by Ashley McCuistion, Digital Curator
Last Friday (March 1) the Virtual Curation Laboratory headed up to Montpelier to do some scanning and share a few surprises. When I arrived with fellow VCU students Allen Huber, Aaron Ellrich and Rachael Hulvey, Dr. Means had already begun scanning a few artifacts that the folks at Montpelier were kind enough to loan us for the day. We met the staff in the lab, who were all incredibly warm and welcoming, as well as the Director of Archaeology, Dr. Matt Reeves. We have done some scanning at Montpelier before, and recently printed replicas of a few of their artifacts, which we were very excited to share! Rachael, who participated in field school at the site last year, did the honor of unveiling our two biggest objects… Two triple-sized replicas of a small Pan’s head figurine that the team scanned last year! We also presented a few replicas of a headless, footless bird figurine that was scanned last year as well.
After the excitement from the plastic replicas died down, we began exploring the lab. Unlike many I have seen, this lab is open to the public and gives visitors a chance to see the collections and experience an active archaeological lab first-hand, which I thought was very neat. They had a large assortment of artifacts that were neatly organized in drawers by time period and type. I enjoyed looking through them, and learned a lot just from seeing the artifacts and reading about them in the lab! There was also a sandbox outside with trowels and artifacts for children to find. I was very excited by this, and Allen and I could not resist spending a few minutes poking around in the dirt. Meanwhile, we were still in the process of scanning a few metal objects, which is usually a challenge for our scanner, but not this time. The first was a square object with a serpent-like design, followed by an iron pipe, then an iron awl.
After setting up the awl, Dr. Reeves took us on a tour of the site. He showed us the house and the reconstructed timber outbuildings, which sit on top of the ground so as not to disturb the earth beneath. I was very impressed by the steps they take at Montpelier to preserve the archaeological record in every way possible. We finally made our way out to their currently active dig site, where a handful of excavators were braving the cold. We got to talk to them for a while and show them our replicas before heading back for lunch and to wrap up the scanning. The iron awl did not work, as it was too dark and thin, so we moved on and wrapped up the day with a partial horseshoe, which scanned beautifully without any problems at all!
We really enjoyed our time at Montpelier, and I learned a lot from the site, their collections, and the wonderful people that work there! I hope to return soon, and look forward to our next visit!