Friday, April 30, 2010

Lecture in Salt Lake City, Friday, May 7th.

I am giving a lecture next Friday at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.  I will speak at 7 P.M. in the museum auditorium, and their new exhibit of pottery will be open.  The exhibit grew out of the Potters of the Gathering show from last year, but is a new show curated by Kirk Henrichsen.  They will have several archaeological objects on view from both the Utah Pottery Project and Utah State Parks collections, as well as antiques from the Gary and Jill Thompson Collection and the Church History Museum's own collection.

I will talk about last summer's excavation of the Davenport Family Pottery Shop in Parowan.  The museum asked for my abstract and title, and this is what I sent:

Ten Years of The Utah Pottery Project: Archaeological Questions and Answers.

After more than ten years of preparation, Timothy Scarlett led industrial archaeology students last summer to undertake the first major archaeological excavation of a pioneer-era Latter-day Saint pottery shop. In an illustrated lecture, Dr. Scarlett will overview the scholarship of Utah Pottery Project and explain the last summer's discoveries at the site of the Davenport Family Pottery Shop in Parowan, Utah (1855-1888). The results of that excavation and ongoing laboratory research open a fascinating window into challenges and struggles faced by Utah's nineteenth century potters and their families.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Congratulations to Jessica Montcalm

On Thursday, April 22nd, Jessica Montcalm successfully defended her Master's Thesis in Industrial History and Archaeology, which she titled: A Burning Question: Archaeology at the Davenport Pottery and Technological Adaptation in the Mormon Domain.

While she has some revisions and editing to finish, her committee was impressed with how much she had learned and accomplished over the last year.  Many of this blog's readers will recall that Ms. Montcalm was the assistant archaeologist during the excavation and field school last summer.  She volunteered her time over the past year both processing and cataloging artifacts in the lab, while also supervising other volunteers in the lab.

I will discuss some of her findings when I speak at the Church History Museum's exhibit opening early in May.

Congratulations to Jessica for all her hard work.

This is the penultimate abstract:

The archaeological excavations and the associated artifact analysis at the Davenport Pottery in Parowan, Utah, serve to inform questions of landscape learning and technological adaptation in unfamiliar geographic settings. Thomas Davenport and his family immigrated to the Utah Territory from Brampton, England, in order to answer the call to gather issued by the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He, along with thousands of other settlers moved into and occupied a geographic region unknown to their prior experience. Studies of prehistoric peoples' colonization of unfamiliar landscapes indicate that unfamiliar and challenging geographical surroundings hinder successful or long-lasting colonization. By contrast, the experience of the Mormon settlers, including Thomas Davenport, provides a unique situation for inquiry in which a large population made use of exhaustive planning and active restructuring of unfamiliar geographic settings, resulting in successful and lasting settlements. Analysis of the archaeological remains associated with the kiln at the Davenport pottery shop provide physical evidence of one man's learning in an unfamiliar landscape. The remains also highlight cultural preferences as a basis for technological choice, and lend to an adaptive technological discussion regarding the form of kiln used by Davenport.

News update: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good news:

Now that the academic semester is almost at an end, I will spend a bit of time on the project preparing some artifacts for a new exhibition!  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Church History Museum is going to install a version of Potters of the Gathering in their lobby.  The exhibit will open May 7th.  Kirk Henrichsen is using pottery to remind people about nineteenth century foodways and domestic life, to explore the ideal of self-sufficiency in Latter-day Saint communities, and to show people how important archaeology is as a tool to increase our understandings of the past.

Mr. Henrichsen has gathered together some new material for this show.  He will be using most of the important objects from the original exhibit- including the Thompson Collection, the Utah State Parks Collection (including the Deseret Pottery artifacts), and the Utah Pottery Project collection.  He has also found some other cool items to include, such as a Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Association Medal from the Territorial Fair, which will be displayed with some award winning pots!  It should be a great show and will be the first time most of this material has been exhibited to the public in Salt Lake City.

The museum has invited me to give a talk at the opening and I am excited to see the new installation.

The bad news:

Both organizations declined the proposals I'd written seeking funds for more work.  One of the grants would have supported additional fieldwork. The other sought funds to allow more experiments to develop and refine ceramic rehydroxylation dating (RHX dating).  No matter how many times it happens, reviewers rejections always sting a little, even when accompanied by encouragement to "revise and resubmit."

Either way, the lack of support funds means that we will box up the artifacts and put more of the analysis on hold for the summer.  I'll be co-teaching the 2010 Industrial Heritage and Archaeology Field School this summer at the site of the Cliff Mine in Keweenaw County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I'll continue to collaborate with my friends in Materials Science.  Since Patrick Bowen was awarded two grants for undergraduate research, we will move as far ahead as we can investigating reydroxylation.  I think he will work with Jarek Drelich to characterize the clay and ceramic used by the Davenports and try to figure out the significance of the different water-absorbtion processes at work in ceramics.

We'll reflect on the reviewers' comments for a few days and then meet to plan the strategy for the rest of the summer and the fall term.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Congratulations to Patrick Bowen

I am pleased to congratulate Patrick Bowen, Michigan Technological University undergraduate student in Materials Science and Engineering.  Mr. Bowen won two major fellowship competitions and he was awarded funds for his ongoing collaborations studying rehydroxylation dating of archaeological ceramics.  He was awarded one of Michigan Tech's Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (SURF) Fellowships as well as a Michigan Space Consortium Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Patrick has been an important part of the interdisciplinary research team that Jarek Drelich and I put together to assess this newly published dating technique.  Mr. Bowen, Helen Ranck, and Jessica Beck, three MTU undergraduates in the Departments of Materials Science and Social Science, did exceptional work designing tests to assess the usefulness of RHX Dating for the Utah Pottery Project.  Patrick is presenting the preliminary results of their analysis at MTU's 2010 Undergraduate Research Expo.

The SURF and MSC Fellowship programs are both very competitive and I am proud of Mr. Bowen for his successful applications!

We are waiting to hear decisions on the proposal I wrote to support more field research as well as a National Science Foundation proposal to support more research into Rehydroxylation Dating.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed on our outstanding proposals!