Journey from the Field to the Museum

Posted on July 31st, 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?

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Preserving the Past: The Challenges that Museums Face

Posted on June 28th, 2013 by

Erin PruhsA blog post by Archaeology Intern Erin Pruhs. Erin is working with the Lloyd Street Synagogue Archaeology Collection under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. You can see other posts by Erin and the rest of our interns here.

As an archaeologist I have a very vested interest in preserving our past. Within most museums there are conservators and collection management professionals that work together to determine the best ways to protect our past. Conservation involves a lot of know-how with a wide variety of materials and objects, like Flags! The Star Spangled Banner Flag, which was sewn at the house that is located on the grounds of The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, had been under extensive conservation over the past few years and is now on display for the public to view at The National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution.

Photo via http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/preservation-project.aspx

Photo via http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/preservation-project.aspx

Conservation began in a laboratory in 1998 where museum visitors observed the conservation process through a 50-foot long glass wall.  In order to figure out the best way to protect and preserve the flag, the current condition of the flag was noted.  After the flag had been properly treated it was photographed.  Due to its size, 73 separate photos were taken and pieced together to get a full image.  After the treatment was completed, the flag was put on display in its new case at a 10 degree angle which provides proper support for the flag and which also allows the best view for visitors.

Photo via http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/preservation-project.aspx

Photo via http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/preservation-project.aspx

Public interaction with museums is important.  Museums offer a distinct learning environment for the public and for schools; it is more than just “pretty things” in display cases – it is a different forum for gaining knowledge.  Objects tell a story and often, as is the case with the Star- Spangled Banner, they are powerful stories.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland