Different but the Same

Contributed by Alex Hagler ’16

Before I officially became a staff member here at the Peabody, I was a volunteer and work duty student. I started volunteering at the Peabody about nine years ago, and when I came to Phillips Academy as a student I immediately signed on to do work duty. As a volunteer and work duty student, I worked to catalogue and inventory returned artifact loans, set out class activities, digitize records, and photograph artifacts. Since going to college out of state about two years ago, I have not been back at the Peabody, other than for brief visits. Reflecting on my time working here, it is fascinating, and somewhat nostalgic, to look back at what the Peabody was like when I started all those years ago and how it has changed so much since then!

When I started volunteering here, the Peabody was still officially a museum and still had standing exhibit space on the first floor. Some of those exhibit cases displayed artifacts, others dioramas or archaeology-related activities done by some Phillips Academy classes. Down in the collections, we used white cotton gloves to handle artifacts, rather than the purple nitrile gloves we use now. The reboxing project had not begun, so much of the work I did was cataloguing and inventorying in preparation for when that project might get funding. While I was doing work-duty, I sat in on some meetings about how to make the Peabody more accessible to Phillips Academy students, both in terms of the collections and the building space as a whole. Since then, the Peabody has initiated student study hours, during which the building is open to students as a study space, and renovated the first floor to make it more class-friendly!

It has been just over two years since I graduated from Phillips Academy, and I am so happy to be back working here! I study archaeology in college, and so working here, albeit temporarily, is an opportunity not only to continue learning how to preserve archaeological collections, but also to put into practice what I have learned at school, namely how to make archaeology more accessible for everyone.

Alex
Inventorying the never-ending drawers

 

Reboxing project – Update

A storage bay with a mixture of drawers and boxes

Contributed by Marla Taylor

About six months in and the reboxing project is beginning to take off.  With the help of students and volunteers, 52 drawers have been converted into 86 boxes.  These first months have been spent ironing-out the kinks in the procedure and strategically identifying areas of the collection on which to focus.

The inventories produced from this project have already helped to identify areas of the collection for further attention and have made some objects available for education use.

I am excited to pick-up the pace over the winter!

Summer work duty students begin rehousing inventory

Work duty student inventorying a drawer

Embarking on a full inventory and rehousing of your museum collection is a daunting task.  Transferring approximately 1,700 drawers into 3,000 archival boxes will take years of work.  Fortunately for me, I have access to an invaluable resource – Phillips Academy students.

For a week in July, two Lowers (10th graders) came to the Peabody every day for four hours to fulfill their work duty commitment for the school year.  I gave them a crash course in artifact identification and object handling techniques before they got down to business.  As they worked through the meticulous process of inventorying everything in the collection, they made crucial observations that will improve my workflow.  Together, these two students recorded the contents of twenty-nine drawers!

Work duty student inventorying a drawer
Work duty student inventorying a drawer

Work duty students will continue to be an essential work force as we move through the collection.  I will share their progress and successes in the months and years to come.

Curator of Collections Marla Taylor and work duty students stand behind the empty boxes
Curator of Collections Marla Taylor and work duty students stand behind the empty boxes

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.