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Artifact Washing: FSC Site

Artifact Washing Process:

Small groups of 6-8 people work to help wash artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel site. In the summer, 1 meter square units were excavated on the site and any materials found in that space were documented and kept together in “field bags” with attached provenience information: site number, unit coordinates, level, date, and excavator’s initials. Each bag is given a separate number for the site. Artifacts from the completed units are taken to a lab for processing.

At the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, volunteers are taking items out of the field bags to wash.

Cleaning not only helps preserve the artifact, but it reveals features and marks not visible because of dirt buildup. Ceramics, glass, and bones that are in good condition are washed with a toothbrush in a basin of plain water. No detergents or soaps are used as they can damage artifacts. If an item cannot be washed, it can be dry brushed to remove any dirt.

Artifacts are then set on newspaper to dry for at least two days to ensure no moisture will induce mold or mildew growth once they go into storage. The artifacts are kept together according to their field bags to keep context (or provenience) together during this entire process.

Once dry, artifacts are put into new archival quality bags with their provenience information. They are then ready for cataloguing and research.

Learn more: Visit MOA’s new temporary exhibit: Winter Archaeology