Digging into the Collections May 17, 2016

Introduction

One of the tasks that I was given after arriving at Ohio History Connection was to enter information from the archaeology collection files into one of the databases.  Doing so would not only make it easier for staff to search our collections, but would also make the collections more accessible to the public as descriptions and basic information about the collections are downloaded into our online catalog.  An additional bonus for me was the opportunity to get to know the collections- the types of artifacts, where they’re from, who donated them, how they were collected, etc.

What surprised me was the extent (wow! There are a lot of artifacts here!) and variability of the collection.  Not only does the collection contain artifacts from some of Ohio’s best known American Indian and historic sites, but it also contains numerous materials from other states- from Florida to New York, North Carolina to Hawaii- and over 35 countries!  Some of these items predate American civilization (Mousterian tools which date to about 40,000 BC) while others are modern in construction (Filipino bolos from the 1950s).

Why does Ohio History Connection house such diverse artifacts?

In the early days of the institution (back when it was called the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Museum), it happily accepted donations that pertained to any type of archaeology or history.  So a lot of the more eclectic items were personal souvenirs from Ohioans’ travels or specific items that they collected because they thought it would be cool for the museum to have on display.  I mean, who wouldn’t think an Egyptian mummy and sarcophagus would be great to display in an exhibit in Columbus, Ohio?

Unfortunately, most of these artifacts are currently neither on exhibit nor available to view online.  As you may know, the archaeology department has over 5,000 collections and a million artifacts!  Several of these may have been on exhibit in previous years closer to their arrival at Ohio History Connection, a majority of which was prior to 1970.  The process of putting these artifacts online, which the archaeology department is trying to do, is slow due to the numbers.

So how can you learn about these items in the meantime?  Besides coming here to the Ohio History Center to research them yourselves, you can read this blog!  Every month or so I will be writing an entry about some of the artifacts in the collection that I find interesting- whether it is because of the object themselves, where they’re from, or how they got here.  Each of these objects in the collection have many stories to tell, and I hope to share a couple of them with you.  Hopefully, you’ll find them interesting too!

Posted May 17, 2016

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