Monthly Archives: February 2016

Image of student presenter

Sharing what you learn – Student presentations

Contributed by Marla Taylor

On the third Tuesday of every month, the Massachusetts Archaeological Society – Gene Winter Chapter invites a guest speaker to their meeting at the Peabody Museum.  For the past six years, Phillips Academy students have been invited to speak about their experiences with archaeology at one of these meetings.

On February 16th, seven students, in three groups, shared their research and work on a variety of topics.

Youth for Restoration: Preserving Local History

Viraj Kumar’s ’17 interest in local history led him to create a non-profit organization that works to preserve and restore local history in Poughquag, New York. He discussed his experiences working with the community on a 19th century grist mill.

Printing History: 3D Rendering of Artifacts

Four students, Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ‘16, were challenged to scan three artifacts from the Peabody Museum’s collection and print them as 3D models.  They discussed the process and highlight some of the implications of this technology for museums and other institutions.

More than Meets the Eye:  19th Century Portrayals of Native Americans

In the 1830s, the first director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs launched an ambitious effort to collect over one hundred portraits of Native Americans.  Veronica Nutting ’16 and Alex Armour’16 investigated three of these paintings at the Peabody–how and when they got here, why they’re important, and how they compare to contemporary depictions of Native Americans.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 50 chapter members, professional archaeologists, and members of the PA community, all the presentations were very well received.  Congratulations to all the students for their hard work!

Check out this article from the Phillipian to learn even more.

Where the Past Meets the Future–The Peabody’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan

We are happy to share the Peabody Museum’s draft strategic plan for 2015-2020, which charts the course for significant projects ranging from improvements to the historic museum building to enhanced physical and intellectual control over archive, photographic, and object holdings.

The plan emphasizes elements of Phillips Academy’s 2014 strategic plan, especially around the pillars of Creativity and Innovation and Equity and Inclusion. Many of the most requested class units at the Peabody explicitly deal with issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, often in the context of Native American history. The new plan underscores the importance of anthropological perspectives in teaching in these areas and encourages continued good partnerships with Native American communities. The pedagogy of collaborative learning is central to the Peabody’s strategic plan, which stresses hands on learning, project- and problem-based learning, experiential learning, and informed discussion in all of the Museum’s student focused programs. Plans to significantly improve collections storage will increase accessibility and ensure that collections are available for use well into the future. Centralized storage of collections within the Peabody building will set the stage for expanded classroom space in the future and allow us to better care for our significant collections.

To read the plan please visit our website  http://www.andover.edu/Museums/MuseumOfArchaeology/Documents/PeabodyPlan2015_2020.pdf

Feedback is welcome! Please contact museum director Ryan Wheeler to share and discuss your ideas. E-mail: rwheeler@andover.edu or Phone: 978.749.4493

A Westerwald Chamber Pot

Contributed by Quinn Rosefsky (Phillips Academy Class of 1959)

As a Peabody Museum volunteer for the past 6 ½ years, I have had the rare opportunity to help staff members with a variety of unique and exciting tasks. Today, I was introduced to a bit of our Colonial history. The object in question is a rather attractive example of its kind, a chamber pot that survived intact from early Colonial days, preserved in a drawer in the Peabody’s basement storage. See the full catalog record online at http://bit.ly/1XVnQd3. Aside from the intrigue of its nearly pristine condition, there is the question of date of manufacture. The Boston City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley, points out that the chamber pot may be from a 1630s well on Boston’s Congress Street. Several avenues of inquiry are open, including details of the well’s exploration and if the well was ultimately used as a privy and refuse dump, a common trajectory for such a feature. But in order to take a stand on the dating issue we need to have an appreciation of the phases of use and manufacture of such pots.

 

The earliest chamber pots date from at least the sixth century B.C. in Greece. In the past four to five hundred years chamber pots were found in nearly every household, usually stored under beds but sometimes in dining rooms. English and Colonial lead-glazed earthenware chamber pots came in a variety of colors: brown, green, red, orange, tortoiseshell, gray, and black. There were also stoneware pots, and some of the more striking ones are known as Westerwald or Rhenish Gray (1575-1725), followed by Debased Westerwald (1725-1775), and then American Westerwald (1730s). In the eighteenth century, these pots were mass-produced.

Not to be ignored were chamber pots made of metal, the earliest example being from 1545. It was possible to assess a person’s wealth by whether or not they had silver or pewter chamber pots. But the English Civil War of the 1640s temporarily spoiled this method because the Royalists conscripted silver and pewter to make silver coinage to fund their war efforts, a practical, if unhygienic way to pay off debt using dirty money without resorting to taxes.

A chamber pot might have a tame inscription, “Break Me Not I Pray in Your Hast for I to Non will Give Destast.” Some showed less decorum, “Oh Dear Me What Do I See.”

The chamber pot at the Peabody is gray, salt-glazed stoneware with cobalt blue cordons beneath the rim and above the base. In remarkable condition, the pot measures 6 ¾” wide at the opening and 6” high. There are no pithy inscriptions, but two cobalt blue bellicose lions, each one crowned, and three stamped rosettes, each filled with four spades and a central diamond, are eye-catching. These lions and rosettes have been “sprigged on,” meaning attached with separately molded designs. The rim tapers upward to a narrow “seat.” For dating purposes, it appears that mid-eighteenth century pots had wider rims. Extending out from the rim is a ribbed handle attached in a manner so that the pot won’t tip. There are no “makers” marks or dates. But comparing the chamber pot under examination with a very similar Westerwald example dated 1632 found in Ivor Noël Hume’s 2001 book, If These Pots Could Talk: Collecting 2,000 Years of British Household Pottery, we see many similarities, including the tapering of the opening, rosettes, and the sprig-applied crowned lions. A valid case can be made for a 1630s date given the similarities with Noël Hume’s text and its preservation in the Congress Street well. But there are other dating possibilities that need to be considered.

With the accession to the throne of England of William and Mary, whose reign spanned the years 1689 to 1702, they brought with them a passion for what was called the Rhenish or Westerwald chamber pot, originating in the Rhineland district of Germany. The style and patterns were very close to what we have at the Peabody, examples of what were called “grès-de-flandres.” By 1710, large supplies of these gray stoneware chamber pots with their sprig-mounted lions and rosettes were being shipped to England. Over the next fifty years, this style of chamber pot was found in most British and Colonial homes. Eventually variations were produced on both sides of the Atlantic, satisfying a combination of hygienic, commercial, and political needs. Later versions of Colonial chamber pots had variations in the rosettes, including a profile relief of George III sprigged onto the side. What better way to pay daily homage to the monarch?

So which date do we choose? In order to settle the debate, I would be happy to fly to Amsterdam with the Peabody’s Westerwald chamber pot tucked under my arm (in bubble wrap) to compare it with the one from Noël Hume’s book. As there is no inflammatory profile of George III, I doubt I would have any difficulties in case the plane had to make an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport. But budget constraints are likely to apply to such a trip and less costly research methods would pertain, such as having a debate amongst archaeological scholars. Whatever the outcome, we have the satisfaction of knowing that this chamber pot, however humble and utilitarian, played a role in the origins of Congress Street prior to its transformation into a thriving financial district.

 

Blubber: It’s what’s for dinner

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

The end of Winter Term has arrived and with it the bitter New England cold, which is fitting given our most popular lesson during this time is our Inuit focused activity, Blubber: It’s What’s for Dinner.

The lesson is part of the History 100 theme related to nomadic people. In the fall 9th graders learn about the Bedouins who travel throughout a desert landscape. During winter term students continue that theme by learning about the Mongols, a nomadic group who live in the Asiatic steppe. Classes examine the Peabody’s arctic collections as a way to support their learning about nomadic societies, giving them a chance to apply concept they have learned in class and applying them to another nomadic culture.

The three extreme environments; desert, temperate grasslands, and the frozen north help to highlight the similarities of the three groups. This allows students to pick out important key aspects that are central to any nomadic group, no matter the landscape they inhabit.

Students move between four stations that are set up around the Peabody and work in groups to determine answers to the following questions:

  • What is each object? How was it used?
  • What is the object made from?
  • Why are the objects grouped together?

As class begins we review what it means to be nomadic and how that might be reflected in material culture. An initial activity emphasizes that everything a nomadic person carries has a purpose and the heavier an item, the more important it might be.

This is illustrated by the object depicted below. Students quickly determine that it is made from stone, which automatically demonstrates its importance.  The shape suggests that it was made to hold something, similar to a bowl. They know that whatever it held had to be extremely important. Some students notice that each bowl has some black markings around the rim. It is usually this revelation that helps students to work towards the correct assumption – the bowl held fire, which in the arctic is central to survival.

This stone blubber lamp was collected by William Duncan Strong in Hopedale, Labrador Canada. You can see charring along the edge as well as a hole in the center to hold the wick.
This stone blubber lamp was collected by William Duncan Strong in Hopedale, Labrador Canada. You can see charring along the edge as well as a hole in the center to hold the wick.

This is one of my favorite lessons to do because it gets students to look at objects as cultural markers and to understand how they can be “read” for information about the people who made and used them.

The class is also a source of enjoyment because of how deeply engaged students get, particularly when I give them frustrating answers. “Yes but no” or “no, but close” are two of the phrases I often tell students when they share with me their hypotheses about the objects.

To many students these answers are a challenge. However, the most enjoyable moment is when the entire group rushes across the room to conspiratorially whisper their new answers to me  – least their classmates hear – and jump around in joy to find out they are, in fact, correct.

Best. Part. Of. Teaching. EVER.

Lindsay Randall revealing to the entire class the names and uses of objects at one of the stations.
Lindsay Randall revealing to the entire class the names and uses of objects at one of the stations.

 

 

Image of 3D scan in the 3D printing software

3D Scanning Artifacts: How Does it Work?

Contributed by Claudia Wessner, Makerspace Coordinator and Library Experience Designer

Huge progress has been made in the collaborative project between The Nest, the makerspace at Phillips Academy, and the Peabody Museum! From the first day we received the Next Engine 3D Scanner, we had hopes of testing out this new technology in a fun and interesting way. After talking to Marla Taylor, we both thought it was a no brainer to form a collaboration between the museum, the makerspace and a group of work duty students (Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ’16) to further explore the scanning possibilities.

In a previous post, Marla discussed the parameters in which the artifacts were selected. Once we brought the artifacts over to the Nest, we were able to make custom stands for two of the three artifacts so that they would be stable on the scanner. Then we got to work!

So, how does it work?

Before the scanning starts, we set up preferences such as resolution, color mode, and the number of incremental scans, as well as positioning the object in the camera’s field of view. The higher the desired resolution, the longer the scanning process will take.  Most of the objects we scanned took around one hour.

Collage of photos showing the lasers during the scanning process
Lasers scan the artifact

The scanner begins by taking a 2D image of the object then shoots out an array of red laser beams to capture the depth and texture of the object. Next, it completes a series of slow incremental rotations, based on the level of resolution selected, and performs the same 2D/3D rendering for each increment.  The Next Engine software slowly builds the 3D model before your eyes as it layers the data captured by the scanner.

Image of 3D scan of artifact
Fully rendered 3D model from the scan

After the scanning is complete, the 3-dimensional model of the artifact appears in the Next Engine software. Depending on how the artifact is scanned, there may be some holes in the model. This would be where the lasers may not have been able to reach, such as the top or the bottom of the artifact. There are ways to avoid holes by completing several scans of the same object (top, bottom, full 360) and then fusing them together. This is something I am looking forward to experimenting with in the future, but for our initial exploration we did a single scan.

In order to fill the holes in our model, I “polished” it using the Next Engine software. The program will automatically find and select holes in the model. Then you can use a paintbrush tool to select the areas in which you’d like to fill.  This can also take some time and experimentation, especially with very high resolution scans where image rendering can use a lot of computing power.

Once the editing of the model is complete, it is ready to prepare for printing by saving it as a .stl file and opening it in the Makerbot Desktop software. In the software you can scale, rotate, and place your object in the desired location on the build plate. You can also preview how long the print will take.  This artifact, which was approximately four inches tall, took about 5 hours to print.

Image of 3D scan in the 3D printing software
The 3D scan is ready to print

The Makerbot 3D printer uses a material called PLA that is stored in a spool in the back of the machine. The PLA is heated in an extruder and lays down very thin layers of material to build the object from the bottom up. Think of it like a glorified glue gun! The makerbot will automatically add “support material” that will support the object as it is printing so that everything stays intact. Once it is finished printing, any support material easily breaks off from the print.

Image of the 3D printed artifact
The 3D printed artifact!

We are so excited about the results of our project! We are looking forward to scanning more artifacts in the Peabody collection and refining our skills with this new technology! Stay tuned!