent several days conducting research for his doctoral dissertation. With the assistance of the Section of Archaeology curators, Dan’s forensic analysis of physical remains will be utilized to determine Late Woodland population migration patterns of the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Another student, Lucy, spent nearly two months analyzing, measuring, and photographing bifacial and unifacial stone tools from fourteen different prehistoric collections for her master’s thesis at Mercyhurst University. Lucy utilized the State Museum’s extensive collection of artifacts from stratified sites that span the Paleoindian (11700-19800 BP.) through Middle Archaic (6850-10200 BP.) periods. The data she collected will be used to compare to other previous research that will hopefully support her thesis statement.
Philadelphia Pottery Specimens (The State Museum of Pennsylvania)
Some research projects are conducted by students who occasionally spend a semester internship in the Section of Archaeology. These projects are designed to not only provide a learning experience for the intern but to serve a secondary purpose of completing important curatorial work within the section. The results of these projects may be used in many ways including to help better define the collections as a whole. For example, two student interns conducted months of analysis on a group of stone axes, which allowed the specimens to be categorized in a manner that will assist future researchers who need to access this important resource.
Section of Archaeology Intern Measuring and Recording Stone Axes (The State Museum of Pennsylvania)
We hope you’ve enjoyed this “behind the scenes” tour of our curation facility and the important resource we care for on a daily basis. Our preservation efforts along with the research conducted here have enabled archaeologists to further our understanding of the past. Please help us to preserve our archaeological heritage by collecting responsibly and organizing/cataloging your discoveries. We ask you to join us in ensuring that our archaeological heritage is preserved by supporting public programs and preservation laws so that we can protect the past for future generations.