Who Digs in D.C.?

What do you know about the D.C. area, archaeologically? What institutions, organizations, nonprofits, public agencies manage and help preserve our dc archaeological heritage? In upcoming posts, we will be highlighting some of the major D.C. (and surrounding MD and VA) area organizations, who diligently work towards safe-guarding, interpreting, and disseminating our the historical heritage of our Nation’s Capitol City.

These organizations have only expanded in reach, especially since the passing of the NHPA in 1966, a major movement for historic preservation and the field of archaeology. Some of these organizations advise and help guide policies, while others help generate public interest in specific issues. Some make major contributions to areas of study, and others help promote studies through outreach programs. In this way, D.C. manages archaeological heritage on a national but also local scale.

Take a peek, below, at some of these D.C. area organizations!

Comments Sought for New Proposed Rule Concerning the Deaccession of Federally Owned and Administered Collections

By Giovanna Vitelli

Chair, SHA Collections and Curation Committee

The subject of deaccession, or the permanent removal of an object from a museum or historical collection, has long been of concern to historical archaeologists. The SHA has highlighted the issue in recent years and has held workshops and conference sessions on the subject in an effort to bring the topic into the mainstream. We now draw your attention to a proposed amendment to Federal regulations on curation, and are soliciting your comments.

In the United States, regulations known as the “Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections,” or 36 CFR Part 79, were issued in 1990 to address the responsibilities of Federal agencies and others holding Federal collections to archaeological collections in their custody. These regulations did not address the deaccession of archaeological materials, an issue that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is now proposing to remedy through an amendment to 36 CFR Part 79. The proposed amendment will “establish definitions, standards, and procedures to dispose of particular material remains that are determined to be of insufficient archaeological interest.” The proposed amendment (or rule) is expected to “promote more efficient and effective curation of these archeological collections.”

The proposed amendment has been published in the Federal Register (you can access that notice at http://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/Proposed_36_CFR_Part_79_Amendment.pdf). DOI is soliciting comments for its consideration in adopting the amendment. Comments are due on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 and can be submitted electronically, by mail, or by hand delivery to DOI.

SHA also plans to submit comments for DOI’s consideration. To prepare comments that best represent the Society’s membership and its diverse views on this topic, SHA’s Collections and Curation Committee (CCC) invites your input on this important topic. The CCC will collect members’ input and use this input to prepare SHA’s formal comment over President Charlie Ewen’s signature.

CCC member Julie King will be collecting and collating this input for the CCC’s consideration.

Regardless of whether or not you work in the United States or with Federal collections, all SHA members are invited to help shape the Society’s thinking about this important international issue.

The CCC has asked for your comments to be received no later than Tuesday, February 10, 2015. This is a strict cutoff point in order to allow the CCC to review all of the input received and prepare a formal comment that best represents the Society’s membership. Your comments can be sent to Julie by email at jking@smcm.edu.  You can of course comment individually directly to the DOI but we would appreciate your input to the SHA’s formal reply.

Thank you in advance!

Meet a Member: Laura Seifert

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

An Interview with Laura Seifert, Co-director of the Digging Savannah project and Instructor in the Department of Criminal Justice, Social and Political Science at Armstrong Atlantic State University.

What’s the most interesting artifact you’ve ever found?

If I had to pick a single artifact, my favorite would be the small, brass key I found at the St. Johns site in Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland. It was shorter than the length of my finger and perfectly preserved, with a beautifully intricate, teardrop shaped handle.

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)?

The first site I worked on was at the Harriet Tubman house. It was a domestic site, but I don’t remember any specifics. The dig was a day field trip with my Introduction to Historical Archaeology class at Syracuse University.  The last site I worked on was at Old Fort Jackson in Savannah, GA. We were investigating the dome-shaped, soil-over-concrete top of the 1870s powder magazine, which proved to be very complicated logistically. (How to get the dirt into the screen? It was messy.) We had amazing views of the river all the way to downtown Savannah, however it was absolutely freezing (for Savannah).

Fieldwork or labwork?

Fieldwork. Duh.

If you could go back in time for only 10 seconds – where, when, and why?

The western wall of George Washington’s whiskey distillery shortly after its construction: I spent nine months excavating a tiny addition to the building. What was it? The malt kiln?

What are you currently reading?

“On the Rim of the Caribbean: Colonial Georgia and the British Atlantic World” by Paul M. Pressly and thanks to my favorite thrift store, I finally jumped on the “Game of Thrones” bandwagon.

Why are you a member of SHA?

I am a member of SHA for the journal, online access to back issues of the journal, and conferences. I also value the outreach and lobbying we do as an organization (National Geographic, anyone?).  The SHA website is also getting to be an incredible resource with Bill Lindsey’s Historic Bottle Identification Guide and other specialized artifact guides coming online.

At what point in your career did you first join SHA?

When I graduated with my BA in December 2000.

How many years have you been a member (approximately)?

Doing the math, 14 years, but I think I missed a few along the way.

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

The journal, website, and the publications explorer online, because I rarely get to go to conferences any more, and 2015 is not looking good either!