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Meet the Staff: Education Intern Nicoletta Michienzi

How long have I been with  MOA?  I started my internship  July 2015.

nikki

How did I begin? I am a Masters student at Western, and as part of our program we a
re required to do an internship. I decided that I would split my time over the summer between Eldon House, a historic home in downtown London, and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. MOA really interested me because I was involved with archaeology during my undergrad, and in my masters program we learned about museum policies.

What drew me to MOA? I had come to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology as a kid and I have fond memories of the visit. I remember thinking that it was a cool museum because it demonstrated that there was a lot of history in my own backyard. I developed a greater interest in archaeology and museums as I got older, and was fortunate enough to study history in university. During my Masters,  a friend who interned here during the school year reminded me about what a cool place the museum was. I decided that I should spend part of my time at MOA completing audience research.

Favourite part of the job? My favourite part of the job is definitely talking to all of the wonderful staff and visitors. Everyone brings something unique to the museum, and the staff brings their passion for what they do to the museum. It’s really just a positive and friendly work environment, and I feel fortunate to be here.

Tell the world: There’s so much I would like to tell the world about the museum! I would like to let everyone know how great the staff is and how dedicated they are to making the museum great. Though the building isn’t as shiny and new as some other museums, this one has a lot of great content and great people behind it who are always looking for ways to make the visitors experience more educational and fun.

Advice for others? My advice would be for people interested in history. No matter your age, if you’re passionate about something like history, there are always ways to expand your knowledge and get involved. It doesn’t have to be through school or clubs. Volunteer, visit museums, read history articles, attend talks, etc. Do what you can to expand your knowledge!

Memorable story? One of my favourite stories about my time here occurred on my first week. As part of my project I am supposed to talk to different visitors and see what they liked or didn’t like about the museum. While I was here one day a pair of visitors came into the museum.  I was a little nervous, but I went up to them to ask them about their visit. We got talking and I found out that they were from Michigan and were on vacation to Canada for a couple of weeks. We began talking about their trip and the museum in general, and I learned about how they got interested in museums. It turns out that their daughter is also in a museums masters program in the U.S. and her passion had inspired them to start visiting different historic places. It was an interesting moment for me, because these people became interested in history from talking to someone who loves history. It made me think, that hopefully I could make people see why I love history so much and maybe inspire them to learn more about history.

Can you dig it? Ontario Doug on an archaeological adventure!

Ontario Doug
Ontario Doug

Hi everybody! Ontario Doug here with exciting news about a recent excavation I went on with MOA’s curator Nicole Aszalos. We visited the Davidson Site near Parkhill this past June, and they even let me help with the excavations. It’s great to learn about history up close and I was eager to get my hands dirty!
The Davidson site is inland from Lake Huron on the Ausable River, and we got to work with Dr. Chris Ellis, Ontario Archaeologist and Professor at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Ellis and his crew were looking at an old First Nations Site dating between the Late Archaic and Early Woodland period in Ontario. Did you know Dr. Ellis’ specialty focuses on the Late Archaic time period of about 3000-4500 years ago?

 

Ontario Doug examining artifacts in surface collections.
Ontario Doug examining artifacts in surface collections.

Our goal on this trip was to document three clusters of Late Archaic materials on a ploughed field surface by mapping and collecting all fire cracked rock and other artifacts. All day the archaeology crew conducted surface collections by 5×5 meter squares; we lost Dusty and Teabiscuit in them a few times! You wouldn’t believe how many artifacts we found, such as projectile points, bifaces, and tools. I found some fire cracked rock and chert flakes with Nicole and Dr. Lucy in our squares.

The team mapped items that they found, grid by grid, using a Total Station while picking up more items, such as fire cracked rock and Kettle Point chert. Nicole let me use the Total Station for the first time, and boy was that fun! A total station helps archaeologists create a map of the site, and can help future archaeologists plot where the team found artifacts on a map.

Ontario Doug and Dr. Lucy Troweler check out a recent find while helping Dr. Chris Ellis at the Parkhill site.
Ontario Doug and Dr. Lucy Troweler check out a recent
find while helping Dr. Chris Ellis at the Parkhill site.

Dusty helped us bag up and label the artifacts very carefully so we can wash and analyse them later, this helps us and future archaeologists identify the hundreds of objects we found! Some of the grid squares had plenty of objects, while some of them had very few. By the end of the day, the amount of objects the team collected made for some very weighty walks back to the vehicle. Good thing we had horse power!

We had great weather as well, sunny and hot! We were very lucky as Nicole says digging through mud is much harder. But after a hard days’ work, we were ready for some ice cream! We stopped at the “Lickity Split” ice cream parlour, and I was super excited to DIG IN!

Can’t wait to share more of my adventures with you all!

Ontario Doug

P.S.
To learn more about Davidson Site, CLICK HERE

What’s this Point?

Identifying a Fluted Point Donated to MOA

Paleo point recently donated to MOA.
Paleo point recently donated to MOA.

 

A couple months ago, a beautiful Paleo Period projectile point was donated to MOA. MOA’s curatorial team conducted further research and would like to share why this point is so interesting to us.

Projectile points from the Paleo Period are hard to come by in comparison to points from the later Archaic and Woodland Periods. This is due, in part, to the living conditions and resources available to people during this time. During the Paleo period, people lived in small bands following a nomadic lifestyle which means they were continually moving from place to place, often following the migration of their food. Caribou was the most widely hunted mammal, although First Nations also hunted smaller game and fish during this period.  The total population in the earliest part of the Paleo Period in Ontario is estimated to be less than 1000 people. The wide variety of chert types found in this period suggest people travelled great distances in their seasonal rounds or had contact with people over wide areas.

The projectile point donated to MOA resembles what we think are the earliest forms of Clovis- like or Gainey fluted points. However, this point is atypical in two respects. First is the considerable amount of ripples near the tip on one side, and second is that the edges show possible reworking at a later time, possibly to create a hunting weapon tip. What’s interesting is that no major Paleo sites have been located or excavated in Ontario.

Typically, paleo peoples of Ontario favoured light coloured chert which makes this point distinct since it is on Upper Mercer Chert. This chert is primarily almost black, but it does take on a variety of secondary colours interspersed with the black including white, greys, and brown. Upper Mercer chert was often found in the Ohio Valley and use of this material lasted well into the Archaic period.  Crowfield and Barnes Parkhill points are examples of other Paleo points found in Ontario.

Crowfield points on display at MOA.
Crowfield points on display at MOA.
Barnes Parkhill Points on display at MOA.
Barnes Parkhill Points on display at MOA.

Paleo points are fascinating not just because they can date around 12,000 years before present, but because they represent some of the earliest forms of technology found in Southern Ontario.

Terms:

Chert: A fine grained sedimentary rock used for making various types of projectile points.

Further Reading:

Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland- Clovis Points:  http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Maryland_Projectile_Points/FindingAidsandImagePages/FindingAids/PaleoIndian/clovis.html

London Chapter OAS- Southern Ontario Projectile Points:  http://www.ssc.uwo.ca/assoc/oas/points/sopoints.html

Ontario Doug and Wampum

Ontario Doug
Ontario Doug

Ontario Doug and the Importance of Wampum

Ontario Doug has spent the last couple of weeks with Dr. Lucy learning about wampum.  He was particularly intrigued by a recent blog post that MOA wrote on Wampum and wanted to learn more – especially how to make the wampum craft.

Wampum are small tubular beads carved from shell, and are either white or purple in colour. The white beads are carved from the interior of a Whelk shell and the purple beads typically originate from dark markings on the exterior of a Quahog shell.  Because they are less common, purple beads would have held a higher value. These beads were traditionally woven into either strings or belts and used to record important agreements and accounts of civil affairs between Indigenous groups, as well as within the groups themselves. These belts were made for many different reasons, and could represent everything from marriage proposals, to trade and land treaties, to funerary condolences.


Wampum belts 1812 exhibit, Museum of Ontario Archaeology

Prior to European contact, there was no set form of written language, and as such the Indigenous populations of North America relied heavily on oral tradition and the maintenance of woven wampum records to serve as early forms of “legal” documentation. Picking up on the cultural value of these items, European traders would later utilize Wampum Belts as methods of monetary payment, bringing forth factory made belts to be offered in exchange for furs and hunting supplies. The beads themselves were often used as trade items between Indigenous groups, as the shells were more commonly found on the West and East coasts of the continent, and could thus be traded for inland crops like corn and beans and squash, as well as beaver furs.

Ontario Doug is using a looped piece of string and some pony beads to make a wampum craft with Dr. Lucy.

Dusty and Teabiscuit watch Ontario Doug and Dr. Lucy choose beads for their wampum craft.
Dusty and Teabiscuit
watch Ontario Doug and
Dr. Lucy choose beads
for their wampum craft.

 

  1. First, he uses a long piece of string, folded in two and knotted at the top to create a loop which will later be used for tying the wampum to either his wrist, for a bracelet or to a backpack like a keychain!
  2. To make the weaving process easier, Doug has added some toothpicks to the ends of his string with regular scotch tape.
  3. Doug starts by threading one bead on the his string, just past the toothpick, and then passing the second toothpick through his bead in the same direction as the first –note here that two toothpicks cannot pass simultaneously through the inside of the bead, so one string must be threaded at a time.

    Ontario Doug using a toothpick to string beads.ng
    Ontario Doug using
    a toothpick to
    string beads.
  4. To create colourful rows (which may be strategically chosen to represent some sort of agreement), Doug strings three beads on to his toothpick next. If you are using toothpick-ed string, the tooth picks should not go through this row in the same direction like he did with the first bead, but opposite, creating an “X” effect with the attached strings.
  5. Doug repeats this “X”ed pattern of applying 3 or 4 beads to each row at a time, making the belt or bracelet as long as he likes. Typical bracelet length is about 6 or 7 rows of beads.
  6. When Doug is ready to finish off his bracelet, he applies another single bead to the end of his belt, weaving it with the same “X” pattern as the last 6 or 7 rows have utilized. Once he has done this, he slips the toothpicks off the ends of his string, and ties a knot above the last bead (double or triple knotting ensures a good hold here).

 

Dr. Lucy and Teabiscuit with their Wampum craft.
Dr. Lucy and Teabiscuit with their Wampum craft.

Bibliographic Information:

Haas, Angela M. “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory  and Practice.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 19.4 (2007): 77-100. Print.

Vachon, Robert. Guswenta Or the Intercultural Imperative: Towards a Re-enacted Peace Accord Between the Mohawk Nation and the North American Nation-states (and Their Peoples). Intercultural Institute of Montreal, 1995.

Foster, Michael K. “Another look at the function of Wampum in Iroquois-White councils.” The History and Culture of Iroquois Diplomacy 99.114 (1985): 105.

Beadwork

Shell Beads

What did First Nations people wear for fashion? Or for ritual purposes? What did the decoration on their cloths and these objects look like? How were they made? These can be some of the questions one might ask when referring to the objects that First Nations made through beadwork.

Throughout the Great Lakes region, Indigenous peoples created accessories and materials with beads. The use of beadwork by First Nations people for decorative and other purposes has been practiced throughout history.  Materials such as stone, bone and shells have been used to make beaded objects. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, beads were larger in size and came in a variety of shapes.

With the arrival of Europeans, Indigenous peoples were introduced to smaller beads made of glass. As a result, they were able to create more intricate beadwork designs and applied these methods to various objects such as the Wampum Belt.


Wampum belts 1812 exhibit, Museum of Ontario Archaeology

Wampum belts are made from beads that are sewn together with each bead colour placed in a specific pattern and arrangement.  Wampum belts were used for rituals and political situations, such as peace treaties and unifications.

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Moccasins are another example of objects that incorporates patterns of beadwork. The moccasin, a form of footwear worn by Indigenous peoples, was made from animal hide. Beaded designs – usually made using glass beads, was added on the footwear.

Smaller glass beads were also used to make elaborate necklaces and other forms of jewellery. The Iroquois for example used beads for personal adornment and to decorate items such as clubs and pouches. The pouch would have a matching beaded belt.  Pouches would also often have beaded strings made from dyed horse hair attached to them.

Pouch with decorative beadwork.
Pouch with decorative beadwork.

Visit the museum to see examples of beadwork currently on display.

 

References:

Tara Prindle, “Overview of Footwear, Moccasin” Native American Technology and Art, 1994

Karklins, Karlis. Trade Ornament Usage Among the Native Peoples of Canada. Ottawa: Ministry of the Environment, 1992.

Beads: Their Use by Upper Great Lakes Indians.  An exhibition produced by the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Cranbrook Academy of Art/Museum

Lyford, Carrie A. Iroquois Crafts. Iroqrafts Publications, 1945.

Ontario Doug – The Adventure Begins

There are many things Ontario Doug and Dr. Lucy Troweler want to explore while at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.  In addition to the various exhibits and Lawson Village, there are a lot of different activities happening at the museum this summer.

Ontario Doug with Poetter
Checking out the pottery activity.

Dr. Lucy is really interested in what’s happening behind the scenes and has already started exploring the museum’s on-line collection to find out more about the museum’s artifacts and how they can be used to inspire an appreciation for Ontario’s cultural diversity.Dusty and Seabiscuit are really looking forward to checking out all the fun stuff our future archaeologists are doing at the museum during Summer Camp and Ontario Doug can’t wait to help out during the Youth Dig-It Campin August.

.

 

Ontario Doug exploring the Jury Model.
Ontario Doug exploring the Jury Model.

One of Ontario Doug’s first stops in the Museum was the Jury Model.  Build by Wilfrid Jury and his father Amos in 1933, the model depicts the visit of the Jesuit priests Jean de Brebeuf and Pierre Joseph Marie Chaumonot to the Attawandarons.  The Jesuit Priests traveled from their mission “Sainte-Marie among the Hurons” to this district in 1641.

 

Wilfrid Jury with Pope Paul VI.
Wilfrid Jury with Pope Paul VI.

For four years, Wilf and Elsie conducted excavations at St. Marie I and completed extensive archival research about the site and its occupants. The site became an attraction, visited by thousands, and Wilf became nationally recognized. In December 1964, Pope Paul VI granted Wilf and Elsie audience and gave his blessing to the Ontario government and all that were involved in the excavation St. Marie I.

 

Ontario Doug is particularly interested in this early diorama because of its connection with Wilfrid Juryand Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.

Emergency Treatment for your Collectables

Collections: Emergency Treatments for your Collectables

If we could prevent disasters we would never have to worry about the safety and housing of our collection. In reality, disasters are unexpected and can cause irreversible damage to some of our most precious objects. (For example take a look at the video of the sinkhole at the Corvette Museum). Some artifacts, can be salvaged with the work of experts. A local example was the 2004 flood in Peterborough, Ontario in which 1 meter of water seeped into the vault of the Peterborough Centennial Museum Association (PCMA), affecting many of the Roy Studio photographic materials. (You can read about the restoration initiative here.)

Today’s blog includes a summary of how to handle your valuables in case a disaster arises. This summary takes a look at water damaged objects, however, if you want more information on fire or physically damaged objects, further information can be found by consulting:  Disaster Planning, Manual of Curatorship. Sue Cackett. Museums Association 2nd ed. 1992.

Emergency treatments for Water Damaged/ Wet and Dirty Materials

Please note: In all cases, it would be wise to expert advice from a conservator after the initial stages of emergency response.

  • BOOKS/MANUSCRIPTS

    Water damaged canvas
    Image source: http://nyti.ms/1LBZmiP
  • Wrap in Polythene and freeze object. This will freeze the water and help prevent running/blotting of ink and mould
  • PAINTINGS (OIL ON CANVAS)
  • Remove the painting from the frame, but not stretcher. Blot off excess water, insert blotting paper between canvas and stretcher and dry face down on acid free tissue. Dry slowly in ambient environment.
  • PAINTING (WATERCOLOUR)
  • Freeze and seek a professional help.
  • WOODS AND LEATHERS
  • These should be dried slowly. If they are dirty rinse  and cover with a polythene sheet. Don’t apply heat as that will damage the materials
  • TEXTILES
  • Can be frozen. Heavy/ thick clothing should be hung to dry if clean. If they are dirty or the colours are running rinse in clean water and blot dry with a towel then air dry on padded hangers. Delicates should lay flat and out of direct sun.
  • METALS
  • Dry as soon as possible. If dirty, rinse, clear of excess water then air dry.
  • PHOTOGRAPHS AND FILM
    Jury Collection Tintype

  • If they are damp but separated, lay flat with emulsion side up to dry. If not readily separable, keep damp and seek professional help. You should immerse wet films and negatives in water and consult a professional.
  • STONE/ CERAMIC/GLASS
  • Leave them on their own to dry.

Context in Archaeology

Context in Archaeology or where did it come from? is one of the most important questions archaeologists ask.  One of the primary philosophies in archaeology is reconstructing daily life of human history and prehistory through material remains. Although one artifact can outline the potential age of a site and its trade relations between communities, it cannot tell you the bigger picture of how the object is understood and what it means to the daily life of the people unless you look at its association with the environment and material remains that surround it.

So how do we look at context in archaeology? The stratigraphy (the layering of soils and remains) of a site and the objects within each layer are examined in order to understand the meaning of the object and its association to the site. Soils layer over time therefore objects found in one layer are considered to be related and date to a similar time of use while objects found in another layer, either above or below, are deposited at an alternate time and indicate a different period of use.

Stratigraphy

Archaeologists can even identify when pits were dug on site just by looking at the layers of soil. Artifacts that are found in the same layer of soil are examined as a whole to identify what daily life was like during the time the objects were deposited there.

For example, archaeologists at the Lawson site beside MOA excavated thousands of pottery fragments that can be studied by their physical attributes in order to understand ecology, social organization etc. For example, one would consider a pottery fragment excavated in a hearth surrounded by carbonized corn remains to mean something different than a pottery fragment excavated across the site near the remains of a deer. While the use of the objects may have different meaning individually, if they are found in the same stratigraphic layer, chances are they were used at the same time.   In our example, this tells us that the Attawandaron people of Lawson had a diet containing both deer and corn at the same time.

Context is a very broad subject in archaeology, but it is one of the most useful tools for archaeologists to understand daily life and its evolution over thousands of years in Ontario. Understanding context helps identify subsistence patterns, time periods, social organization, and environment and relate it all together into one big picture.

Further Learning:

References:

  • Bahn,Paul, and Colin Renfrew. 2008. Archaeology Theories, Methods, and Practice. 5th ed. Thames and Hudson Pg. 121-123
  • Johnsen, Harald, and Bjornar Olsen. 1992. Hermeneutics and Archaeology: On the Philosophy of Contextual Archaeology. American Antiquity. Vol 57, no. 3: 424-425

Image:

  • Bahn,Paul, and Colin Renfrew. 2008. Archaeology Theories, Methods, and Practice. 5th ed. Thames and Hudson Pg. 123

Meerschaum Pipes

Meerschaum Pipes

The Origin of Meerschaum

Meerschaum, also known by its technical name sepiolite, is a hydrous magnesium silicate formed from the shells and bones of prehistoric sea creatures. Meerschaum originates from Turkey and can vary in colour from white to light grey or even yellow. It is very porous and light, ranked as a 2 in hardness on the Mohs scale.  Meerschaum is mainly found in veins mined as deep as 400 feet below the surface but it can also naturally occur as lumps that look similar to sea foam floating atop the surface of the Black Sea.

Mainly used to create pipes, the first pipe recorded using meerschaum was created in 1723 by a shoemaker in Budapest. He discovered meerschaum is highly absorbent and he repeatedly dosed it in water to make it more pliable while carving. The experiment proved successful and the first meerschaum pipe was created. Currently, it housed at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest.


Teddy Pipe (2)

The Rise of Popularity and its Presence in America

Although meerschaum has been used since the 1700’s, its big break came around the 1840’s when upper class smokers throughout Europe began to collect the white pipes. Europeans were enamoured by the way meerschaum darkened in colour with use which created a booming industry of many European workshops working with high quality meerschaum supplied from Turkey or lesser quality meerschaum from Tanzania, Greece, Spain, and the United States.

In the United States, President James Garfield, an avid devotee of meerschaum pipes, commissioned the William Demuth Company situated in Manhattan to create two pipes for the 1881 inauguration, one to the likeness of the future president and one of his wife. These pipes were received with such high enthusiasm by both the president and upper class society smokers that Demuth decided to commission a series of high relief meerschaum pipes of all 29 presidents.

We know that the presidential pipe in our collection is not one commissioned by the Demuth Company since it does not have the WDC mark. Other manufacturing companies in the United States found their own carvers to create Presidential pipes which produced multiple sculptural styles of each president.

MOA’s pipe is carved in high relief and likely commissioned by an American manufacturing company at the time. Teddy Roosevelt is known to have over 10 variations of his image featured on meerschaum pipes.

Meerschaum Pipe

Did you know: You can symbolically Adopt this Artifact!? Your support will help support the care and conservation of our collection for years to come. You will receive a certificate of Adoption including a photograph of the artifact, and an opportunity to be photographed with the artifact. Including a “Behind-the-Scenes” tour of the Museum and many more benefits.

Briar pipe Lord

The Decline of Meerschaum

Meerschaum declined in the early 1900’s with the rise of briar pipes.

Although Meerschaum didn’t fall out of use completely since it was used to line briar wood pipes, meerschaum declined in production which lead to most European workshops closing and the quality of Meerschaum reducing with knock offs created using glue and meerschaum powder.

Fun Fact: A major plot device in the movie National Treasure was a meerschaum pipe?

-Nicole Aszalos, Curator

 

Sources

Hellier, Chris “Pipe Production in Eskisehir.” The Middle East. Jan 1993:50

Mindat.Org. Sepiolite. 2015. http://www.mindat.org/min-3621.html

Pfeiffer, Michael, Richard T. Gartley and J. Byron Sudbury. President Pipes: Origin and Distribution, 2007. https://www.uark.edu/campus-resources/archinfo/SCHACPresidentPipes.pdf

Rappaport, Ben. Pipes of Our Presidents, Antiques and Collecting. 1994. http://tobaccopipeartistory.blogspot.ca/2012/07/pipes-of-our-presidents.html

The First Meerschaum Pipe, Michigan Farmer.  Jan 8th 1884;15,2 American Periodicals pg. 6

Caring for Family Heirlooms

Like the family heirlooms you have at home, museums are responsible for protecting a community’s cultural heritage for future generations. Caring for these unique and meaningful objects until they can be shared with children and grandchildren is not difficult, and we’d like to share some simple things you can do to ensure your heirlooms are protected.

Museums care for and preserve many different types of artifacts.  One area critical to long term preservation is how they are stored. Proper artifact storage is not as hard as it seems and is one of the easiest ways to prevent physical and environmental damage.

Here are a few simple guidelines we use that will help you keep your family heirlooms safe and sound.

1.  If you are storing clothing or any type of textiles (quilts, table cloths, etc.), use acid free white tissue to wrap and pack them. It’s important to use white since the colour of some tissue can actually rub off on the textiles.

2.  When packing textiles in a box or drawer, it is better to roll them loosely rather than fold them. Folding creates creases which will eventually cause the fibers in the fabric to fray and break resulting in holes. Also, stuffing small rolls (aka ‘sausages’) of tissue into areas being folded create a gentle roll instead of a hard crease.

packing fabric

3.  Limit the amount of direct exposure to light. Objects such as papers, photographs, textiles, and drawings can fade or yellow over time from constant exposure to light. Light can also accelerate an existing problem (i.e. if mould is present) since high levels of light can cause fluctuations in temperature.

4.  Don’t store metal objects in PVC type plastics. PVC plastics can cause a chemical imbalance with metal that creates an acidic reaction. Left untreated, this can create irreversible damage. Mylar envelopes are one of the many proper ways to store your metals such as coins in.

5.  Avoid attics and basements! They may seem like a good place to store family heirlooms because of the space available, but can actually be the worst places to store artifacts. Attics and basements are prone to temperature fluctuations (high and low) and when combined with high humidity, it accelerates deterioration and increases the potential for problems with mould. If possible, try storing objects in an area of your home where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much. Also, keeping heirlooms away from exterior windows and doors can do wonders for preservation

If you are interested in learning more about how to care from your family heirlooms, check out the Canadian Conservation Institute’s CCI Notes to learn more about the care, handling, and storage of a variety of cultural objects.