Sunday, November 16, 2014

Deck the Alley 2014

It’s that time of year again: time for Deck the Alley!  On Saturday, December 6th from 3-7pm,
visitors are invited to tour the first floors of the homes of participating residents.  Every year the residents of Elfreth’s Alley generously open up their private homes for this holiday event.  This is your chance to get a peak inside the beautiful, historic houses along the Alley!  The event also includes other fun and festive activities including holiday carolers, carriage rides, book signings, refreshments, and more.  Further details about the event are available on the Elfreth’s Alley Website. Tickets are available for purchase in advance online through Ticket Leap or at the at the concierge desk at the Independence Visitor Center. (Ticket Leap charges a small surcharge for purchasing online, but there is no surcharge if you buy tickets at the Visitor Center.)

Despite soggy conditions and quite a bit of rain, Deck the Alley was a great success! The event boasted unprecedented presale tickets and crowds of visitors got to see the interiors of several homes on the Alley. Everyone enjoyed themselves and indulged in seasonal refreshments while listening to carolers. I set up a small display of archaeology artifacts in the Museum’s courtyard highlighting the evolution of the properties at 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley. It was a great event, and I enjoyed talking to visitors about the archaeology!

Carolers in next to the archaeology display

A wet but beautiful night for Deck the Alley

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Open Archaeology Day in NJ

Rutgers University-Camden along with The Fredric Rieders Family Renaissance Foundation are hosting an open archaeology day in Pilesgove, NJ from 10 AM-2 PM on Saturday, November 8th Registration for this event is free and no prior archaeology experience is needed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Morning Feed on G-Town Radio, Sept. 24

Tomorrow, Wednesday September 24th, from 9-10:30am I will be on Morning Feed with Ed Feldman discussing Elfreth's Alley Archaeology.  Morning Feed is a talk radio program run by G-Town Radio, a community internet radio station based out of the Germantown section of Philadelphia.  More information about G-Town Radio is available on their website and Facebook page.  Tune in online here to check out the program tomorrow!  You can also listen to G-Town radio on the free iPhone app.  Just search “G-Town Radio” in the iTunes store to download the app.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Upcoming Fall Archaeology Events

Marcus Hook Pirate Festival

When:  Saturday, September 20th, 11am-6pm (Plank House 11am-5pm)
Where: 7 Delaware Ave, Marcus Hook, PA

This Saturday, September 20th, is the 6th annual Marcus Hook Pirate Festival.   Hosted by the Marcus Hook Preservation Society, the event boasts a full pirate encampment, live pirate music, a beer garden, food, and games.  Of course there will be some archaeology too!  Since 2005, archaeologists have conducted research at the circa 1730s Marcus Hook Plank House.  A brief history of the house is available here.  During the festival on Saturday, archaeologists (including myself) will be at the Plank House from 11am to 5pm to clean up the site, continue excavation, and greet visitors as they tour the house.  The festival itself will be located in a municipal park right on the Delaware River and the Plank House is just a short walk down Market Street.  Tours of the Plank House will be available for a $1 donation.  All funds raised by event go towards restoring the Plank Log House.

Explore Philly’s Buried Past, 2014!

When: Saturday, October 4th, 10am-3:30pm
Where: National Constitution Center, Kirby Auditorium, 525 Arch Street

The Philadelphia Archaeological Forum is gearing up to host its annual Pennsylvania archaeology month event on Saturday, October 4th.  The event will again be held at the National Constitution Center and will include several presentations by area archaeologists detailing the recent discoveries in the region.  Check out the preliminary program here.  As always, the event is free and open to the public!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chemical Heritage Foundation's Distillations Podcast on Urban Archaeology

I was lucky enough to be asked to be one of the guests on the Chemical Heritage Foundation's most recent Distillations Podcast about Urban Archaeology.  Distillations is a really neat podcast in which its hosts Michal Meyer, a historian of science, and Bob Kenworthy, a chemist, delve into the science behind various objects and topics such as alchemy, chicken nuggets, nuclear power, zombies, and many more. 

This newest podcast, “The Teeth Beneath Your Feet: Oddities in Urban Archaeology”, discusses the basics of urban archaeology as well the details of a few archaeological project in Philadelphia including Elfreth's Alley.  Doug Mooney, president of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum and senior archaeologist at URS corporation, is another guest, and he discusses the ongoing archaeological excavations along Interstate-95 in Philadelphia.  A highlight of the podcast is that it includes a few interviews with volunteers who helped out cleaning artifacts from Elfreth's Alley in July.

You can listen to the podcast here.  There is also a free smartphone app available for download.  Just search “Distillations podcast” in the app/iTunes store.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation's blog has some other cool archaeology-related material including information about a recent archaeology exhibit about the finds from the Interstate-95 project. 

It was great experience to be part of the podcast!  Thanks to all those involved with the Distillations Podcast and the CHF for inviting me to participate!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Science on Tap!

How does Elfreth's Alley Historic Site relate to science?  Find out at the special format Science on Tap: Show-and-Tell event on August 11th held at National Mechanics at 6pm.  Here, I and other representatives from Philadelphia area museums will present a specific object or idea from our institution that relates directly to science.

Science on Tap (SOT) is a program sponsored and organized by the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Philosophical Society Museum, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science.  As described on SOT's website, "Science on Tap is a monthly gathering in Philadelphia that features public discussion on engaging science topics."  Note that to attend the event you must at least 21 years of age or accompanied by a chaperone 25 years or older.

Science on Tap: Show-and-Tell event 

When: Monday August, 11th at 6pm
National Mechanics
             22 South Third St.
             Philadelphia 19106

More info:

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Day in the Life of an Archaeologist

Have you ever wonder what archaeologists do on a daily basis?  If so, you're in luck!  Since 2011, the Day of Archaeology project has been exposing the daily grinds of archaeologists by asking archaeologists from all over the world to provide brief descriptions of what they did on a particular day every year.  This year the official Day of Archaeology was on July 11, 2014.  You can check out this year's submissions for the Day of Archaeology here.  The project reveals the diverse and varied tasks that archaeologists complete!

As part of the larger Day of Archaeology program, the Philadelphia Archaeology Forum (PAF) coordinated with Philadelphia-area archaeologists to get a snapshot of what local archaeologists are up to.  Several archaeologist submitted short write-ups about what they did in archaeology one day last week.  Here are the descriptions of what archaeologists in the region have been doing.  

I wrote up a bit about my day last Thursday, focusing on Elfreth's Alley Archaeology.  Check out the write-up here.  I also included the text below. 


Today (Thursday, July 10, 2014) I hosted a public archaeology lab day at Temple University’s Anthropology Laboratory.  During the day we cleaned artifacts recovered from archaeological investigations behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley, which house the museum and gift shop of the Elfreth’s Alley Association.  The Alley, which is located in Old City Philadelphia, is a National Historic Landmark District and is credited with being the oldest continuously-occupied residential street in the United States.  The street was formed circa 1702 as a cartway to connect Front Street along the Delaware River to the commerce on Second Street. 

Elfreth's Alley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Throughout the day, I set-up, assisted, and oversaw volunteers as they wet washed and dry-brushed artifacts from excavation unit 14.   Unit 14 was excavated in the small courtyard behind 124 and 126 Elfreth’s Alley during the summer of 2013.  Today volunteers diligently used toothbrushes to gently remove dirt from the objects, revealing previously hidden details of the artifacts such as a hand-painted floral design on a sherd of creamware ceramic or a molded letter visible on a piece of clear vessel glass.  Once the object were cleaned, they were placed on screens to let them dry before being cataloged.  As volunteers cleaned, I also put cleaned artifacts into new storage containers. Each of these steps are integral to organizing and analyzing the artifacts recovered during field investigations. 

Toothbrush for cleaning artifacts.  Photo Credit: Jill Saull
As always, the volunteers today were amazing to work with!  As they washed artifacts and discussed the street’s past, they actively took part in the discovery and formation of the small street’s history.  While Elfreth’s Alley Archaeology volunteers often come from various backgrounds (today alone volunteers included a professional photographer, a math professor, a stay at home parent, and recent college graduates), they all share a passion and love of history.   I asked the volunteers to share their thoughts, impressions, and experiences from today.  Below is what they had to say: 

“This was my first time processing artifacts.   I felt like I was touching history.” – Leanna 

“I am a repeat customer.  I am interested in discover/interpreting the story of another time.” – Jill 

“I got involved in [the] Elfreth’s Alley Archaeology project and in interpretation by hearing stories of settlement and survival.   Handling artifacts, wet washing/dry brushing, gives me direct context to a place.” - Amanda 

“[I] found a very black piece of bone and a mostly intact tooth.” – Andrew 

“I really enjoyed my first time processing artifacts.  My favorite part was washing the dirt off the ceramic pieces and waiting for the pop of color to show up.  It was like taking a trip back in time.” –Livia 

“Today, I mostly dry-brushed metal objects.  There were several nails, all shapes and sizes.  I enjoyed trying to imagine the structures these nails once held together, structures that have since been swallowed by time.” - Wendy 

Each of these fantastic volunteers has become part of the Alley’s history themselves! 

Volunteer working in the lab on Thursday July 10, 2014

Later in the day, I was also on a conference call with the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) and archaeologist Douglas Mooney of URS Corporation regarding the planning and recording of an upcoming podcast on urban archaeology in Philadelphia for CHF’s Distillations program.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Elfreth's Alley on PhillyHistory Blog

PhillyHistory maintains a fun and informative blog about all things Philly history.  Last week they wrote a post about the history of Elfreth's Alley - with a little blurb about the archaeology.  Check out the blog post and this great resource about Philadelphia history!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Artifact Processing

Although there will be no formal archaeological excavation at Elfreth's Alley this summer, there are still opportunities to get your hands dirty cleaning artifacts!  Throughout the summer, we will be cleaning and processing artifacts recovered from investigations along the Alley.  Artifact processing takes place at Temple University's Anthropology Laboratory.  The Volunteer Opportunities section of the blog has the most updated schedule of lab days, an online signup sheet for volunteering, and  directions to the lab.  We have already started processing and rediscovered some engaging artifacts.  Come out and join in the lab work fun!
Gail washing artifacts.

Wendy hard at work.

Head of a toothbrush

artifacts cleaned and ready to dry

Friday, June 6, 2014

Elfreth’s Alley’s Annual Fete Day Tomorrow, June 7th!

Tomorrow Elfreth’s Alley hosts its Annual Fete Day!  The event celebrates the history of the small street with lots of fun activities for all ages.  As is tradition, the alley residents’ will open their homes for the general public to tour.   Also according to the Elfreth’s Alley Museum Facebook Page the event will include “new activities like carriage rides and 18th century family photo portraits.”  This is always a enjoyable summer event and the weather promises to be delightful!  The Museum is advertising 20% off adult tickets with the code FBFETE20.   Tickets are available for purchase online here. Be sure to check out the festivities tomorrow!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Elfreth’s Alley Museum Reopening!

After a long and harsh winter season, the Museum of Elfreth’s Alley is reopening next weekend!  Starting on April 4th, the Museum will resume giving guided tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12 to 5pm.

Come join in the revelry as the Museum hosts several events to celebrate the reopening next weekend.  On Friday April 4th there will be free tours from 5-8pm.  Then on Saturday April 5th the
Alley will be alive from 12-5pm with a yard sale, a bake sale, music, dance, and a few presentations.  I will be at the Alley on Saturday to give a brief talk around 2:30pm about the archaeology conducted on the Alley and showcase a few of the artifacts recovered. Come by and enjoy the festivities!  Note that if Saturday is rainy, Sunday April 6th is the rain date. 

The Museum’s Facebook page and Twitter account have more details about the reopening.

AAUW Discover the Future Event in Lansdale

Archaeologist's tools & jar with sample stratigraphy
Last weekend I had the opportunity to host a workshop about archaeology for middle schoolers at Pennbrook Middle School.  The activity was part of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Lansdale Branch’s annual ‘Discover the Future’ event.  The event is a way to introduce young girls (and boys) to the wide range of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  Throughout the day, women with careers throughout STEM held workshops about topics ranging from aeronautics to veterinary medicine. It was a great event with more than 100 students in attendance.

Workshop Classroom setup with clipboards for artifact analysis

During the day I held a workshop explaining what archaeology is and what archaeologists do.  I gave a brief cash course in soil science, stratigraphy, and the basics of excavation; then the students got the opportunity to practice artifact analysis as well as clean real artifacts.  It was a lot of fun working with budding archaeologists!

Here is a link to the local newspaper that tells a little more about the event.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Historical Marker at Elfreth's Alley

Elfreth's Alley will receive a Historical Marker during 2014!  The Alley will gets it vert own navy and gold sign like so many across the city.  The Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program is run through the PA State Historic Preservation office and aims to publicize the locations of important people, places, events, and innovations in Pennsylvania history.  As the PA Historical Marker website states, Elfreth's Alley is an "impeccably preserved vernacular neighborhood in the heart of Philadelphia - one of the nation's oldest and a National Historic Landmark. There have been extensive studies of these homes, their owners, and the area's transformation over its nearly 300 years of existence, shedding light on a very diverse working class community."  This is exciting new for the Alley!  Check out the Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office for more details about other approved markers for 2014!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Artifact Processing Recommences

Scheduling lab days has proven difficult this winter, but artifact processing is back underway!  We have begun to get the artifacts from the 2013 field season washed, sorted, cataloged, and rebagged.

Volunteers Gail & Gen back in lab and hard at work
Check back soon for more updates from processing.  The Volunteer Opportunities section will have the most up-to-date information about days and times for processing.

Society for Historical Archaeology’s John L. Cotter Award

I am excited to report that I received the John L. Cotter Award from the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA).  I accepted the award at the Society’s annual conference in Quebec City, Canada last month.  I received the award “For the Elfreth’s Alley Archaeology project, where her efforts in the field and in the laboratory have enriched public archaeology in Philadelphia and provided the public with a positive, interactive view of historical archaeology and its role in public discourse.”  More details about the award are available on SHA’s website.

(Photo Credit: Dr. Christopher P. Barton)

Accepting the award (Photo Credit: Jess Barton)

I am truly honored to have received this prestigious award and hope to follow in the impressive footsteps of the historical archaeologists who have received the award before.  A special thanks to Wendy Miervaldis who has volunteered with me at Elfreth’s Alley for the past two years and who thoughtfully nominated me for the award!  None of it would have been possible without her dedication and support!

Photo Opportunity with Wendy & Dr. David Orr, my advisor at Temple University (Photo Credit: Jess Barton)
I am so happy that I have gotten involved in public archaeology - it has become my passion and allows be to combine my love of archaeological research, teaching, and community outreach. Working with the public and volunteers has been one of the most rewarding parts of my project. I am ever indebted to my volunteers for their impact on my research and my life. I am thrilled about the award and the good things to come! Thank you again to all!