Saturday, May 30, 2009

Internship Abridged

Howdy again!

Well, my internship has started and I'm doing 15 hours a week, which (by the end of the summer) will add up to a nice 180 hours of interning time. The perfect amount to get a credit at Beloit College. Of course, in addition to the work I'm doing at Fort Snelling, I also have to do an academic project... which you're looking at!
This post will just be a summary of what I'm up to, but next week, look forward to a deeper look at Fort Snelling, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the collections from the University of Minnesota. :)

What am I actually doing?
Good question!

I'm working with another intern, Molly, and we're dealing with some collections from the University of Minnesota. Basically, the U relocated where they were housing their archaeological collections... and forgot to include storage in their new facility. Oops! So they sent what they couldn't house to the Minnesota Historical Society, who squeezed in room. All in all there are roughly 1,500 boxes of artifacts and collections from the U housed in the basement of Fort Snelling. Which is all fine and dandy, except for the fact that some of these boxes haven't been inventoried and no one knows any more of what's in them other than a vague discription, such as, "miscellaneous, 1969." Another oops.

Molly and I have been going through the unknown boxes, inventorying, and counting the objects. Which isn't so bad, except when there are literally thousands of little things to count and record. Pictured, hundreds of pottery sherds. Pottery sherds are pretty cool. :) Though I have to admit that I think lithics are just a tad cooler. A little less fun to count maybe, but cooler.

Anyhow, when objects aren't washed, Molly and I also get the job of washing them. Which means toothbrushes and water for lithics (rocks) and glass and a dry brush for organic things and metals that the water would harm.

Once all that's done we record what we find on inventory sheets, photocopy them, and move on to the next box. :) And there is always a "next box." Trust me.

But that's not all!

In addition, Molly and I sometimes get to go on little "field trips" to see the world outside of the basement of an underground building (that fact makes me laugh.)

On the 28th Pat Emerson, the Head of Archaeology at the Minnesota Historical Society and our internship supervisor invited us to see ground-penetrating radar in practice. Although not being used for archaeological purposes, the radar was owned and operated by an archaeology firm. They had been hired by the park service to see if the parking lot asphalt had covered up any geologic pot holes created 10,000 years ago at Interstate Park up near Taylor Falls MN.

Now what did all that mean?
Another good question.

Ground-penetrating radar. What the heck is that? GPR is a method of "seeing" changes below ground without having to get out the backhoe and tearing everything to pieces. GPR sends radar waves from a machine above ground, lets them bounce around, and then receives them again. The info. is then processed and by looking at the data, they can figure out if there is an archaological or geological feature, where it is, and even what it is.

Here's a picture of it in action. They section off the space they're working on in a grid, use GPS devices to get everything pin-point accurate, and then slowly drag the GPR machine throughout the gridded area. Every 5 cm the machine sends off a round of radar. The data from the call and response is sent directly to a laptop hooked up to a car battery that figures out what it all means.

Which is pretty dang nifty.

So that's my internship in a nutshell. I'm sure it will change quite a bit over the next few weeks and the course of the summer, but I'll keep you all well informed. :)

Next time:
A deeper look at Fort Snelling, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the collections from the University of Minnesota. :)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a lot of fun in your internship, Claire. My summer interns at the Jewish Museum of Maryland can certainly relate to processing an entire university collection in 10 weeks. Several of their blog posts are about weeding through the boxes, too.

    -Jobi Zink
    Sr. Collections Manager
    Jewish Museum of Maryland