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VCU Archaeology

Plastic, Stone, and Clay: Pipes at the Small Finds Workgroup in Richmond, VA

100_4149By Ashley McCuistion, Virtual Curation Laboratory Digital Curator

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Small Finds Workgroup at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) with Dr. Means, Laura Galke, and fellow students Allen Huber, Courtney Bowles, and Mariana Zechini.  This session was about smoking pipes, and included a series of four presentations, followed by a gathering at which the attendees of the workgroup could share pipes from their respective collections.  The presentations were fascinating, and covered such topics as the social and stylistic significance of pipes, their manufacture and production, and the potential they have as a research tool.

I loved hearing about the research done by Elizabeth Bollwerk and the conclusions she was able to draw from her comparative study of various pipes across the Middle Atlantic region, and was thoroughly amused by the stories shared by Taft Kiser, along with the interesting information he provided about pipe production and his efforts to further his studies by manufacturing pipes himself.  Merry Outlaw’s presentation on Ball Clay Pipes was both enlightening and humorous, and I was tremendously captivated by the suggested research potential of simple pipe stem measurements in the final presentation, given by Henry Miller.

100_4168After the presentations, we all ventured out into the city to find some lunch before returning to the VDHR to share our work and to see what artifacts other participants brought.  We chose to bring with us an assortment of plastic pipe replicas that we have printed using the MakerBot, along with a few digital models that we displayed on a laptop, a kindle, and an iPhone, which I think thoroughly exhibited the versatility of our 3D technology.  People seemed genuinely interested in our work, and I really enjoyed being able to share what we have done with other professionals in the field!  I also loved being able to see so many different artifacts from across the region, ranging broadly in date from prehistoric to historic contexts.  There were several other replicas present at the event as well, although those brought by Taft Kiser were made of clay, as opposed to plastic.  I was also surprised to see a few familiar artifacts, which were loaned to the Virtual Curation Laboratory before Allen, Mariana and I had joined the project.  This was an exciting treat for us, as we had never seen the actual artifacts before!

I had a wonderful time at the Small Finds Workgroup, and I appreciated the chance to attend and meet so many wonderful people!  I am also glad that we had the opportunity to share our digital and plastic artifact models, especially since we have so many that corresponded with this topic.  It was a great day, and I look forward to attending the next Small Finds event!

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  1. Pingback: From Mount Vernon to the MAAC | Digging Anthropology - March 9, 2013

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