Presentation of Artifact Collections
Deschutes National Forest, Oregon, 1998
by Leslie Hickerson, District Archaeologist
“Small but mighty.” I first heard this phrase in reference to the Sherpas of Nepal. They carry such huge loads and smile just the same. At the beginning of this project, I was somewhat disorganized, but the volunteers showed me up by displaying this characteristic—smiling in spite of a goofy PIT leader! After spending the last week of March with this small group of six volunteers, it is a phrase equally applicable to these few quick and mighty bright minds. We recently had the pleasure of each other’s company during my winter PIT project hosted in Crescent, Oregon.
Advertised as the “Presentation of Artifact Collections,” we took nearly 192 hours to develop a topic for a portable display case. It took only a couple of days to conceptualize and design our theme, then we chose the various artifacts and other objects to put in the case built in 1995 by Roger Peer. Once we had agreed on the title, “RECYCLED—The Modern Life of Ancient Artifacts,” the rest was easy! Well, maybe, sort of . . . The idea is that once artifacts leave an archaeological site, they no longer function in their original prehistoric contexts (e.g., an arrowhead is no longer a prehistoric hunting tool) but instead become tools for learning and education (in the case of an interpreted object).
We wanted to depict the route that various artifacts take upon discovery. We found that by dividing the case into four sections we could use text, graphics, photographs, and real objects to show how an artifact “travels” through time. Our artifacts wander from use by ancient hunters to an excavation unit, to an individually labeled bag after assignment of a catalog number. From there, they go to a laboratory for analysis, and finally, the information is interpreted through displays or publications, bringing us back to the ancient hunters.
Archaeological Society of Central Oregon (ASCO) members Frank Crosser, Kasey Jo Miller, Daryl Curran, and Kay Curran, along with Lisa Mattson and Marcy Speer, helped assemble the display. They tolerated my early befuddlement and fell into the spirit of the project right away. Despite the walk required to reach the rest room and the threat of even greater cold and snowfall, it was definitely a successful project. We have the display to show for our efforts. Thanks to all of the participants for their hard work. We can be proud that our display will travel to ASCO meetings, local schools, the Earth Day celebration, and the Madras, Oregon, “Collage of Culture.”