State Museum of Pennsylvania
300 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17129-0024
(717) 214-2990 (fax)
The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s, Section of Archaeology serves many functions including public outreach, maintaining the anthropology and archaeology gallery in the State Museum, assisting researchers with our collections, conducting field research and using existing collections to investigate various researchproblems, as well as serving as the central repository for collections produced by Pennsylvania’s cultural resource management (CRM) projects. As such we are responsible for the care and curation of over six million artifacts representing the entire span of human occupation in the Commonwealth.
We do many projects throughout the year in an effort to demonstrate what scientific archaeology is and why it’s important to the general public. October is Archaeology Month and as part of the celebration, we can be found excavating at Fort Hunter just outside of Harrisburg in south central Pennsylvania. Fort Hunter is part of the Dauphin County Park system and was once the location of a French & Indian War fort. Beginning in September and continuing through mid-October, we conduct an archaeological excavation investigating 18th and early 19th century life on the Pennsylvania frontier. We conduct tours of the site and generally talk to visitors about what we’re doing. In addition to Fort Hunter, we also spend a day at the State Capitol building in October, honoring a public official who has helped or promoted archaeology in some way.
The Section of Archaeology hosts the Workshops in Archaeology Program in early November. For these workshops, a discussion topic is chosen and archaeologists from throughout the Middle Atlantic region are invited to present their research in a PowerPoint lecture style to an audience of peers and laymen. The 2014 Workshops promise to be very interesting, Environmental Change and the Archaeological Record; implications for the 21st century. Dr. James Adovasio, Dr. Dennis Stanford and Dr. John Hart are already signed up to speak!
Another big event is the Pennsylvania Farm Show in early January. Based on actual counts, over 50,000 people have visited the exhibit during the week long exhabition. It is a wonderful opportunity to talk about archaeology with a large volume of visitors from throughout the Commonwealth. The topic of our exhibit changes from year to year, but our trusty replica of a dugout canoe is a constant. It is a kid magnet and it provides an opportunity to speak to the parents about archaeology and visiting the State Museum.
The various collections curated in the Section of Archaeology would be of little value if they were not available for study. A primary goal of our section is to encourage the use and research of the collections by both students and professionals.
A significant responsibility in facilitating the use of the collections is their constant care and maintenance. The Section of Archaeology was relocated in 2000 to the Commonwealth Keystone Building providing much needed storage space as well as improved laboratory spaces. We are responsible for washing, marking, cataloguing and the curation of collections that we excavate as well as collections donated to the section. A dedicated force of volunteers are essential to everything from cleaning and labeling artifacts, digitizing photo negatives and color slides, to updating databases.
If any of this sounds interesting to you please check out our blog This Week in PA Archaeology (TWIPA). It is an excellent way to keep track of what we’re up to and where you might find us. It is also a great source of information about various archaeological topics in Pennsylvania.
The contact person for Project Archaeology –Pennsylvania is Senior Curator Dr. Kurt Carr. Dr. Carr has been with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission since 1980 where he started as a review archaeologist with the Bureau for Historic Preservation and served as the Chief of the Division of Archaeology and Protection between 1988 and 2005. He has been the Senior Curator of Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania since November 2007. In this position, along with a staff of six archaeologists, he supervises the curation of the archaeological collections, develops exhibits for the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at the State Museum, develops a variety of public outreach programs and conducts field research on significant issues of Pennsylvania archaeology. His research interests include Early Holocene Native American cultural adaptations, the role of population density in cultural change, lithic technology and quarries, settlement pattern analysis, geomorphology and environmental reconstructions. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Catholic University of America in 1992.
Working in Pennsylvania, I have been able to examine how cultures have changed and, more importantly, why cultures have changed over the thousands of years of Native American cultural evolution. I believe this information can be applied to understanding and predicting change in our own culture.