Posted March 29, 2018
Ohio History Connection Externship Journal
My day started at 9am when I met up with Linda Pansing in the lobby of the museum. From there, Linda took me on a tour of museum’s first floor, which contained many interactive exhibits. The first thing I noticed was an enormous Mastodon skeleton. After reading the informational plaque, I discovered that there are no dinosaur remains to be found in Ohio (besides the ones in museums)! Although dinosaurs likely roamed what is now our state, there are no rocks that date back to the era of dinosaurs currently in Ohio’s ground. Instead, the large bones people sometimes discover are often pieces of mastodon, mammoth, or stag moose.
A handful of interesting artifacts stood out to me on my tour. For example, I got to see our state’s official artifact: an impressively intact Adena pipe. Another artifact was a full-sized steel house produced by the Lustron company in the 1950’s. The interior of the home was furnished with 50’s paraphernalia to really create the feeling of having stepped back in time. I also got to see a few artifacts classified as sandal-sole gorgets. These Native American artifacts are carved from shell into a shape that mimics that of the bottom of a sandal. Although the purpose of these artifacts are unknown, most have three holes drilled into them, and some are inscribed with intricate geometric designs or drawings.
Something I learned on the tour that really impacted me was Linda’s response after I asked about the relationship between the museum and the extant members of the Native American groups represented in the museum. Linda answered by explaining that sometimes OHC will send scripts for informational plaques to members of displaced tribes in the West that were removed from Ohio long ago. The museum sends them as a measure to assure the artifacts are being represented in the correct context, and they invite feedback from the Native Americans. Oftentimes the museum will ask questions about the artifacts and history, only to have the Native Americans respond by saying “We don’t know, we were hoping you were the ones who could tell us.” This was a reminder to me that unfortunately, many people were robbed of their culture’s history when the American government forced indigenous people into the west. This made me realize just how important archaeological work is from a humanitarian perspective. Archeology can help contribute to the restoration of history that has been wrongfully erased from groups of people.
Aside from touring the museum, I spent a large portion of my time sorting and labelling artifacts. I was responsible for a set of assorted small objects, some clearly retaining their projectile point shape. I had to paint a small strip on each artifact with a polish that could be written on when dry. Each artifact then had to be labelled with a permanent pen, then sealed with a clear polish and returned to its packaging.
I also really enjoyed the work environment. The collections facility was housed in a set of large warehouses that contained open workspaces, offices, and mazes of shelves and boxes. There were multiple other curators present in addition to Linda, and there was also a volunteer working in the facility as well. I observed an informal meeting around the lunch table where the staff discussed ideas for interactive archaeological exhibits for children. The brainstorming process was relaxed and casual, and while they came up with quite a few good ideas, they also joked and laughed with each other. They discussed museum budgets, and then talked about favorite TV shows. While the group worked well together, most of the work appeared to be done solitarily. Each member had an individual office, and aside from the classical music playing from the office of one curator, the environment was quiet and focused.
So far, I have learned quite a bit, and I definitely enjoy the work and the atmosphere. I look forward to my day tomorrow.