By Jess Hughston
The organization of the Project 400 formal lab component is reflective of a broader movement within the discipline to include stakeholders and members of the broader community in the interpretation of their histories. Collections management and processing of archaeological materials has traditionally remained an exclusive activity that takes place out of view of the public. At Plimoth Plantation, Curator of Collections, Kate Ness has been working to move collections processing out of secluded spaces and into the public eye.
Field school students are working in the museum’s newly relocated archaeology lab in the Visitor Center with the primary aim of encouraging public interaction with the aspects of artifact analysis and interpretation that they are so often excluded from. The lab itself is set-up in the museum’s inviting gallery space. The artifact processing tables are arranged in a horseshoe configuration where field students at work are facing outward in all directions. Their activities can be viewed through a window-lined wall that faces the museum courtyard. In addition, museum patrons are invited to enter the space where they can ask questions and interact with the archaeologists at work.
Materials processed within the lab space include previously held collections at Plimoth Plantation and artifacts recovered this season from Burial Hill and Cole’s Hill. Engaging with both sets of materials permits students to contribute to Plimoth Plantation’s efforts to universalize their system of collections tracking, which includes digitalization for increased accessibility, and to provide an additional layer of transparency for collaborators, stakeholders and community members that are closely following this year’s excavations.
Jess Hughston is a graduate student in the Historical Archaeology MA program at UMass Boston.