Archaeology Curation

Jessica McCann, The Center for Archaeological Studies

The Curation of Historic Pottery

Jessica McCann

Jessica.mccann2016@gmail.com

Introduction

I conducted an internship at The Center for Archaeological Studies in the spring of 2018. This paper will describe the project of curating pottery from the Wilson Durham Chanlder Pottery Site and the importance of curating artifacts correctly for future study.

The Center for Archaeological Studies, also known as CAS, is the located on Texas State Campus. CAS is a Texas Historical Commission certified repository that curates collects that are gifted, loaned, and acquired. CAS also participates in cultural resource management work for government and non-government agencies (CAS 2016). I completed my internship under Dr. Todd Ahlman, the director of CAS.

The Wilson Durham Chandler Pottery Site

The Wilson Durham Chandler Pottery Site, 41GU4, is located near Capote, Texas (CAS 2016). The site consists of what remains of a pottery manufacturing facility ran by John McKamie Wilson. John McKamie Wilson was a minister that moved from North Carolina to Texas in 1856 to maintain ownership of his slaves (Wilson Pottery Foundation 2013). Once settled in Texas John Wilson found clay good for pottery and hired professional potters to train some of his slaves and opened a pottery business (Wilson Pottery Foundation 2013).

In 1869 after the civil war and emancipation the Hiram Wilson, a former slave, established his own pottery business with other former slaves called H. Wilson and Company Pottery, this lasted until 1884 (CAS 2016). Also in 1869 James and Wallace Wilson, former slaves, bought into the Wilson-Durham-Chandler pottery business that was open until 1903(CAS 2016). The business ultimately closed because of a shift in the market, people no longer needed or used pottery in their everyday life.

The Curation of the Pottery

The collection that I was responsible for curating consisted of lids for jars and lids for butter churns. The collection was divided into two groups based on province within the site. The lids came from two different reject piles within the site next to two different kilns. The kilns are called the Beehive Kiln and the Groundhog Kiln. Pieces of pottery were kept in their collective groups to keep province and context preserved for the benefit of future analysis.

I started with the Beehive Kiln collection first. I sorted the pottery by color and refitted any pieces that I could. I used a mixer of high quality resin and acetone, this mixture is archaically safe and reversible. The Beehive Kiln pottery was sorted into similar color, shape and thickness. Once sorted the pieces where bagged. The same process was repeated with the pottery from the Groundhog Kiln.

All of the bags were entered into an excel sheet and a tag with the details of the contents was placed in the bag. The excel sheet was then uploaded to Past Perfect 5.0. Past Perfect 5.0 is an archival system used by repositories to easily keep track of inventory in the repository and allows for quick and easy location of artifacts. A series of barcodes was produced by Past Perfect and one was put in every bag. This barcode allows the artifact to be easily found within the Past Perfect system. After the pottery was given a barcode the boxes of pottery were shelved in the repository room.

Conclusion

The curation of the Wilson Durham Chandler Pottery was an experience that helped me learn the importance of correctly curating artifacts. It was important to make sure that all the artifact numbers on the tags matched the numbers in Past Perfect 5.0. If the numbers didn’t match the artifact could become “lost”; this means that the artifact is somewhere in the repository but is not in the Past Perfect system. Making sure that everything is correct in Past Perfect ensures that the artifacts are there for future analysis.

Citation

Center for Archaeology, 2016. “Archaeological Research at the Wilson-Durham-Chandler Site, 41GU4, Guadalupe County, Texas.” Texas State website. Accessed 4/28/2018. http://cas.anthropology.txstate.edu/research/projects/otherprojects/wilson.html

Wilson Pottery Foundation, 2013. “The History of Wilson Pottery and the Endeavors of the Post Slavery Potters.” Wilson Pottery website. Accessed 4/28/2018. http://wilsonpotteryfoundation.org/history_of_wilson_pottery.html

About the author

The Internship Coordinator

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