And the Winner is….

Many thanks to everyone who submitted their vote for their favorite “Ugly Object” of 2017. The winner this year is… drum roll please…. the fragmented but fabulous mud brick!!!  
Stay tuned for more Ugly Objects from the Kelsey. 
Advertisements
Posted in Ugly Object | Tagged | Leave a comment

Attention Ugly Object fans!

The ballot for 2017’s Ugly Object of the Year closes Friday, February 9! Be sure to cast your vote before it’s too late! Click here to vote!

Posted in Ugly Object | Tagged | Leave a comment

January’s News from the Conservation Lab: Let’s Destroy Stuff!

By SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator of Conservation

Here in the Kelsey Conservation lab, we started the New Year right by totally destroying a few things. Don’t worry — they weren’t from an ancient artifact or building! For conservation work at the Kelsey’s excavation in El Kurru, Sudan, we wanted to know how much weight the local sandstone bedrock could bear. Enter Bob Spence, from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who helped me perform compression or breaking strength tests on samples of the sandstone — by which I mean Bob graciously performed the tests, and I watched the samples  be slowly pulverized. A good time was had by all, except maybe the sandstone.

January_cons post

Bob Spence, Engineering Technician in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, prepares to crush a sample of sandstone from El Kurru.

 

Posted in Conservation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From the Archives #26 January 2018

BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Excavating Archaeology continues here at the Kelsey Museum. The exhibition showcases numerous, but not all, archaeological projects the University of Michigan has been involved with since 1817. With this exhibition, curators Terry Wilfong and Carla Sinopoli show how U-M has sent researchers all  around the world, highlight important discoveries made by Michigan staff, faculty, and students, and discuss what these discoveries  meant  for the future of archaeology at Michigan.

In 1931, the University of Michigan was quite busy with archaeological endeavors. There were projects at Seleucia (Iraq), Dimé (Soknapaiou Nesos), Karanis (both Egypt),, and Sepphoris (Israel). By this time, teams had already been to Carthage (Tunisia) and Pisidian Antioch (Turkey), and were a few years from excavating Terenouthis (Egypt).

The excavation at Sepphoris was a short one, lasting only two months. According to Susan Alcock and Lauren Talalay in their book In the Field: The Archaeological Expeditions of the Kelsey Museum (Ann Arbor, 2006), the finds from the site were impressive, though found in so little time. They cite a water system, a theater, and a villa as some of the results of Leroy Waterman’s work at the site.

Today, 40 artifacts excavated by the University of Michigan at Sepphoris are   on long-term loan to the museum at Zippori National Park, the national preserve currently found at the  site. Because of Michigan’s time there, albeit brief, researchers who study Sepphoris continue to visit the Kelsey, physically and virtually, to study our collections and archives. For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present a few photographs taken during that 1931 season. These images are quite special. Glass plate negatives from early projects are often no longer with us, but the Sepphoris archive still contains all the original glass negatives. . . They  have all been printed, and some of the prints, as can be seen, were mounted into an album.

In the photographs, we see the site under excavation. We see the staff and workers. We see a site that has undergone  great changes in nearly 90 years. Our archives continue to educate all the people still working at and visiting the site, and will continue to do so for the next 200 years.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photos and a photo album from the excavations at Sepphoris, 1931. Some are mounted in a photo album.

 

Posted in From the Archives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Vote Today!

Guess what readers? It’s the Ugliest Time of the Year! Vote now for 2017’s Ugly Object of the Year! 

 

Posted in Ugly Object | Tagged | Leave a comment

Ugly Object – January

Happy New Year, Kelsey Blog readers! What better way to begin 2018’s Ugly Object series than with a seriously cute cat coffin? This creative work of bilateral symmetry once held the remains of a mummified cat. The feline shape and decorative elements are charming (just look at those eyes! and the suggestion of a mane around the face…), but what I love most about this coffin is the surprise that comes with discovering that it opens side to side instead of top to bottom. As a result, the coffin’s base is effectively the cat’s seat, and the resulting form is upright, alert, and lifelike. The coffin is displayed closed, so it’s hard to appreciate the fact that, except for a couple of attached ears, its halves are carved from a single, hollowed cut of wood. Wood was a precious commodity in Egypt, so this coffin was nothing to sneeze at. This would have been a fitting enclosure for a creature so closely linked to the divine.

You can see this coffin and other feline-themed artifacts in the Graeco-Roman Egypt gallery of the Upjohn Exhibit Wing.

Cat mummy coffin

Cat mummy coffin, Roman period, 1st–2nd c. AD, Wood, plaster, paint, glass, 36 cm high, 9.5 cm wide, Said to be from Saqqara, Egypt.  Department of Antiquities purchase, 1935, KM 88775, Image credit: Randal Stegmeyer

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ugly Object | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Two Conferences – Two Countries – Four Days

BY MATTHEW NAGLAK, IPCAA student

From December 6th to 9th, I had the opportunity to participate in two separate conferences on two different continents in different capacities. At the University of Edinburgh, I was invited along with U-M Classics professor Nicola Terrenato to give a talk about early Latin society and state formation based on evidence from Gabii, Italy, at the international conference The Dawn of Roman Law. Back in Ann Arbor, the Kelsey Museum was gearing up for Into the Third Century: The Past, Present, and Future of Michigan’s Archaeological Museums, a graduate and undergraduate student symposium sponsored by the Collaborative Archaeology Workgroup in conjunction with the bicentennial exhibition Excavating Archaeology @ U-M: 1817–2017 (which is currently on display at the Kelsey Museum). As one of the graduate student organizers for the event, I felt that I should do everything possible to make sure it went as smoothly as possible.

I arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, on the morning of December 6, about two hours before the beginning of the conference. What followed was approximately 36 hours of extended presentations on topics ranging from the use of the dative in the Twelve Tables to an Etruscan inscription that may be one of the earliest moments ever found for the culture, of dining on Scottish delicacies as well as quite odd Italian-Scottish fusion, and sleeping the sleep of the jet-lagged. Following our well-received presentation, however, it was necessary to switch gears quickly from presenter-mode to that of an organizer/administrator for the symposium back in Ann Arbor.

Organizing a conference is not easy. One must arrange and purchase meals, airport rides, and hotel rooms for the participants, reserve and set up lecture venues, create schedules, prepare introductions, cajole speakers, clean up, and deal with the inevitable technology issues that will arise. Fortunately, the team of doctoral candidate Kimberly Swisher from Anthropological Archaeology, Kelsey Museum educator Catherine Person, and myself had each other to help spread the load. After an excellent keynote address by Lisa Çakmak (Associate Curator of Ancient Art at Saint Louis Art Museum and IPCAA alumna) on Friday night, Saturday went smoothly with presentations by numerous graduate students from IPCAA, Anthropological Archaeology, and Classics, as well as remarks from the directors of the Kelsey Museum and the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, Terry Wilfong and Michael Galaty, respectively. At the same time, there were multiple posters presented by undergraduate and graduate students and a technology session where participants could try out the newest technology for presenting archaeological materials to the general public. Overall, although an exhausting couple of days, it could not have gone any better!

CAW poster 2017

Posted in Students | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ugly Object of the Month – December

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Associate Curator of Conservation

Hello, readers. Yes, it’s the best time of the month once again, the time to set aside all worries and cares and indulge, for a few brief moments, in the blissful pleasure of contemplating a truly ugly archaeological object. In honor of this time of the year — when there are a lot bird-related references in American culture (turkey at Thanksgiving, doves and partridges around Christmas) — we have a bird-shaped object for December.

Ugly_Dec

Askos. Etruscan. KM 1977.4.1.

 

This is an askos, or — in not Greek — a small pitcher that might have been used for wine or oil. It is, sort of, shaped like a bird. I think it is supposed to be shaped like a bird, at any rate. Although … the head also sort of looks like a sheep head to me…. To be fair, I would be pretty excited if I were working on an excavation and we found a cool animal-shaped vessel like this. But like many archaeological objects, this one has had a hard time. Leaving aside the weird head shape, it’s missing a lot of its original painted decoration, there are some old breaks, and we also have some splotchy mildew staining.

To make things extra special for you, the image I’ve chosen is an old one from our archives. You just don’t see this kind of color combination in archaeological object photography anymore, sadly. Now it’s all about correct color registration and “picking up the mid-tones.” In contrast, this images says to me, “I’m ancient, sure, but baby, I’ve still got it.” Come see this colorful character for yourself — it’s on view in the Kelsey’s first-floor Etruscan case.

Posted in Ugly Object | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From the Archives #25

BY SEBASTIAN ENCINA, Collections Manager

Excavating Archaeology, the Kelsey Museum’s latest exhibition, is still open and available for viewing in the Ed and Mary Meader Gallery now through the end of the academic year (May 27, 2018). On display are two centuries worth of artifacts and archival materials associated with both the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology (UMMAA). This assemblage of diverse historical items was acquired from 19th-century collecting expeditions as well as from rigorous scientific excavations of the 20th and 21st centuries, and highlights the University of Michigan’s strong presence in the emerging field of archaeology since its founding in 1817. Visitors to Excavating Archaeology will see artifacts from the Philippines, United States, North Africa, South America, and Asia. And this is just a taste! There is so much more, but we did not have space to show everything.

Francis W. Kelsey played a significant role in a number of excavations associated with the Kelsey Museum. In the early 1920s, Kelsey acquired funding to initiate Michigan-sponsored excavations at three ancient sites: Karanis, Egypt; Antioch, Turkey; and Carthage, Tunisia. Kelsey already had experience at Carthage; on a visit to that site in 1893 as part of a voyage through the Mediterranean region, he made his first purchase of ancient artifacts. These would become the seeds of the Kelsey Museum collection (the very first object registered, KM 1, a lamp fragment, was among those purchased). It was to Carthage that he returned in 1924 to further his studies of the ancient world.

For this month’s “From the Archives,” we present archival materials associated with the excavations at Carthage. We have some telegrams Kelsey sent and received concerning the excavation of the site. With our modern cellular phones and emails and instant chatting capabilities, the telegram may seem very antiquated, but in Kelsey’s time it was the fastest way to communicate with people far away. We also have some drawings of the site, and a letter to Kelsey from the associate general director of excavations, Byron Khun de Prorok. We present only the first page here as a teaser, but it serves to show how part of an archivist’s work is to decipher handwriting. With practice, we may become familiar with a certain individual’s penmanship, but that doesn’t always make reading the letters any easier.

The University of Michigan has had much experience conducting excavations around the world, and will continue to have a presence for years to come. It is on us, we who work with the archives, to excavate that archaeology in order to inform future projects.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kelsey Museum archival collections associated with the excavations at Carthage, 1924

Posted in From the Archives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Trotter Multicultural Center

BY CAITLIN C. CLERKIN, IPCAA

The Kelsey Museum is getting a new neighbor! Kelsey regulars and visitors alike have undoubtedly noticed the construction project to the north of the Kelsey on State Street.* In case you missed the official ground-breaking, this blog post will provide a little orientation to the whats and whys of the project.

The William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center will be moving from its current location (1443 Washtenaw Avenue) to the new facility (currently being built) on State Street. This project is the result of an exciting combination of student activism and the recognition that space and place matter in both rhetoric and practice.

This is not the first time in Trotter’s history that this combination has led to concrete change. Indeed, what is now Trotter Multicultural Center began its organizational life in fall 1971 as William Monroe Trotter House, a Black student center named for the early 20th-century journalist and civil rights activist, on the corner of South and East University Streets. It was founded in the wake of a 1970 campus-wide strike organized by the first Black Action Movement (BAM I), a coalition of Black student groups which protested against discrimination and marginalization of Black students in university policy and university life. The strike led to negotiations between BAM and the University administration. Among the BAM demands were structural changes (e.g., increasing enrollment of Black students to 10% by 1973 in order to match state demographics) and resources that would support Black and Hispanic students, such as the establishment of a Black student center. Not all of these demands have been fulfilled (notably, Black student enrollment has never reached 10%). Two subsequent activism campaigns (BAM II and United Coalition Against Racism/BAM III) took place in 1975 and 1987. (See a recent essay by Austin McCoy about this legacy and continuing activism.)

Trotter House moved to its current Washtenaw location in 1972 after a fire destroyed the first house; it was renamed William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center to match an expanded mission in 1981. Now, its planned move to State Street is the direct result of Black student activism.

In 2013, students concerned about University inattention to the Trotter facility on Washtenaw organized an initiative, A New Trotter (ANT), with the goal of a new building for Trotter. This goal gained more momentum under the #BBUM—Being Black at the University of Michigan—campaign organized by the Black Student Union (BSU).  For those unfamiliar, the #BBUM campaign was aimed at sparking conversation about race and diversity—and specifically about the experiences of Black students on campus—across the whole campus. It drew national attention to the University, bringing to the fore student priorities for improving diversity and climate and pushed the University administration to respond to student demands. #BBUM culminated in seven demands issued to the University administration in winter 2014; the creation of a new Trotter Multicultural Center on Central Campus counted among the seven.

The importance of space and place was apparent in the BSU’s demand that Trotter to Central Campus: the students’ desire to move Trotter demonstrates that location is meaningful.  In the fields of art and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, we constantly discuss the ways in which locations matter and buildings constitute arguments. Depressingly, many examples we attempt to illuminate with our scholarship show how urban planning and monumental building in antiquity sought to exclude and enhance inequality, rather than to include, integrate, and support. A “classic” Roman example is the high (33 meter) rear wall of the Forum of Augustus in Rome. This firewall is usually seen as serving two related purposes. Built of stone with fire-resistant properties, it may have been intended to prevent any fires from the adjacent overcrowded, lower-class neighborhood of the Subura from spilling into imperial, public space. In addition, the wall blocked the Subura from view, hiding non-elite sights, smells, and people away from the public and especially elite viewers. Thus, this urban “amenity” excluded the Subura from its vision of Rome, keeping it physically separated, while creating differences in physical risk (fire) between the public forum and the Subura.

This phenomenon of spatial exclusion is, of course, not restricted to the ancient Mediterranean—it is a constant in modern periods also, although the specifics and mechanisms differ from place to place and by era. Countless projects, researchers, and activists in many fields have explored, questioned, and fought against this practice; for example, I recently ran across a project that maps residential segregation in 19thcentury American cities. And, indeed, as Austin McCoy noted to the Michigan Daily, the location of Trotter on Washtenaw, away from Central Campus, matches, spatially and physically, the marginal position that students of color experience at the University of Michigan. Centralizing an institution that has supported students of color at Michigan for more than 40 years is an encouraging move.

Relocating Trotter to Central Campus has both practical and symbolic value. On the practical side, Trotter will be closer to students on campus: stopping in or attending Trotter’s many events will be easier and quicker. Easier access, greater visibility, and closer connections to other units by virtue of its location on Central Campus will hopefully knit Trotter Multicultural Center—and its legacy of being an inclusive and supportive space (and the legacy of its namesake!)—even more deeply into the fabric of University life and help it serve more students.

On the symbolic side, the presence of Trotter on State Street makes a physical argument for the integral position of communities of color in the University (in the “heart” of campus) and marks a recognition of the need to support them through institutions like Trotter Center. Trotter has served for years as a “vibrant hub” for students (as Interim-Director Michael Swanigan describes it): it has a long, active history of offering programs aimed at fostering cultural dialogues, spaces for student organizations to meet, study spaces, and, especially, a supportive context for students to build relationships and thrive.

Trotter’s future location on State Street expresses a physical and concrete commitment by the University to include its diverse student communities and their experiences. The University community can do more than just hope that this promise is fulfilled—every person can and should work actively to make sure the University and the wider community uphold this promise of inclusion and support. We can all do this by holding the University accountable when it fails, by acting inclusively, and by engaging thoughtfully and actively in mission of an equitable university.

This archaeologist (writing this essay) is heartened by this move. It reminds us of the power of student voices (we sometimes lose sight of the possibilities of this kind of agency in archaeology!). In addition, a place—Trotter Center, with its long legacy of support for students—is being relocated to a Central Campus space that will help it better fulfill its mission: this is an exciting and positive example of putting spatial rhetoric into practice.

At the Kelsey Museum, construction of the new Trotter Center has meant the installation of vibration monitors (to ensure the safety of the collections), some temporary changes in access, and eager anticipation of our future neighbors. The Kelsey (including the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology graduate students who lurk in Newberry Hall) is excited to welcome the Trotter Center to State Street!

 

VibrationMonitor

 

Note: My hearty thanks to Professor Stephen Ward and Trotter Interim-Director Michael Swanigan for speaking to me about Trotter Center.

 

 

Please see the following links (in addition to those embedded in the article) for more information about the construction project and for further reading (drawn upon in writing this post):

 

http://umaec.umich.edu/projects/major-projects/trotter-william-monroe-multicultural-center-new-multicultural-center/

https://trotter.umich.edu/trotter-on-state

https://trotter.umich.edu/history

“Trotter House Origins,” by James Tobin, in the Spring 2013 issue of LSA Magazine (pp. 35–36): https://lsa.umich.edu/content/dam/lsa-site-assets/documents/lsa-magazine/13spr-fullmag.pdf

“Researching the Truth,” by Dan Shine, in the Fall 2016 issue of Collections, the Bentley Historical Library magazine (p. 16):

http://bentley.umich.edu/news-events/magazine/researching-the-truth/

 

*Never fear, internet people! There is a webcam, so you can watch the work, too!

 

Posted in Students | Tagged , , | Leave a comment