Friday, March 27, 2009

Ready for Paint!

This morning, I helped the staff of the Iron Mission State Park Museum prepare the rotating gallery space. We shifted things around and emptied the space out. We left most of the current photography exhibit up on the walls, but we needed to get the area ready for the floor to be repainted on Monday morning. So we left the previous exhibit and the kids' activity area so people could use them this weekend. The crew will block off the space on Monday morning with a rope and curtain while they paint the floor. The removal of the photography exhibit will follow when the floors are dry and then we'll start construction and installation of the pottery exhibit!

Ryan and I really need to settle on an official title!

If you want to see some pictures, you can check them out:
On this public link from Facebook

Press Release

Michigan Technological University's media relations office has put a story out over the wires about the Utah Pottery Project. It is brief, but will perhaps point people to this blog where they can learn more about our research and discoveries!

This is the story:

Besides the intellectual interests shared by researchers in the Utah Pottery Project (studying the works and lives of the nineteenth century potters), I am also trying to develop a community-based approach to archaeological scholarship. I want to link research, and the support for research, with local concerns and needs ranging from education to development. The Venn diagram below illustrates the point. Community-based archaeology has always been an important part of historical archaeology in the United States, where local research at local historical sites met local needs and interests. Recently many more archaeologists are coming around to this research style, which they call "socially-engaged" or "action archaeology."

If this is your first visit to the Utah Pottery Project Blog, you can read a bit about the research collaboration in these posts:

The first blog post is here

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wish List, 5/26

Hi everyone,
If you have just discovered this blog and the Utah Pottery Project, you may not be aware that you could help support the archaeological fieldwork and research!

We can always use donations of cash (fully tax deductible, of course!) which we use as scholarship funds and as matching funds for institutional grants.  If you'd like to donate money to support this summer's field work and the subsequent analysis, you can go to the Utah Pottery Project donation page here:

There are lots of opportunities to support the project through gifts of badly needed supplies.  I include a list of some examples below.

This first list includes material urgently needed for this summer's excavation of the Thomas and Sarah Davenport pottery site in Parowan, Utah.  You can have materials sent to the Iron Mission Museum in Cedar City, and they will hold them until someone from the project team can pick them up:

Utah Pottery Project/Attn: Scarlett
Iron Mission State Park
635 N. Main St.
Cedar City, UT 84720-2127

Photo supplies and archive:
We need color slide film and archival storage materials.  35 mm color slide (transparency) film serves the critical purpose of high-quality backup of digital excavation photos.  Our digital photos are of high enough quality that we no longer shoot black and white print film as part of regular excavation recording.
B&H Photo wishlist for the Utah Pottery Project:
420 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10001, USA
Non-archival Storage Boxes::
All the artifacts are “Bagged and Tagged” in the field.  We put all the bags into boxes to transport them to the lab.  In the field we use regular boxes, but once cleaned and processed, everything must be put into archival storage boxes for long-term storage.

OfficeMax Storage Boxes, 10/pk, Item # 20151540

This list includes items we will need during analysis and for permanent archive of the artifacts and excavation records.  These items can be shipped to:
Michigan Tech Univ/Scarlett
Archaeology Lab/Soc Sci/AOB 209
1400 Townsend Dr.
Houghton, MI 49931

Needed supplies:

Archival Storage Boxes:
Hollinger Metal Edge, Inc.
Unbuffered Record Storage Boxes with Separate Lids
250#C Corrugated Board, White, 7.5 pH
Record Storage Box - 15" x 12.5" x 10" with Separate Lid
10760$7.95, 5/$32.20, 10/$58.60, 25/$141.75, 50/$249.50
Archival Storage Bags:
We “Bag and Tag” everything recovered during excavation.  We use paper bags in the field while everything is dirty, but we transfer everything to archival bags once the artifacts are cleaned and prepared for lab analysis and transfer to the museum to be archived.
Archival bags can be found here:
Useful sizes include:
2" x 3" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags 
3" x 5" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
4" x 6" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
5" x 8" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
6" x 9" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
9" x 12" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
12" x 15" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
13" x 18" - 4 mil Polyethylene Bags - Pack of 100 Bags
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 12" x 18"
20/$8.80,  50/$21.00
6 Mil Polyrthylene Bag - 14" x 24"
20/$12.80, 50/$30.00
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 14" x 30"
20/$15.80, 50/$37.50
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 16" x 16"
20/$10.40, 50/$24.00
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 16" x 24"
20/$14.60, 50/$34.50
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 18" x 18"
20/$12.00, 50/$28.00
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 20" x 24"
20/$16.80, 50/$40.00
6 Mil Polyethylene Bag - 24" x 30"
10/$12.60, 20/$24.20, 50/$58.00

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Davenports in England, 3/25 research update

I received an email today from Anne-Marie Knowles, the curator at the Chesterfield Museum and Art Gallery in Northern Derbyshire, England.  Ms. Knowles and I have exchanged a series of emails about Thomas and Sarah Davenport and their early lives among the potteries of Brampton.  This morning, Ms. Knowles sent me a summary of what she and her colleagues at the museum have been able to learn about the Davenports.

Readers might remember that in a previous post, I mentioned that the 1841 census listed Thomas Davenport's occupation as "pottery m."  I asked Anne-Marie if she and her co-workers could find out what the "m" signified: maker, manager, molder, or something else.  After reading more of the original census records, they decided that "maker" was the most likely, since this census enumerator used the abbreviation for others in the neighborhood: "hat m," "smock m," and malt m."  As Anne-Marie said, "There is no way you can have a smock or hat moulder!"  The most important bit of information from this is that Thomas was not in charge of some division in the factory, but he was rather more likely a "regular" worker or ordinary laborer.  

Ms. Knowles's team has so far been frustrated in their attempt to figure out exactly where the Davenports lived in Brampton Moor.  They are getting closer to an address and expect that Thomas and Sarah's home may still be standing as an extant residence in one of Brampton's neighborhoods. They know, for example, that Thomas's father Robert and his extended family lived in Brewery Yard in 1841, probably quite close to Thomas and Sarah's home.  In the 1861 census, Robert and family were living in Barrel Yard, behind the Barrel public house, in the midst of the towns pottery factories.  By digging into Thomas and Sarah's neighbors' records in the census, Anne-Marie thinks they will probably be able to identify the actual house where Thomas, Sarah, and their children lived before moving to the American west.

Ms. Knowles and her colleagues also noted that in the census records of 1841, 1851, and 1861, Robert was a "laborer" in a pottery at 60, 70, and 80 years old respectively.  Robert's eldest daughter was working in a pottery factory in the 1851 census, while the 1861 census records two of Robert's 15-year-old granddaughters worked in pot shops.  This is not unusual for working class families in pottery towns, and it forces me to reflect on the question of Sarah's working life in Brampton, England, and then in Parowan, Utah.  I am very interested to learn more about her role in the family's pot shop.

Ms. Knowles summarized her impressions about Thomas and Sarah's lives drawn from these details in the enumerator's notes:
"The picture I'm getting from the censuses is that the Davenports are a very ordinary working class family, as are all their neighbours, and typical of the area.  Working on the number of people in the neighbouring households I'd make an educated guess that the house is a terraced property probably with two bedrooms, what is referred to hereabouts as a 'two up, two down and one out the back' (ie a kitchen/family room, and parlour downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs, with a 'closet' (lavatory) outside in the yard.  The other adjacent homes are inhabited by labourers, cotton spinners, other pottery workers, there's a smith and someone had a shop, a grocer.  The adjacent households are not all 'traditional' families (ie married parents, their children and perhaps an elderly relative), in some cases there are a number of adult lodgers, some of them women with children but no husband, sometimes the householder is an older person who presumably is letting out rooms as a source of income.  Others have an older householder with a daughter and grandchildren.  So I suppose it is possible that Thomas was a thrower, but he could quite easily be just a labourer - preparing the clay for use.  I think, and I can't be sure about this, that if he was a kiln man he would have described himself as such to the enumerator, but I haven't been through the whole of 1841 to see if anyone so describes himself."

Anne-Marie also sent me some pictures from the Chesterfield Museum's archive.  The first image below is the only photo known to show the interior of a Brampton pottery shop, that of Welshpool and Payne.  From the image, you can see a fairly traditional shop layout with throwers generally stationed by the windows and their young helpers- runners and off-bearers- moving around each work station.  It is reasonable expectation that Thomas built his shop in Parowan with a similar layout. 

This second photo shows the Pearson Pottery in nearby Whittington Moor.

This final image is of the Alma Pottery in Brampton.  Check out the footprint 0f the hovel!  The hovel is the bottle shaped chimney that surrounds the kiln oven.  We don't know if Thomas built a hovel or not, but I want to try and figure that out this summer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Object of the Week, 3/24/09

I have decided to start posting pictures of a single object per week in the lead up to the opening of our museum exhibit at the Iron Mission State Park Museum.  The exhibit should inspire a deeper understanding of Utah's nineteenth century potters, their struggles and achievements, and the diversity of their lives and works.

I'm going to post my working snapshots of items in public or private collections, archaeological artifacts or antiques.  I hope that readers will find them and come to see the actual objects in the exhibition in May, June, and July at the Iron Mission Museum.  

Here is the image for the third week of March, 2009:

This is a large storage jar in the collection of Utah State Parks.  Karen Krieger, the Heritage Resource Coordinator for Utah State Parks, is lending many pieces to the show at the Iron Mission Museum.  This is an unsigned and unmarked pot, but I think it is among the most attractive in their collection.  The crock has consistent glaze and form with others that are stamped "Deseret Pottery" in Salt Lake City.  The Deseret Pottery included a number of different potters through time, but I think that Bedson Eardley was most likely responsible for this pot. 

The potter dipped the lip, rim, and shoulder (and almost over the handles) into a white slip, then playfully splashed a band of green glaze around the pot's midsection.  All the decoration is under a lead glaze, of course.  The colors are rich and the overall effect is beautiful.  This pot is very similar to one in the collection of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in Salt Lake City, which people can go to see in the Pioneer Memorial Museum there.

Stay tuned to more objects and images, previews of our upcoming exhibit!  I hope you will come see them in person during the summer and stop by our Parowan excavations during your trip.

New Digs!

I am pleased to report that my colleagues at the Iron Mission State Park Museum did a bit of scrounging around in the Department of Natural Resources.  They borrowed a camper trailer for me, so I have moved up in the world from camping in my Nissan Xterra to camping in a trailer larger than some of the apartments I lived in when I was in college.  I have filled a propane tank, so I can cook on the range, and when the threat of freezing passes, we'll hook up the hose and my trailer will have hot showers.  Living in the lap of luxury!

The fire crews will need their trailer back in May, so we won't be hauling it up the canyon for our field camp and lab, but I am very grateful for the loan during the next two months while we put the exhibit together.  It is thrilling to have a table where I can plug in my laptop and keep working into the evening hours.  Of course, I am equally happy that I no longer have to scrape the snow and/or frost off my tailgate before I climb out of my sleeping bag!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Field School Travel and Rendezvous

Students and project Team Members have begun making travel plans, so I thought I would put up the planned schedule.

1. Travel with the Michigan Tech Caravan:
The project vehicles will depart MTU the morning of Friday, May 8th.  All people riding in the MTU vehicles can ride for free, room permitting, so long as they help Jessica and Andy load the inventoried equipment into the truck and van.  The drive from Houghton to Parowan takes about 28 hours of road time, or two 14 hour days.  Anyone planning on riding in the vehicles should let me and Jessica know as soon as possible.  There will be a reasonable volume limit on luggage.  The caravan will need to arrive in Parowan by 10 am on Sunday, 5/10, so that we can unload the van and head to the Las Vegas airport to pick up more people.

2. Travel by Airplane:
Those traveling by air should make their own plans, but you will need to arrive in Las Vegas, Nevada, in time for a rendezvous at 3 pm on Sunday, May 10th.  This will give us time to pick everyone up and drive back to Parowan while still leaving enough daylight for everyone to set up camp before dark.

I will let each traveler know where at the airport they should expect to meet us.  You should email your flight itinerary to me when you make your reservation.  Airlines are offering some pretty good deals right now.

The MTU van will only make this trip once.  If you are flying but can not arrive by the appointed time, you will have to catch a public bus from Las Vegas to Parowan and we'll meet you at the bus stop.

3. Travel by Personal Car:
However you drive and on whatever schedule, you should expect to arrive in Parowan by 4 or 5 pm on Sunday, 5/10.  This will give you a few hours of daylight to set up your camp and settle in before dark.  We will set a specific time and place to meet in town for those who want to follow the MTU van and truck to the campground, but I will be sure everyone has detailed directions in case of schedule changes.

4. Trains, Buses, and others:
Contact me about those travel plans.

5. Final Departure:
The field school ends on June 26th and that will be our last day of work.  You should expect to depart after that.  The MTU van will make a shuttle run to the Las Vegas airport on the afternoon of Friday, June 26th, arriving there at about 4 pm.  Depending upon when they return to the campsite, the entire caravan will depart either that evening or early in the morning of Saturday, June 27th.  Caravan members should be back in Houghton in time for Track B classes to start on Monday, June 29th.  If none of the caravan riders need to be back for Track B, the return trip may be extended by another day, but that will be determined during departure preparations.

I will post a note in the near future that will include the daily work schedule as well as the expected days off during the project.  This will allow everyone to plan travel and vacation time during May and June.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Sharpe Kiln

As I have written in the past, I've been corresponding with archaeologists and researchers in England to get ideas about what Thomas and Sarah Davenport might have known about pottery making, kiln building, clay processing, and other related skills.  I need to know as much as I can about this in order to judge the local adaptations that the Davenport's created to Southern Utah's new landscape.

Most recently, I was tracking down excavations of pottery kilns in the Derbyshire region.  I found the website of the Sharpe's Pottery Museum that included a mention that the kiln had been archaeologically excavated in the 1990s.  Philip Heath answered my email inquiry.  Mr. Heath is the Heritage Officer for the South Derbyshire District Council.  He has put me in touch with the archaeologists involved and also sent me a digital image of one of the interpretive panels at the site.  He said that I could post the image on the blog, and more information about the Sharpe's Pottery Museum is on their website at:

Thomas Sharpe established his pottery in 1821.  The Sharpe's Pottery operated as a company, making Mocha ware and Rockingham-style ceramics. These pottery types are also known as yellow ware because the stoneware body has a strong to pale yellow colored paste.  These ceramics were often decorated with annular banding and the dendritic patterns for which Mocha ware is famous.

The kiln photo above shows one possible configuration with which Thomas may have been familiar.  The picture above shows the archaeological excavation inside the standing hovel-- the bottle-shaped chimney that surrounds a kiln in most English traditions.  In this case, all the bricks were removed, leaving only the stained soil to mark the structure itself.  While a later foundation wall cuts right across the kiln foundation, you can still clearly make out the circular footprint of the kiln and most of the fireboxes that surround it.  In the English tradition, the kiln is round and the fireboxes are generally below the floor surface and evenly spaced around the outside edge.

Academic industrial archaeologists used to talk about "ethnic" or "national" technological styles, which was a way of explaining why the English immigrants to Utah built round, up-drafting kilns, while the Danish immigrants built rectangular, cross-drafting kilns.  I look forward to talking with the students about this and making more posts about this in the future.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Life in Camp

I thought I would post some more pictures of the future field camp, along with notes about what to expect while living there in your six weeks as a project member.

The picnic area used to be the Vermillion Castle Campground, but the USFS converted it to a non-camping picnic area and the City of Parowan manages the site.  All the groups involved issued us a special use permit so we could camp at the site.  We will be the only overnight residents at Five Mile, but picnic-ers and hikers will pass through there during the day.

Bowery Stream and Vermillion Castle:

Tables and fire rings in the group camping area.  Probably our archaeology lab!  You will need to bring your basic camping gear, and we'll have potable water brought to the camp (potable means you can drink it, unlike the fresh and clean, but untreated stream water).  

Each student/volunteer is responsible for their own food during the project. We'll have some basic cooking gear.  There is a supermarket in Parowan, a few minutes from the camp, and we'll make visits periodically after the work day before we head up the canyon.  Students often organize into a group to cook meals and clean up each day.  It is more efficient when everyone shares the work. 

Because the picnic area used to be a campground, there are toilets on the site.  That means no port-a-johns!  There are facilities for men and women.  You will need to use solar showers, but since Utah's sun heats them up nicely, we'll have plenty of hot water.

The picnic area has other basic facilities, including this shelter.   Like all camping situations, we'll have to keep an eye on the weather and Bowery Creek.

We will be staying between two mountain ridges that vary from 800 to 1,000 feet above us on either side.  That means that while it will be light early when we wake up, the sun won't break over the mountain ridges until later in the day.  The canyon faces west however, so we'll have plenty of sun in the afternoon when we return from fieldwork.  The valley and creek are full of the plants and animals that make these mountains famous as part of "Utah's Color Country"! The winter water will result in beautiful spring for us.

The drawback of being in a deep canyon surrounded by beauty is that there will be no cell phone service at camp.  To use your cell phone, you'll need to either go down to town (about 5 miles on paved roads) or hike up to the top of Vermillion Castle or Noah's Ark (although I didn't test this yet because of the snow).  The latter hike is only a mile, but it is up about 1,000 feet. This picture is from the trailhead in camp, looking up 1,000 feet to Noah's Ark:

I plan on climbing up the trails for sunrise and sunset (at least one time for each) during the six weeks of field school! Probably not on the same day, however, since that would be a lot of climbing for a work day....

Camping Details are Official!

It is official!  The 2009 field camp will be in the beautiful mountains above Parowan and it will be free to students and project participants.

We will camp at the Five Mile Picnic Area up First Left Hand Canyon in the Dixie National Forest.  The camp is offered at no charge to students and project participants. Several people worked in support of the research effort to make his happen, including Todd Prince at the Iron Mission State Park; Joe Melling and the City Manager's staff the City of Parowan; and Steve Robinson, Marian Jacklin, and Gretchen Merrill from the Cedar City Ranger District of Dixie National Forest.  

I thought that the enrolled students would like to see some pictures, so I hiked up to the picnic area this weekend.  Here are some of the pictures of my hike up First Left Hand Canyon on the way to the site:



Next are some stitched panoramas of scenes from the campground.  The camp will be at the trailhead for two hikes, one up to Vermillion Castle (left in photo) and the other to Noah's Ark formation (right in photo):

This is a view from the campground itself:

I'll post some more images from around the campground in my next post.