Thursday, September 22, 2011

Student Josephine Curtis in Palm Beach County

I had a priceless experience interning for Palm Beach County Archaeologist Christian Davenport in summer 2011. I gained valuable experience in the lab working with column samples and artifacts. In the lab, I worked on the fine sort of a column sample that Mr. Davenport, his interns, and volunteers excavated the previous summer at Dubios Park. While there I learned to process a column sample for a finer sort later and establish a chain of custody of artifacts. I also trained a new volunteer to process the column sample.  Mr. Davenport was not doing much fieldwork while I was there, so he sent me to volunteer with another archaeologist so that I would gain field experience and learn more about the cultural resource management side of archaeology. My experience also went beyond the lab, as I had the opportunity to attend outreach talks, sit in on a historical resource review board meeting,and more. On several occasions, I helped the Belle Glade Historical Society inventory and organize its collection of artifacts. Every day, until my last day spent working on the historical documentation of buildings to go on record in the Florida State Office, was a new lesson on a different aspect of archaeology.

Josie on a survey.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Student Kaman Law at the Evansville Museum

During the summer of 2011, I had the privilege to work at the Evansville Museum as a paid assistant for the Museum Collection Movement Project. As funded by the Evansville Museum’s Reaching for the Star capital campaign, the museum has constructed a new state-of-the-art collection storage facility on site to replace the old one. For 12 weeks and 240 hours, I worked alongside the Curator of Collections, Mary Bower, and Registrar, Liz Fuhrman-Bragg, to transport the objects from the old storage unit to the new one. Since we cannot safely move the collection while the museum is filled with visitors, we mainly worked night shifts. In addition to moving the objects, we also cleaned, photographed, wrote condition reports, and created custom-made containers.

Kaman cleans a textile piece.
I gained experience on the proper cleaning methods for various types of items, including paintings, metal, wood, ceramic, and textile. Vacuuming the backs of canvases quickly became my favorite pastime. However, customizing boxes from scratch is the activity I enjoyed the most this summer. It takes much practice to create the perfect container to store the artifact or artwork as well as math skills and a lot of patience. Each box can take up to two hours to make if it requires a lid. Thus, every box is an artwork of its own.

A bust in a box made by Kaman.
In addition, I learned more about the history of Evansville through interacting with the collection. Despite the many long nights at the museum, I had a wonderful time working with my fellow colleagues and volunteers. It was a summer I will never forget.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Student Katy Schmidt at the Lower Pecos Rock Art Recording Center and Preservation Project

I spent this past summer in Comstock, Texas participating in a field school through the Lower Pecos Rock Art Recording and Preservation Project sponsored by SHUMLA, a nonprofit archaeological education and research center. In the field school we learned reserch methods and how to properly record the rock art of the area. Some of the stages of the recording process are figure identification, initial figure counts, figure photographs, making forms for the figures, figure illustration, and putting all of the information about a figure into a data base. Each figure got its own set of forms in which we recorded all information about that figure. During the field school we recorded a site known as Panther Cave in Seminole Canyon. The site is endangered due to rising humidity resulting from the Amistad Reservoir and from mud-daubers nesting in the cave. During the field school we clocked in thousands of man hours and recorded hundreds of figures.

After the field school ended in June and the other students left I stayed on at SHUMLA as an intern until the beginning of August. For the internship I was responsible for figure illustrations, attribute checks on the figures, field checks of all of the attributes in the field, and entering data into the SHUMLA database for each figure recorded. During the internship I also had the chance to work on rock art from the site of Delicato. The figures at Delicato are badly damaged from dust deposits and very difficult to see at times. This is one of the reasons why it needed to be recorded. Luckily we managed to finish the recording process during the summer. All in all, my field school and internship experiences this past summer were very rewarding and enjoyable.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Student Rachel Lawrence at Porolissum, Romania

In summer 2011 I spent just under 6 weeks in Romania on the Porolissum Forum Project and I had the time of my life. I flew in to the city of Cluj-Napoca, an ancient city in Transylvania settled by the Romans, and there I met the rest of the field crew. We were given a tour of Cluj before heading toward Porolissum. We stopped at a Roman military site and explored the ruins, a salt mine that has been in use since pre-Roman times (used by Dacians), and finally we arrived at Porolissum. Porolissum is a very large Roman military site that was on the border between the Empire and Barbaricum. It controlled a number of local forts that were much smaller, and we were able to visit some of them on weekend trips. On weekends, we took local trips or one organized by the Project to the northern part of Romania, Maramures, famous for its gorgeous woodcarvings and maintaining traditional practices.

Rachel in Trench 11, framed by the two Roman walls; check out the hypocaust!
At the site, we opened six trenches over the course of the five weeks we excavated. We were digging in an area we thought was the forum and I was placed in what was believed to be the basilica. In my original trench, we found a large wall with the plaster still intact, and then a smaller wall in the same trench. The wall ran through another trench that was right next to the original, and we found a concentration of tiles. We found three separate hypocaust systems (ancient heating), as well as several stamped tiles, some of which had finger prints and paw prints on them. This season unearthed quite a few coins, some excellent bones (animal, not human…sorry!), wonderful pottery, glass, bronze and iron, and even some pieces of wood. One day, we found a bronze disk with wood still attached and the nail through it! Some days we would wash the artifacts, and a few times I remained at the camp and catalogued. Local Romanians helped us with the excavation, taught us some of the language, and we grew into a family. It was an incredible experience.

Rachel at Castle Dracula.
My favorite bit was in the fourth week. The site director gave me permission to leave the excavation and do research on Vlad the Impaler, the subject of my senior thesis. I went to Bucharest (the capital of Romania) and saw the palace there, as well as his alleged grave. I visited T├órgoviste, the medieval capital that still contains Vlad’s palace, and ended my journey with visiting Castle Dracula, Vlad’s mountain fortress. To finally see everything I wanted to see was indescribably awesome for me.

Alumna Stephanie F. at the Smithsonian

Click here to read alumna Stephanie F.'s blog entry describing her summer internship at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Student Elizabeth Bostelman at Prince William Forest Park, VA

Working in the park collections.
This summer I spent twelve weeks at Prince William Forest Park about 30 miles outside of Washington D.C. as a Cultural Resource Diversity Intern.  Before I tell you all about my project, let me give you a little history on the park. The park was created as a Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA) in the late 1930’s during the New Deal Era. Chopawamsic RDA, as it was called then, was built to be the model for other RDAs built across the country. Two small towns and many farmers were displaced to create the 13,000 acres of park land you see today. The Civilian Conservation Corps followed the farmers and built five cabin camps in the park, which are still used today. During World War II the park was taken over by the OSS, a precursor to the CIA, for training purposes. After World War II the park was turned back over to the Park Service.

Fast forward to 2011 and the park is having its 75th anniversary. Remember those towns that were displaced to create the park? Well the people who lived there left something behind……….48 cemeteries. The problem was no one knew who actually owned the cemeteries. This made it difficult for the park employees to form any kind of management plan, so my job was to discover who owned the cemeteries.

By the end of the summer I had confirmed the ownership status of 40 of the 48 cemeteries. Thirty-one of the cemeteries are owned by the park and nine are owned by the families who used to live on the land. Some of the sources I used to discover the ownership status were local researchers, a trip to the National Archives and sitting at the computer going through pages and pages of digitized deeds. Since many of the cemeteries were away from the trails in the park, this project also involved a lot of work with GIS. I definitely sharpened my GIS skills this summer!

One of the highlights of the summer was getting to participate in the 75th anniversary camp out. The other Resource Management interns and I were put in charge of the Camp Olympics. We had to plan all the games and work with Maintenance to ensure we had all our supplies. Some of the games we had were tug-of-war, an obstacle course, and the classic egg and spoon race. It was a great weekend enjoyed by the guests and staff alike!

There are so many more adventures I could tell you about: why I spent a day all muddy from head to toe, the copperheads, 4th of July in D.C., the list could go on for many more pages! I loved every minute of my summer and loved the program I was involved in. For those of you that are interested for next summer check out the website at the top and if you’re not convinced yet, this might entice you. It’s a paid internship! If you want to hear more about what I did, come find me on campus! I’d love to tell you!

All of the inerns and supervisors.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Student Marley Rardin at Courson Archaeological Research

In summer 2011 I participated in the Courson Archaeological Research (CAR)
project in Perryton, TX, right outside Amarillo.  The Courson project includes multiple sites on land owned by Mr. Courson, who has a huge interest in archaeology and the plains area of Texas.  Since 2000, geophysical surveys and archaeological survey and excavation projects have been carried on land used for grazing cattle and for farming.  For the first two weeks of this three-week project in 2011, I dug test pits at an Archaic site called Spider Peak; we found a lot of chert debitage as well as bison bone fragments.  During the third week, when I was not in the lab, I had the chance to use a metal detector twice as we searched for historic sites with metal remains that may have been used by Native Americans, soldiers, or both.

Marley (center) on a windy day at Spider Peak.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Student Leah Thomas at George Washington's Mount Vernon

During the summer of 2011, I had the privilege to intern with the Archaeology Lab at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

George Washington's Mount Vernon.
My assigned research project focused on 18th century dining practices, and contributed to a larger project concerning Mount Vernon’s South Grove Midden site. I was also given the opportunity to assist with the lesson plans for a teacher’s workshop entitled From Mansion to Midden, as well as participate in the Day of Archaeology and post weekly updates to the Facebook page “Mount Vernon’s Mystery Midden.” As part of this latter initiative, I also composed a blog entry that summarizes my research, and can be viewed in part below:

During the 1600s, a typical meal in a colonial home consisted of ingredients that were mixed together and cooked in one pot, then eaten out of simple, plain, shared vessels. However, a cultural shift occurred during the first few decades of the 1700s that emphasized a more elite style of dining and a wish to showcase food, leading to an explosion in the variety of dining objects. For my project this summer, I gathered data on these specialized vessel and utensil forms from six different museum sources, an analysis of which shows that the highest variety in dining object forms occurs during the 1750s.

Porringer with Rococo shell motif, excavated from Mount Vernon’s
South Grove Midden site, ca. 1740-1775.
I explored one explanation for this trend during my summer at Mount Vernon; namely, that the 1750s corresponds to the beginning of the Rococo period in the American colonies. As a decorative art, dining objects became a natural outlet for the creativity of this new style. Consequently, the colonial elite were attempting to keep up with current European fashions by choosing objects in this new Rococo style to grace their tables. These objects, now displayed in museum collections, reveal a world of lighthearted attitudes, extravagant entertainment, and dining rooms filled with laughter, fine food, and ornamented tables.