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VCU Archaeology

Introduction to Public Archaeology: Display Case Style

by Lauren Hogg, Intern, Virtual Curation Laboratory

During this fall semester at the Virtual Curation Laboratory I was able to further expand my knowledge on the different ways to communicate to the public about archaeology. My tasks at the Virtual Curation Lab varied from painting 3-D printed artifacts to creating two display cases about a site called “Jordan’s Journey”.

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My main project with the Virtual Curation Laboratory was to make two small display cases for the prehistoric and historic periods of a site called Jordan’s Journey or Jordan’s Point. Jordan’s Journey was chosen to be used for these display cases because of its early Virginia history as a contact period site between the Native Americans and English colonists. The excavations at Jordan’s Journey resulted in thousands of artifacts, majority of which are still sitting in storage waiting for their debut into the public. Going into this project I was excited to be able to explore the different artifacts from this site and to learn more about curation. I must admit, when I originally began this project I was unaware of the serious amount of hard work that is put into making these display cases. Picking themes, creating props for artifacts to sit safely on, and writing labels are all important processes of creating a display case that take patience and dedication. Although at times I found myself unsure if I picked interesting themes or if I fully represented the history of the site, I truly enjoyed working on this project.

Burned cob to fragile to display

Burned cob to fragile to display


I would be lying if I said that these cases came together very eloquently. This experience was most definitely a “learn as you go” experience and my plans constantly changed. There were many moments where I realized there are more efficient ways to connect projectile points to a piece of foamcore, or to neatly and professional attach a piece of fabric to an oddly shaped piece of foam. In addition, I was constantly going back and forth through archaeological reports, books about Jordan’s Journey and asking the opinion of different archaeologists to help properly identify objects. Overall this experience has taught me so much about the details and struggles of curating artifacts. Despite these minor challenges, I always learned something new every time I worked on these display cases. From this experience I will never forget how to identify a pewter spoon or lithic debitage, and most importantly that metal alloys and wool should never mix together.

Scanning a burned maize cobb

In addition to learning how to create a display case, I was also able to learn how to scan artifacts to add to the Virtual Curation Laboratory archives. Not only was this helpful with artifacts that were going to be on loan for another exhibit, but was also useful with artifacts that were too fragile to have in my display case. Some of my favorite artifacts from this site that were scanned include a 17th c. Bartmann Jar, a piece of Roemer glass, a Megalodon tooth, and a ceramic pipe with tobacco remnants.

Scanning a burned maize cobb

Scanning a burned maize cob

Whether I was creating a display case for an archaeological site, scanning artifacts for digital archives, or painting 3-D printed replicas of artifacts used for educational purposes, my internship with the Virtual Curation Laboratory has helped me better understand the different ways to educate the public about archaeology. From this experience I have met some truly intelligent and amazing individuals who continue to motivate me to increase my knowledge about public archaeology and curation. I plan to continue my involvement with the Virtual Curation Laboratory with hopes to engage in more opportunities in public archaeology.

hogg photo 3



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