Artifact Boxes and Cans of Worms; Navigating the 87 Church Street Legacy Collections

Author(s): Sarah Platt

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the ""Re-excavating" Legacy Collections" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The collections excavated in the 1970s at 87 Church Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina play a crucial role as part of a repertoire of sites deployed to understand Charleston as a critical urban center and waypoint in the eighteenth-century American southeast. However, a full site report does not exist for these early excavations, and research remains unfinished nearly fifty years later. Although archaeologist Elaine Herold and her volunteers carefully counted and meticulously labeled each artifact with provenience information, they then cataloged and curated the collection by class and type. Along with its sheer size, this classification decision renders the collection exceedingly difficult to use in modern context-based systems of analysis. Through her dissertation the author has returned to these collections with new research questions. In the process of opening long sealed artifact boxes and revisiting old catalog cards new strategies and quick, often unexpected, pivots in approach were required to make sense of this large and frequently unwieldy collection. The result was a process not unlike the challenges of any field excavation. This paper considers these challenges, and demonstrates that with the right sets of strategies and questions old collections can produce exceedingly valuable new insights.

Cite this Record

Artifact Boxes and Cans of Worms; Navigating the 87 Church Street Legacy Collections. Sarah Platt. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451994)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.735; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -73.389; max lat: 39.572 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23376