Journey from the Field to the Museum

Posted on July 31, 2013 by

Erin PruhsA blog post by Archaeology Intern Erin Pruhs. Erin works under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Erin and the other interns, click here.

Most people when they think of archaeology may think of Indiana Jones. Although those movies may have made some people more interested in the idea of archaeology, it does not actually show anything close to what archaeologist do.  I’m not saying that archaeologists are not trying to fight off grave/site robbers, because that part is pretty true, but I’m more referring to the lack of proper procedures and practices seen.

Image from an excavation at Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Image from an excavation at Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland has a surprisingly large collection of archaeological materials from various excavations around the building because of renovations; objects date back to about 100 years ago.  Whenever something is built, an archaeological team has to step in and make sure that there is not anything of extreme importance in the ground that they may be building on. The actual procedure is quite timely and may consist of: walking the grounds, filing paperwork, waiting to get approval, digging small test areas, expanding into larger areas, filling out paperwork for everything done, bagging and tagging objects and processing and storing everything in the lab or museum.  From there, what the public sees or hears about is a very small portion of what was actually found, and museums tend to only put out the “pretty” objects for display.

There is some good news.  The idea of public archaeology is becoming more and more common.  Public archaeology is trying to make an effort in making the public more aware of the different projects that happen and hopefully to gain some interest.  I have been an archaeologist for a few years now and have gone on various digs and participated in a variety of public archaeological opportunities.  What is the hope for the future? For me, it is just to make people have a better understanding of what actually happens in the field of archaeology.  Sure, old things in museums are cool, but the question is: how did they get there?

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