2019 Week 5, Part 2

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Field School 2019 – Week 5, Part 2
Skye Stellone — Goucher College

“Cleaning Artifacts in the Laboratory”

During the week of June 24th, I spent most of the week in the Lab. On the first day though, I was out in the field with the rest of my fellow students. While I was there, I worked on leveling one of our 5 by 5 ft. squares with a trowel. Others worked on opening two more squares as well as finishing another.

Two views of a Rhenish blue and gray stoneware mug base

The next day I was in the Lab and I started the day by reading the Lab manual. It went over the process of bagging and cleaning artifacts as well as a review of digging procedures. After that we began work on re-bagging materials from the previous week. This included brick, ceramic, and nails, among others. I then moved on to washing brick the field school had found. Most of it were smaller pieces, but there were a few bigger ones. Then, after lunch and once the brick was done, I began working on metal artifacts. They had to be cleaned with just a toothbrush, due to water being damaging to metal. I was unable to finish them on my first day, so I picked them back up the next day.

Once I finished the metal pieces, we worked on re-bagging more clean items from the week before. This took about an hour. I then worked on dry brushing some charcoal. It’s extremely fragile, so ultimate care is a must. Because of that, it took the majority of the day. I did have an hour left after, so I worked on washing bone and shell. To my surprise, included in the pile were pieces of Native American ceramic with beautiful designs.

For day four, I began by working on cleaning some oyster shells. They were originally excavated in 1998 and were long overdue for a bath. There were a few whole shells, but most were shattered, small pieces. After that was done, I moved on to a huge bag of brick. In it there were two pieces that were about the size of my fist. Brick cleaning continued after lunch and was followed by dry brushing some metal. They were mostly nails and a few were complete. We ended the day by listening to a lecture by Stephanie Whitehead, HSMC’s Conservator, about conservation and the overall process.

For the final day, we started off by bagging the oysters and other material from the day before. This didn’t take too long so we bagged objects that last week’s group cleaned. Once that was finished, I worked on dry brushing charcoal and nails. This lasted till lunch time. After lunch, we got notified that we would be ending at 2:00 due to the heat. So, in my last hour, I dry brushed two pieces of lead shot as well as more metal pieces. I had a great time at the Lab, and I loved getting to know these important parts of our history!