Posts Tagged With: curation

The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

Anna Peters visits the Savannah History Museum, a museum noted for their use of local archaeology and artifacts in their exhibits.

The Savannah History Museum: Artifacts to the Dentist’s Chair

On February 11, 2018, I paid a visit to the Savannah History Museum located on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Tricentennial Park. Overall, I enjoyed walking through Savannah’s history from pre-colonization (before 1733) to our modern culture. I also had the pleasure of visiting two additional exhibits, one showcasing the life of Juliette Gordon Low and the other showing the material and artistic culture of southern quilters. The permanent exhibits included artifacts from pre-colonization to colonization, steam locomotion, a Savannah dentist office, the Revolutionary War, and public archaeology in Savannah. My two favorite exhibits of the self-guided tour were the Central of Georgia Railway Company and Dr. Belford’s Dental Office.

The Central of Georgia Railway Company was established in 1835 because cotton shipping through the Savannah port was diminishing. Their rails eventually stretched from Savannah all the way to Macon, GA. Ultimately, the initial process of building this large railway lasted eight years and was completed in 1843. At that time, it was the most extensive railroad in the world. The museum showcased many intact artifacts ranging from tickets, pay stubs, and handbooks to dishes, teaware, and conductor hats. The museum also has a life sized steam locomotive displayed in the middle of all the exhibits.

C of Ga

Objects from the Central of Georgia Railway displayed at the Savannah History Museum.

The other exhibit is a recreation of Dr. William T. Belford’s dental office. For over 60 years, he practiced dentistry here in Savannah working most of his time alone, with no assistant or receptionist. He also continued to use his older equipment well into 1970s until his death in 1980. He purchased his equipment in 1919, so just place yourself in his worn dentist chair and imagine his tools chipping at your teeth. Yikes! Displayed in cases below the reproduced office are some of these actual tools and aids for common teeth problems, with papers and little booklets applying to his work.

Dentist

Part of William Belford’s Dental Office.

The Savannah History Museum should be on every tourist’s “to-see” list and even citizens that need a little brush up on their own town’s history. The museum does its job educating people on Savannah’s history by incorporating hands on activities and involving public speakers dressed in period clothing. Even the horrific wax figures can help a child or adult understand what it was really like to live in that period of time. The continuation of donations and public outreach can really make a big difference in future enhancement of the museum’s exhibits and continue to educate the oncoming generations.

For more information on visiting the Savannah History Museum, click here.

Another student reviewed the Savannah History Museum several years ago. See her posting here.

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Reconstructing the Past

Last* in our student series is Ashley Johnston. Ashley reports on her class project, reconstructing ceramic and glass vessels from the sherds found on a site. Here she looks at how techniques have changed over time.

Archaeologists uncover hundreds of thousands of artifacts, and at times these artifacts can be reconstructed to form a complete or semi-complete object. The process of piecing these puzzles back together has changed over the years, as better technology and products were developed, and as procedures changed to preserve the integrity of the item. A handbook from the 1970s is going to include techniques different from a book from the early 2000s or current websites. Determining which sources to consult when conducting research or reconstructing an object can prove to be a challenge.

One example specifically involving ceramics is the type of tape used for temporarily holding the vessels together before gluing the sherds permanently. The 1976 handbook simply says to use tape or a temporary glue, whereas a current website and a 2003 book say to use masking tape. However, masking tape can leave residue on the artifact, while electrical tape can be left on the object longer and not leave residue behind. What about filling in the gaps where sherds are missing? Both the 1976 and 2003 books suggest using plaster to fill in the holes. The website notes that archaeologists do not always find all the pieces for a complete reconstruction but does not say whether or not to complete the object. By leaving the voids in the object it not only adds character to the artifact, but also preserves its integrity.

Currently, in the Anthropology lab at Armstrong, there are two objects under reconstruction, a kerosene lamp from the Benedictine Monastery site, and a teapot on loan from the Savannah History Museum collections found at Old Fort Jackson in 1970s. The best sources to consult when reconstructing historical artifacts are archaeologists and curators who will know the updated procedures and techniques for that particular artifact type.

Sources Consulted:

Ewen, Charles Robin, Artifacts. Vol. 4. Archaeologist’s Toolkit. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003.

Guldbeck, Per E., The Care of Historical Collections: A Conservation Handbook for the Nonspecialist. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1976.

Intrigue of the Past: Mending pottery.” Learn NC. Accessed April 01, 2017. A resource for K-12 teachers.

 

 *unless some students turn in late work.
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