Solving the puzzle of broken artifacts in the 1996 JMM expansion collection

Posted on January 20th, 2014 by

An ironstone plate with a maker’s mark on the base.

An ironstone plate with a maker’s mark on the base.

Despite what we see in museum exhibits, it’s not often that whole, unbroken artifacts are found during archaeological excavations. Most of what an archaeologist might uncover during an excavation of an urban site are small, broken pieces of artifacts like glass and ceramic vessels. These pieces are referred to as “sherds.” The archaeological collection from the 1996 JMM expansion has bags and bags of glass and ceramic sherds, and it fell to Carlyn and me to try to see if we could piece them together into complete artifacts!

Intern Molly works to mend glass oil lamp chimneys.

Intern Molly works to mend glass oil lamp chimneys.

When sherds have traces of decoration, like painted decoration on ceramics or embossed words on glass bottles, it can be very easy to find matching pieces and “mend” them. It’s also easy to find matching pieces of distinctive artifacts, such as a cup made from an unusual color of glass or a very large ceramic pot. But sometimes it can be much more difficult – one group of artifacts that we dealt with was several bags of small, nondescript clear glass sherds. We were able to tell based on how thin the glass was and the curve of the larger pieces that these sherds came from glass oil lamp chimneys, but even with that knowledge, it was very hard to piece together the sherds!

Intern Carlyn admires a mended stoneware pot.

Intern Carlyn admires a mended stoneware pot.

We were only mending artifacts so that we could keep records of what pieces go together in the collection, so we used tape to hold pieces together or folded paper and other creative solutions to temporarily rebuild artifacts. When artifacts are mended permanently, special glues and other archival means are used to mend broken pieces of an artifact to create the attractive complete artifacts seen on display in museums.

A "mended" 19th century men's vest with pockets.

A “mended” 19th century men’s vest with pockets.

We also had to work to “mend” some artifacts that were not glass or ceramic, such as a cloth vest or pieces of shoes.  At times, mending can be frustrating work, but it’s a lot like doing a very interesting puzzle, and the results when you can piece things together are really amazing!

An ironstone chamberpot with decorative molded handles.

An ironstone chamberpot with decorative molded handles.

A blog post by Collections Interns Carlyn Thomas and Molly Greenhouse. To read more posts from JMM interns, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Mystery Items from the 1996 JMM Expansion

Posted on November 21st, 2013 by

During the expansion of the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 1996 there were many forgotten artifacts and objects that were found in the grounds beneath the land surrounding the museum and synagogues.  My fellow Urban Archeology intern, Molly, and I have been examining these forgotten objects, cataloging, cleaning and photographing them. Most of the materials we handle are different fragments of bottles, glass, ceramics and metal, as well as some unidentified objects.

We have been able to identify the genre of most of the objects, and through research we have been able to pin point dates, regions and companies that certain artifacts originated from. However, amongst the hundreds of objects there have been a handful that we have had to make educated guesses as to what they are, and others are completely miscellaneous and unidentifiable.

Here are some pictures of individual objects that we believe to have identified, and others which we are still uncertain of. Take a look and see if you can guess what they are, what you think they could be or what it may have been used for! If you have any input, send us an email at jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

object A

object A

object B

object B

object C

object C

object D

object D

object E (view 1)

object E (view 1)

object E (view 2)

object E (view 2)

object F

object F

 

 

Did you try and guess what they are? Here are our findings and educated guesses:

Object A: We believe it is the sole of or part of a shoe.

Object B: Purse/small bag clasps.

Object C: We believe it to be part of a lid of an ornamental ceramic jar.

Object D: We think it is the arm of a small porcelain doll.

Object E: We have absolutely no idea what the material or object is or what it was used for.

Object F: It is clearly made of wood, but we have no idea what this would have been used for.

A blog post by Collections Intern Carlyn Thomas. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Revisiting the JMM 1996 Expansion Part 2: More Bottles

Posted on October 16th, 2013 by

While going through the boxes of artifacts collected from the 1996 expansions, Carlyn and I have gone through a huge variety of glass and ceramic fragments. Some are very small and plain and it seems like there is not much to be said about them, or some fragments only contain small parts of words or designs that we are unable to decode even if we dig through all the resources available to us on the internet. However, when we find bottles or fragments that can provide a lot of interesting information, it’s very exciting!

Cheesebrough Manufacturing Company, Vaseline jar

Cheesebrough Manufacturing Company, Vaseline jar

One of the types of artifacts that I think are the most interesting is nineteenth century apothecary and medicine bottles. Because at this time it was common to have names of products or other propriety information embossed on the glass bottles themselves (as opposed to using paper labels), the designs and words on the glass bottles often contain a lot of information that can allow us to date the bottles very accurately. A small glass jar embossed with “Cheesebrough Mfc Co” and “Vaseline,” for example, obviously contained Vaseline, but we were able compare the exact design that the words are in and the style of the jar (which would have had a cork closure) to databases of other antique Vaseline jars that have been accurately dated, and we found that this exact jar was probably from the late 1880s.

E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s Rubifoam, "teeth cologne"

E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s Rubifoam, “teeth cologne”

Another interesting apothecary bottle we found in our collection was a small flat bottle that would have held E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s Rubifoam (pronounced “ruby-foam;” it was a bright red liquid) for the teeth. This was a “cologne” for the teeth, first introduced in 1887.

My favorite apothecary bottle in the collection is one from the pharmacy of Howard C. Silver, which was just down the street from JMM at the corner of Central Ave. and Fayette St. This bottle was initially difficult to research, since I could not find much information about the pharmacy, but once I tried researching Howard himself, I was able to find loads of information about him and his career in Baltimore. Howard C. Silver was an alumni (class of 1888) of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and apparently operated a pharmacy at N. Central Ave. and E. Fayette St. He is referenced multiple times in “hospital bulletins” from the UMD School of Medicine, which include lists of alumni. He was born in 1861, possibly in West Virginia, and was living in Baltimore by 1910. His wife was Mary M. Silver. He died Oct 22, 1933 of coronary thrombosis at the age of 72. Several memorial funds, fellowships, and scholarships at the School of Medicine exist in his memory or from his donations to the school, including the “Dr. Howard C. Silver Loan Fund” and the “Dr. Howard C. Silver Memorial Student Fellowship in Family Medicine.” It is amazing that a few pieces of a glass bottle found during some construction allow us to find out so much about one man’s life.

bottle fragments from Howard Silver's pharmacy.

bottle fragments from Howard Silver’s pharmacy.

close up of upper fragment

close up of upper fragment

close up of lower right fragment

close up of lower right fragment

A blog post from Collections Intern Molly Greenhouse. To read more posts from JMM interns, click here.

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Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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