Student Reflection – Alex Hagler ’16

Alex and Marla excavated on campus

Contributed by Alex Hagler ’16

I began working at the Peabody in sixth grade, under the brilliant supervision of Lindsay Randall. I was introduced to the behind-the-scenes workings of a museum, cataloging artifacts, organizing photos, preparing materials for classes, all the jobs of a high school work duty student. It amazed me, and still does, that, despite my young age, I was treated just about the same as any other work duty student. I was given the trust of the people I worked with at the museum, and that trust has remained to this day. Because of that, I have had wonderful, momentous occasions at the Peabody. I represented the Peabody at the 2014 Alumni Reunion Weekend, and I presented the findings of my own independent research project to the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, to name only two. I have enjoyed the constant support of the people with whom I have worked all these years, and so the Peabody has become like a second home to me.

Now, as a graduating senior, I look back on my years at the Peabody. I find that I am mostly content, with only some minor regrets, namely that I have yet to see the floppy disk I was promised way back in sixth grade. But beyond that, I find that I am overwhelmed, reflecting on how I have changed over my years working here. At the beginning, I was nervous, hesitantly exploring the Peabody for the very first time, just starting to explore my new found interest in history. At the end, I am confident, not only in that I have made smart and responsible choices during my time here, but also in that I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. And I have the Peabody to thank for that.

Interested to read more student reflections?  Visit here and here for more perspectives.

Student Reflection – Alana Gudinas ’16

Alana and other work duty students learn about Pueblo pottery from Dominique Toya

Contributed by Alana Gudinas ’16

I started work duty at the Peabody in the beginning of my 10th grade year, mainly because it seemed like the most interesting job to do on campus. How many other high school students have the opportunity to help out at a renowned archaeological museum just a short walk’s away? That year I did a lot of of boring, but necessary, work cataloging objects and essentially entering data into computers. What made doing this so amazing, however, was the fact that I was handling objects that were often thousands of years old, all with their own history and archaeological context. I worked in the same room as Marla and Lindsay, both who shared with me a lot of information about what we were working with and why. This experience I had my sophomore year made me passionate about history and archaeology and want to dive in even deeper.

I did, in fact, become more involved in the Peabody these last two years, through listening to speakers that came to the Peabody for Massachusetts Archaeological Society meetings (and even giving a presentation myself at one of them), meeting the incredibly special artists (such as Dominique and Maxine Toya), teachers, and scholars who visit the museum, and taking a history class the fall term of this year that met in the museum classroom. Having such extensive access and exposure to the Peabody the past three years has instilled in me a love and appreciation for archaeology and all the people involved in the field. I feel that I have learned so much not only about the archaeological and historical background of various objects, but also about the nature of the two fields in general and how they are used in a museum setting. I am endlessly thankful for this experience.

Interested to read more student reflections?  Visit here and here for more perspectives.

Student Reflection – Jacob Boudreau ’16

Image of student presenter

Contributed by Jacob Boudreau ’16

I didn’t know what to expect when I started work-duty at the Peabody. I don’t remember choosing to be in it. I didn’t know much at all about archaeology. By my third week of work-duty, I was convinced that archaeology (at the Peabody at least) was nothing but the glorified study of rocks. I was disappointed that I would be stuck inside categorizing rocks for 45 minutes a week, instead of doing one of the quick and easy 5-minute-per-week work-duties.

Those first few weeks, however, are not summary of my time at the Peabody. My time at the Peabody has taught me a lot about archaeology—what it is, what the various aspects of it are, what goes on behind the scenes—and it has imbued me with a deeper appreciation for the discipline. I have learned how artifacts are excavated; how they are stored, cataloged, and inventoried; how one handles delicate artifacts, creates displays for them, records when they are taken out for a class or put back into storage. All of these things I learned during work duty through experience – it was all hands-on. The other work-duty students and I weren’t simply there ticking off check-boxes on a clipboard while the museum staff did the “real work.” We all got the chance to engage directly with the artifacts in the various ways I listed above.

The best part of work-duty at the Peabody is all of the people I get to work with. Each term I work with a new team of students, which is a lot of fun. I really enjoy working with Marla as she always makes the tasks interesting and engaging and talks to us more like adults or friends than high school students.

The highlight of my time at the Peabody was the term that my work-duty group 3D scanned and printed selected artifacts, and then presented our results and research on the topic at a MAS meeting. I’m a math and science guy, and I was thrilled when Marla announced the plans for the term to us. We cooperated with Ms. Wessner from the makerspace and her work-duty students to learn how to scan and print the artifacts we had chosen. We each then presented on a specific part of the project: one student on how we selected the artifacts to print, me on how we scanned and printed them, and two students on the implications of the 3D replication of artifacts. (We also got to eat a lot of food at the meeting.) It just goes to show how interdisciplinary work at the Peabody can be.

Interested to read more student reflections?  Visit here and here for more perspectives.

Adopt A Drawer: What is it like to catalog a drawer?

The drawer before cataloging

Contributed by Marla Taylor

In fall 2013 the Peabody launched Adopt A Drawer, which connects supporters with our collections. Each gift of $1,000 supports the complete cataloging of one artifact storage drawer. Participants receive an Adopt A Drawer t-shirt, updates on cataloging,  and their support is acknowledged with a name plaque and in our online catalog, PastPerfect.

Cataloging the adopted drawers is a time-consuming but rewarding task. Each drawer is selected with care to identify areas of the collection that need a little extra TLC. Often times, I don’t even know what I am going to find in the drawer!

The drawer that I am currently working on has taken quite some time. There are over 130 artifacts – mostly stone tools – from at least 13 different sites across France. Many of them are from cave sites of the Magdalenian era (10,000 – 17,000 years ago), but some of these blades, scrapers, and cores date as far back as 70,000 years old. Some of these tools could have been crafted by the hands of Neanderthals.

The drawer before cataloging
The drawer before cataloging

When I first began work on the drawer, the tools were piled on top of one another in several smaller boxes. This poor storage can easily lead to damage along the delicately crafted edges of these tools. It was in need of a major upgrade!

With the help of work duty students – I couldn’t do this without them! – each artifact was photographed, measured, and rehoused. I have researched each artifact in our original accession ledgers for location and collection information. These records have then been combined with notes provided by Kathleen Sterling and Sebastien Lacombe of Binghampton University and experts in the lithic technology of France’s Upper Paleolithic who visited the collection in May 2015. I am integrating all of this information into their catalog records and the adoption process is nearly complete.

I will soon share details of the contents of this drawer with its donor and you can access it too by exploring our collection online.

For additional information how to adopt a drawer watch our short video or visit our website.

Changing Spaces

Collections with new plexi-glass doors

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Updating spaces at the Peabody is like playing with a giant sliding puzzle. In order to rearrange one room, you have to make space in another for everything that will be displaced. We wrestled with this puzzle as we recently updated two major spaces at the museum – our basement work room and our main exhibit gallery.

The basement work room is the center of most of the collections work at the Peabody. It is where work duty students, volunteers, and collections staff spends most of their time. And, until recently, it was home to several staff work spaces too. But it was time to refresh the space and make room to spread out the collection as we transfer artifacts from the old wooden drawer to new archival boxes.

 

Updating the gallery space was no small task! First, all the old exhibit was dismantled and objects were returned to storage. Then the exhibit cases were removed. And finally, the false walls that confined the space were demolished. Patching and painting is now underway. Future projects will see updated lighting and restoration of the windows.

 

Conversations are on-going about how to utilize this newly empty gallery space. The added space has already benefited our community family days and will hopefully provide space for student curated exhibits and larger student and alumni events.

If you haven’t been over to the Peabody for a while, now is the time!

Sharing what you learn – Student presentations

Image of student presenter

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.

3D Scanning Artifacts: How Does it Work?

Image of 3D scan in the 3D printing software

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!

3D Artifact Collaboration

Contributed by Marla Taylor

An exciting new project is taking shape this winter at the Peabody Museum. Work duty students Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ’16 and I are collaborating with the folks at the Nest, the makerspace at Phillips Academy, to scan three artifacts from the Peabody’s collection and print them as 3D models.

The students were challenged to identify artifacts that were stable enough to be transported to the OWHL, which is where the Nest is located; had interesting textural details; and would not be limited by a 360-degree scan along a single plane (i.e., the top and bottom would not be “seen” by the scanner). The three artifacts they selected are from the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico and were excavated by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish in the 1960s. Two of the objects are whistles—we hope their 3D replicas will be playable!

The first scan has been completed, and more are scheduled. The students will clean and manipulate the scans before they print them.

An exhibition about the process and the implications of 3D scanning and printing technology on cultural heritage preservation will be installed in the OWHL at the end of winter term.

A major thank-you to Claudia Wessner, makerspace coordinator and library experience designer at the OWHL, and the Nest work duty students for all their help!

I will keep you updated as work progresses.

Boxes for Books

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Preserving old books on a budget can be tricky. What is an archaeology museum with dozens of historic books to do?

damaged book

The solution is simple: Utilize archival boxes.

book in box

The Peabody recently purchased a small quantity of archival KASEBoxes from ECS Conservation to rehouse about a dozen historic books. Students helped me take detailed measurements of the books so that the boxes could be custom-made. Now, volumes such as Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts and Warren Moorehead’s annotated copy of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley are available on the Peabody’s library shelves for use by the Phillips Academy community. These boxes provide a low-cost method of ensuring that fragile, delicate, or rare books are stored properly. Some of these books may eventually be the subject of conservation treatments.

More books are in need of a little TLC, so keep your eyes peeled for new archival boxes on the shelves at the Peabody!

Positive Negatives

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Opening drawers at the Peabody can occasionally lead to a surprise discovery. Recently, approximately 400 acetate negatives were discovered in an “empty” card catalog.

A little investigation revealed that these negatives include the original photographs from Alfred V. Kidder’s The Pottery of Pecos, Volume I. You can see these photos in Kidder’s publication here. The remaining negatives were of photos that Richard “Scotty” MacNeish took during his time at the Peabody, and they range from Canadian artifacts to materials from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

Acetate film, also known as safety film, was introduced by Kodak in the 1930s. Designed to replace nitrate negatives, which can spontaneously combust, acetate was in use for decades. The acids in the film, however, can deteriorate over time and emit a strong vinegar odor, an issue known as vinegar syndrome. The recently discovered negatives are in the early stages of vinegar syndrome.

IMG_3904
Image of a bowl from Pecos

We are working to preserve these negatives and have already sent approximately one-third of them to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) for digitization. The NEDCC will capture high-resolution images from the negatives and adjust them to create robust image files. The digitization process should be complete by the end of February.