Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Building alliances, seeking support

Hello everyone!
I have been constantly on the road past two weeks, spreading the word about the Utah Pottery Project and identifying allies and building bridges for the future. My inclusive vision for the future of this project requires a broad coalition of people beyond those traditional communities with interest in archaeology, i.e. academic scientists and humanists.

Last week I was in New York City at Americana Week. I went to both the American Antiques Show and the New York Ceramics Fair. I wanted to talk with researchers, collectors, and dealers interested in the history of American Ceramics. I had many interesting conversations with people, particularly at the Ceramics Fair, and several individuals offered to give their advice about the antique ceramic objects attributed to Utah manufacture in Utah museums. I will write more about New York soon and share some of the details of my conversations.

I left New York to head to Providence, Rhode Island. I was invited to speak about the Utah Pottery Project at Brown University. The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World hosted group of scholars researching design and material culture, using both scientific and humanistic perspectives. The Material Matters Symposium 2009 included a series of very interesting speakers, and I will write more about our discussions when I am back in the office after my current trip. Many of the scholars and students at the symposium talked to me about how excited they were by what we are doing in Utah. One example was that some people thought that our idea of studying a series of ceramic workshops, examining questions of creativity and learning and the socially embedded nature of technological systems, all at the scale of individual potters, potting families, or small groups, excited them because our insights into archaeological problems would help them to think about pottery factories in the Roman world.

After just about 8 hours at home, I turned around and came back to Salt Lake City on a trip sponsored by the Chipstone Foundation of Milwaukee. I was here to meet a group of people gathered over pizza to talk about the impoverished nature of historical archaeology, decorative arts history, material culture studies, and other allied topics. We brainstormed about the potential for research and programs of public interpretation. After lots of interesting discussion, we broke up for the evening after agreeing to meet again soon. What was overwhelmingly clear was that we needed a social network of people interested in matters of material culture in Utah. We also agreed to think about how to solve some of the political and funding problems that have discouraged research in this area.

During the last two weeks, I've also made lots of interesting progress on planning for the dig in Parowan. Details of those developments will follow at the end of my meetings here in Utah.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Small Grant

Good news arrived today!  Michigan Technological University awarded me a Faculty Scholarship Grant.  While the committee could only fund part of my request, the funds will be enough to ensure that we can take at least one field vehicle to Utah.  More fundraising and support needs for the project are still out there, but this grant will make a big difference!

More from the Society for Historical Archaeology meeting

While at the conference, I had several long conversations with my colleague Benjamin Pykles.  Ben is an assistant professor at SUNY Potsdam, and he leads a fascinating archaeological study of the Latter-day Saints' settlement Iosepa in Skull Valley, Utah.

Iosepa was settled by a group of Polynesian immigrants in the 1880s.  The Latter-day Saints had been very successful missionaries throughout Polynesia, particularly in Hawaii.  Many came to Utah and settled into this Skull Valley community where they undertook drylands farming and mineral prospecting.  Many families lived there for three decades.

Like most archaeological sites, Iosepa's remains serve as a touchstone for current social controversy.  The site is a sacred and powerful place to many of those who are descended from the settlers, and the landscape itself reminds people of past struggles for equality, faith, and social justice.

Ben's study is a multi-year project, starting with survey and limited testing.  Ben's collaborators are working with ground penetrating radar and he hopes to do some multi-spectral aerial photography in the future.  Both types of survey will help him map the imprint of peoples' activities at Iosepa.

I admire Ben for his earnest efforts to bring disparate stakeholder groups together and include them in his research work.  

For more information and some photos, click on these links:

Archaeology Magazine:

The Bonniville Mariner Blogger worked with Ben and his team during last year's dig:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Slide Show: Davenport Pottery Preview

I have posted some pictures that show why the Davenport Pottery Site is so interesting and exciting.  You can see the show using this public link on Facebook: (There is no need to join facebook to watch the slides).

Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting

I've just returned from the 2009 Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology.  This year we met in Toronto, Canada, an historic and vibrant city.  The research reports and presentations that I heard inspired me, particularly those that explained other major efforts at community-based archaeological research.  I talked at length about the developing plans and partnerships in Utah, particularly about the Davenport dig and museum exhibit.  I'm already looking forward to the 2010 meeting next year-- not only because it is in Florida in January, rather than northern latitudes!

While on the plane, I had uninterrupted time to read.  As a result, I "checked-off" one of the items that had been high on my priority list.  I read Nancy J. Andersen's essay about Horace Ephraim Roberts, his family, and his pottery-making activities in Illinois, Iowa, and Utah.  Horace built the first operative pottery in the state, probably to the embarrassment of the Staffordshire potters that tried to get a factory operating in Salt Lake City.  Horace built his pottery in Provo and began selling ware in 1852, before anyone else was really successful at the business.  The other thing that makes Horace Ephraim Roberts among the most important potters in the history of Utah is that he was the head of what became the most significant "craft dynasty" in the region.  Horace married Harriet McEvers and they had many children who, along with Horace's male relatives and their children, became potters.  All in all, the Roberts family operated pottery shops in Provo, Logan, Mona, Vernal (near Naples), and Panguitch.  Horace married two other women, Mary Jane Bigelow and Jane Eliza Graves, but neither of the two children born from those marriages (by Jane Eliza) went into the pottery business.

Perhaps we'll get to do some survey at the site of Utah's first operative pottery this spring, before we get down to business at the Davenport site in Parowan!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gearing up for 2009!


This is the new official blog for the Utah Pottery Project's archaeological researchers.  My name is Timothy Scarlett and I am the project director.  I'm an Associate Professor in the Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program in the Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University.  

The Utah Pottery Project is an informal confederation of scholars and researchers interested in the lives, works, and histories of Utah's 19th-century immigrant potters.  The pottery makers, including master potters and clay workers, mostly came to Utah as part of the immigration stream organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often nicknamed "LDS" or "the Mormons"). I maintain a web site dedicated to the research project here:

My colleagues, students, and I are preparing for a major archaeological excavation this summer.  We'll be digging at the site of the Davenport family pottery shop in Parowan, Utah.  Once the dig is underway, we'll be making daily posts about our discoveries, trials, and tribulations.  During the lead up to the excavation and associated public programing, I'll post details here as our plans evolve.  There is already some information online at the website above and on Facebook, where you can 'friend' if you search for "Utah PotteryProject".

During the summer of 2005, Christopher Merritt and I did a small dig at the site of the Frederick Petersen Pottery in Salt Lake City, Utah.  You can read the archive of that excavation blog here:

I am thrilled to have this blog up and running.  I'm also very excited for this summer's research and the discoveries we'll make!

Best regards,
Timothy James Scarlett