by Ivana Adzic, Intern, Virtual Curation Laboratory
As a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, I had witnessed the important role of 3D artifact printing in public archaeology. By interning this Fall with Dr. Means at the Virtual Curation Laboratory and Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR), I was excited to incorporate and expand on my knowledge of public education through the presentation of imagery and physical historic material. After consulting with Dr. Means, VCU’s Virtual Curation Laboratory founder, I began to search for the best way to investigate the underwater archeology methods in Virginia as well as the education and the curation surrounding it. Dr. Means suggested that I speak with Katherine Ridgway at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Her experience as a conservator for various institutions, as well for VDHR made her a perfect source of logistical answers to the reality of mounting two small display cases of Virginia’s underwater archaeology past.
My research led me to “Betsy”, a revolutionary war shipwreck found in York River off the coast of Yorktown. Most notable of the artifacts found are those of organic material such as leather shoes, mast skirt, rope and others that would not normally preserve in terrestrial archaeology. It became clear that this organic material would be an attractive aspect of my underwater archaeology presentation and could serve as an opportunity to discuss further the potential of unacknowledged material still remaining in Virginia’s waters.
I was still brainstorming the ways to talk about “Betsy”, Virginia’s underwater exploration and issues of conservation. Luckily, Dr. Means and Ms. Ridgway suggested that I, along with my other fellow students, test my concept by presenting at the annual conference of Archaeological Society of Virginia. It is through this challenge that I began contemplating the difficulty of bringing underwater archaeology to the forefront of the people’s interest, especially when presented with the necessary but costly reality of preservation of water-submerged material.
Armed with the larger concept of the importance of raising the public’s awareness, I decided that the two display cases, generously afforded to me by Ms. Ridgway and other VDHR staff, should present “Betsy” as an attraction and thus an opportunity to discuss greater underwater exploration issues.
One of the cases is purely devoted to “Betsy”, its historical significance that speak to historians, small finds aficionados, as well as those fascinated by the impressive concept of underwater material’s long term preservation.
The second display is purely an attempt to demonstrate the difficulty of underwater archaeology in Virginia. I became particularly interested in this concept after my own open water portion of SCUBA certification on a very cold November day on Lake Rowlings, VA.
After searching for the realistic and safe way to create an ‘underwater’ environment demonstration, I was able to complete by goal of seeing “Betsy” and its context of York river displayed at the entrance of DHR.
I am looking forward to hearing the feedback and seeing the topic of underwater exploration take a step forward.