Students Share Experiences With Archaeology at Peabody Museum

Three student groups presented their experiences with archaeology both on and off campus at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology’s event on Tuesday night, “First Forays into Archaeology.”

Opening the event was Viraj Kumar ’17 discussing the creation of his non-profit organization, Youth for Restoration, which works to preserve and restore local history.

“The mission of the organization is to engage local communities in identifying and restoring old historic sites by pursuing their nomination for the State and National Register of Historic Places,” Kumar said in an interview with The Phillipian.

Kumar discussed the foundation of Youth for Restoration and two different historical sites, the Apoquague Friends’ Burial Ground and an old Grist Mill in the Hudson Valley area of New York, which his organization helped to preserve and restore.

Kumar’s first project was a 200-year-old Quaker cemetery located near where he lives.

“The Apoquague Friends’ Burial Ground had remained neglected for decades. With the support of a great team of volunteers, the local government and businesses we worked over several weekends to clean up the site, rebuild the stone wall, erect the fallen 122 remaining headstones and cut down and remove fallen trees,” said Kumar during his presentation.

Following Kumar’s presentation, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Alana Gudinas ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16 and Sarah Schmaier ’16 reflected on using 3-D printing technology to recreate some of the Peabody’s artifacts and the implications of this technology for museums in the future.

They demonstrated the process of scanning and 3D printing artifacts from the Peabody’s collection, a task assigned by their work duty advisor and Collections Manager, Marla Taylor.

Boudreau said, “The replication of the artifacts can be broken down into two things: scanning and printing. The first thing we had to do was scan the artifacts to build a 3D model on a computer program. To print, you select the object’s structure, whether hollow or not, on the computer screen and it prints from the bottom up. The larger the object, the longer the print.”

The ability to replicate historic artifacts in this way provides many new possibilities for people to experience archaeology.

“Having a 3D print of an object allows you to physically examine by handling and observing in greater detail without the concern for deterioration and it allows us to preserve something that may not last forever,” Gudinas said during the presentation.

Schmaier added, “This technology could expand the future of museums. Now, museums are limited by how much funds they have and how much space is available, but what if museums could download any artifact they wanted in their exhibition?”

In the third and final presentation, Veronica Nutting ’16 and Alex Armour ’16 analyzed three paintings collected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They investigated the origins and importance of the artwork while also questioning how the paintings compared to contemporary depictions of Native Americans. This research was part of their Independent Project titled “The White Man’s Indian,” a project investigating the importance and context of three paintings, created by white Americans, which depict Native American culture.

Armour and Nutting focused on the work of three artists: Charles King, George Catlin and Edward S. Curtis, all of whom documented Native American culture in the 19th century.

Armour said during his presentation,“Although [King, Catlin and Curtis] were trying to preserve Native American culture, they did not do a good job. King’s paintings show a traditional European portrait [but] I believe that was not his main goal. However, he did come through with a very biased product, which shows how much the time period influenced artists.”

Nutting said, “History is told by the people who hold the paintbrush. I think [Armour] and I really have taken this entire project as a wake-up call of why we don’t question how there is still a sports team called the ‘Redskins’ and why people wear Native American headdress. It is really the white man’s Indian.”

These three presentations aimed to demonstrate how easy it is to get involved with the archaeology department. All of the presenters first became interested in their respective topic when they were assigned to work duty at the Peabody.

“What I most enjoy about archaeology is the way it takes your mind to a place you never expected. Archaeology requires researching ancient people with open minds and different perspectives, and I think that’s a valuable skill,” said Gudinas.