Welcome to a brand-new year at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology! I am honoured to start my first full year as the new Executive Director at MOA, and I am excited about what 2017 has in store for us. I follow in the footsteps of some incredible people who have had the honour of directing this unique facility, the last of whom – Joan Kanigan – left a strong foundation of policy development and infrastructure renewal that will allow us to begin the first stages of our merger with Sustainable Archaeology, the research and curation facility next door. The integration of SA will allow us to incorporate new and interactive technologies into our galleries and classroom, highlighting some of the innovative archaeological research being done at this state-of-the-art facility. Read more
Trained as both an archaeologist and computer animator, Michael has spent his professional career immersed in the creative, technical and business roles of animation and visual effects (VFX) film and broadcast production. Returning to his archaeology roots twenty years later, Michael’s research focuses on the use of Virtual Archaeology (VA) to better inform archaeological and heritage research, dissemination, and mobilization. His interest is in VA epistemology, paradata and the experiential application of technology for archaeological knowledge construction.
By Christie Dreise
This past month, MOA was provided the opportunity to acquire a new artwork collection which includes two pieces by renowned artist Norval Morrisseau: Discipline and Shaman Motifs Mohawk Clan (1975).
Discipline, a colourful serigraph, depicts two larger than life faces in profile nose to nose, almost touching each other in an intense confrontation. Shaman Motifs Mohawk Clan (1975), an original acrylic painting, reveals a unique figure from the waist up filling the entire canvas. He is an intense, bright, and engaging presence. Read more
Many objects in a museum collection require conservation treatment to extend their longevity, and First Nations basketry is no exception. Treating baskets requires multiple steps, but the general philosophy is simple: reduce the effects of damage in a controlled, documented, and reversible way.
The first step of conversation is documentation. Once this is complete, it is time to treat the basket. Conservators consider a lot during the treatment of an object including fragility, materials, and the object’s continuing health. The first round of cleaning is usually ‘dry’ cleaning. This includes brushing surface dust and debris from the object, as well as using cosmetic sponges to remove adhered dirt or accretions from the surface. Dry cleaning is an effective way to gently remove most of the dirt and dust from an object without being aggressive or invasive (because causing extra damage to the object only means more work later). In my experience with the basketry collection at the MOA, most require dry cleaning only. Read more
We asked our Curator, Nicole Aszalos, to comment on this Guardian Article and share her Museum Curator’s secrets.
The Secrets of the Museum Curators from The Guardian is a well written article, with some of England’s top flight curators sharing thoughts on their careers. Although the article is not an in-depth discussion of the curatorial field, it does provide some effective and honest career insights for the aspiring curator. In the short article the curators also try to solve some misconceptions commonly associated with the profession.
Often when I say I am a curator, responses run along the lines of ‘Oh that’s interesting.. .What is that?” Now when we compound that on the fact that I am a curator at an archaeology museum, it can make for some interesting conversations due to the uniqueness of the position. The most common misconception about a curator’s role is that the majority of your time is spent doing exhibit design and selecting objects to make a gallery look pretty. Realistically, that is maybe 25 percent of the job. Curators are the keepers of the museum’s collection. This means we research, catalogue, preserve, conserve, and house museum objects for current and future generations. We maintain the gallery AND collection space and coordinate interns and volunteers. In actuality, it is a lot more behind the scenes than many people realise (editor’s note: imagine an iceberg. What the public gets to see in a museum is only the tip, above the water). Read more
The recent discovery of Beatrix Potter’s Kitty in Boots in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Beatrix Potter archive highlights the tremendous challenge museums can face in managing their collection and the information about them. With often thousands of objects and documents held in trust within museum collections the task of knowing not only what’s in the boxes but where in the museum things are located often falls to a select few people.
Museums hold their collections in trust for the public, and that responsibility includes not only caring for the collection but making the information and knowledge about it accessible. Having worked with and for museums for over 15 years, I’ve seen examples of extraordinary collections management processes as well as “We don’t know what we’ll do if (fill in name) retires. They’re the only person who knows where everything is.” Read more
This summer, MOA’s curatorial team began its next big project to repack ethnographic artefacts and maps in our collection storage area. Thanks to a grant from the London Community Foundation, MOA was able to purchase archival quality storage materials which will allow us to preserve our remarkable collection for many more generations to come. While it sounds like an easy project, repacking artifacts isn’t as simple as taking things out of one box and putting them in another. So how are we going about this?
MOA’s ethnographic and map collection consists of more than 3000 objects. Due to the size of this project, the curatorial team used this opportunity to inventory the entire collection by going through each box one by one. For every object found in a box, the curatorial team updated its catalogue record, location, condition report, and took digital pictures. After a box was complete, all objects were re-wrapped in acid free tissue with a new object barcode placed on the tissue surrounding each object. Read more
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.) Read more
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. Read more
Although not exactly like pictures we encounter today, tintype photographs set the stage for photography in our era. Tintypes began in 1856 when an Ohio chemistry professor Hamilton Smith patented the tintype image. While not a new concept, the tintype was a combination of earlier experiments in imaging and existing commercial processes. Even though these photographs are known as a ‘tintype’, they are not actually made from tin. During their production in the 1800’s these pictures were were called ferrotype, in reference to the material they were created on; ferrous (AKA iron).
Before tintypes existed, the two main types of photographic images, the daguerreotype and the ambrotype, were created by treating glass with light sensitive collodin. Read more