What’s in Your NPS Archeology Collections? Take a Look at Gateway!

Here in the NMSC archeology lab, we love writing for our blog.  A lot of the work we do involves detailed, precise, painstaking tasks that are crucial to collections management.  We sort, organize, order, and label.  We check, check, and check again to make sure that numbers are correct and that tags and labels coincide with the right artifacts.  We like this work…we take pride in the fact that when a collection goes home to a park, it goes home neat, organized, and accessible.

The process of cataloging a collection always involves a certain amount of research, but because of project deadlines, it’s usually limited to determining the type, function, portion, and sometimes origin of an object.  Every now and then, however, an artifact inspires us to look a little closer and dig a little deeper.  These are the objects you see highlighted on our blog.

Writing for our blog allows us to take a little time out from the day-to-day to focus on one small piece of history.  Delving into the history behind an artifact provides us with that connection to material culture that first attracted us to this field.  It is a privilege and an honor to share what we learn through our research with the parks that curate these collections, with the public, and with you, our readers.

Case in point:  the archeology collections from Gateway National Recreation Area (GATE) that we cataloged this past year.  We cataloged almost 50,000 artifacts from GATE in 2015.  We examined, identified, and cataloged every single one, but for me, researching the stoneware mineral water bottles from the Cove House for a blog post is what connected me personally to the site and the collection.

What else is in the GATE collections?   A lot!  Here’s a sneak preview….but be sure to click on the links below to see and learn more!

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We cataloged two major collections from GATE this year:  one from the site of the VanDeventer-Fountain House, built ca. 1786 and demolished in 1903, and one from the site of the Cove House, built ca. 1780 and destroyed by fire ca. 1855.  We do not have the time or funding to research all of the artifacts in a collection to the extent that we did the stoneware bottles.  That leaves a lot of great research up for grabs!  Take a look at our summaries of the VanDeventer-Fountain House collection and the Cove House site collection to get an idea of all of the fascinating artifacts contained in these collections.

Take our word for it:  for every artifact you see explored in detail in our posts, there are thousands more in NPS archeological collections.  There are stories waiting to be told and questions waiting to be answered.  Archeological collections are treasure troves of untold history.  Intrigued?  We hope so!



About JessicaC

Jessica is a Museum Specialist in the Archeology Program at the Northeast Museum Services Center/National Park Service. She majored in history as an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and has a master's degree in historical archeology from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She is particularly interested in 18th and 19th century American history and material culture.
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