An Archaeologist and a Museum Professional walk into a basement…

Contributed by David Spidaliere and Jessica Dow

Hello! We are the new temporary collections project assistants for the Peabody’s upcoming collections move. Our combined knowledge of archaeology and museum studies helps us assess the needs of the collection and to find efficient ways to track the collections. Here’s a little about each of us:

My name is David Spidaliere. I am currently pursuing my master’s in Historical Archaeology at UMass Boston, finishing up my thesis on trade in Plimoth Colony. I was drawn to this role at Robert S. Peabody because my background is in seventeenth and eighteenth century New England archaeology and history, but I have very little knowledge of Indigenous archeology. This position has afforded me the opportunity to work with Native materials and to learn more about the importance of repatriation legislation.

My name is Jessica Dow, I recently completed my Masters in Museum Studies at Harvard’s Extension School, with a focus on collections management, Indigenization and public service. I currently work in the Visitor Services Department of the Harvard Art Museums, and I was drawn to this role because it offered me a chance to learn more about Archaeology and the care and planning that goes into Archaeological collections management. I’m passionate about ethical stewardship and repatriation, and Marla has been a fantastic resource as I continue to learn more about this field!

Dave and Jess hard at work

We were brought on to help the Peabody create a system by which they could track collections as they move throughout the building. This type of system is crucial for day-to-day movement of collections for research and teaching purposes, as well as for larger projects that require the collections to be moved, such as construction or pest and mold remediation. Our work is concerned with the types of data that determine risk factors such as vibration, and factors that dictate how objects are stored, such as size, weight, and cultural sensitivity.

To track this data, we are using software that was designed for retail use and allows us to barcode boxes and items and assign information to each barcode using iPads. We can then review all of that data on a desktop computer in order to help Peabody staff assess collections needs on a larger scale.

In the picture below you can see the desktop view that we use to review the data we have collected as we barcode the collection. We can easily see which boxes have lids, the dimensions of items that are too large to be boxed, and other factors like weight and cultural sensitivity.

Example Orcascan screen shot

While our roles here at the Peabody are temporary, the work we are doing will continue to be useful to Peabody staff in the future. We are honored to be a part of this stage of the Peabody’s growth and hope to continue our relationship with the museum and its staff as we step into whatever is next in our respective careers!

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