Friday, July 17, 2009


Howdy everyone!
Here's another update on what I've been doing at Fort Snelling: cataloging!

In addition to inventorying, Molly and I also learned how to catalog. Cataloging is like the older brother of inventorying, and in addition to writing down what is in a collection, requires us to assign the material with its acquisition number as well.

In this case there were several boxes from a dig in Fort Ripley back in 1995 that had been bouncing around for years. They made their way to Fort Snelling, but even then hadn't been properlly accessioned. So Pat did the paperwork and got a number for each site and Molly and I got down to business.

We sorted through the sites and got everything set out in order of provenience. Sites are dug on a grid coordinate system - getting things in order of provience basically means getting them in the order of their horizontal grid as well as their vertical grid. For example: 0N0W 1-10cm goes before 0N0W 20-30 cm.

Here's what it looked like just out of the boxes - note that within each bag there are loads of other bags. And within each of those loads of other bags, there are even more bags. Bags within bags within bags basically sums up archaeology. ;)

Once they were all laid out in their proper order we went through and inventoried what was in the various bags. For most of this process we were aided by various different documents that had been written up since its 1995 digging, but in some cases even previous inventories didn't solve some mysteries... In one case we had a previous inventory that listed 200 + artifacts and a single zip-lock bag containing ... 1 tiny ceramic sherd.

While inventorying, we assigned every artifact its own number. Every place has its own special way of doing numbers, but here's the way the Minnesota Historical Society does it. The number it was assigned started with the year (2009), then the specific number of the site (XX) seperated by a period, then it's provieneice (XX) again seperated by a period, and then finally it's individual object number (XX). Simply by looking up the number of an object you can figure out what site it came from, which provienece (it's horisontal and vertical location at the original site) and how many others came out of the ground with it. Pretty nifty.

Once the numbers were assigned (and written on bags) we got to what we nicknamed "arts and crafts time." We printed out a list of all the numbers we would need on archival paper in size four font from a file aptly named "tiny numbers." Then we cut up each little number and adhered it to it's proper object in a two step process. Here's a picture of how we worked the system. We keept each provience number on its own pink foam tray and then numbered them provience by provienice so we wouldn't get confused.

And, finally, we had hundreds and hundreds of little objects with their correct tiny numbers archivally glued to their bodies. ;)


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