A big part of our work at SA: McMaster is processing the legacy collections associated with decades of archaeological work by faculty and students in the McMaster anthropology department. We are tracking our progress and site information here, and also have a series of posts planned that detail what is involved in working with legacy collections.
While artifact storage, labelling, and condition vary by site, working with legacy collections generally involves establishing or clarifying site and artifact context and repackaging the archaeological material to ensure long-term stability.
- Reuniting artifacts and associated records is key to our work and is usually the first step when working on a legacy site. This can range from a search for when a site was excavated and by whom, deciphering artifact labels that often relate to site provenience, or tracking down field notes and/or catalogues that record artifact details and provenience.
- The main focus of our work is repackaging artifacts into appropriate archival bags/containers to ensure the long-term integrity of the archaeological material. While repackaging is done to remove artifacts from continued contact with deteriorating and off-gassing materials, the added benefit is often more efficient use of box space.
It is important to SA to make archaeological material available and accessible, and while it sounds obvious, this involves knowing what is stored on-site. Processing legacy collections has led to the discovery of archaeological material and sites that were previously undocumented as being stored here at SA McMaster.
As the number of processed boxes increases, so does our ability to make archaeological material available. We receive requests for access to material based on artifact type, site, archaeologist, region, etc., so more information means more connections are possible.
Please stay tuned for upcoming posts highlighting the successes and challenges of our work with McMaster’s legacy collections.