Conserving the Paper Remains of Pop Culture from the Grand Ronde school

We have been working as a group with a portion of a comic book recovered at the Grand Ronde schoolhouse site.  The comic book is in several pieces and is in need of a conservation plan to learn more about the comic. The content of the comic book is currently difficult to determine. It is worn, torn, disintegrating around all edges, covered in dried mud, and several pages are bonded together from years of being compressed by dirt and moisture. To answer our research questions cleaning and separating the pages is a must. Over the Winter quarter we have been investigating the kind of pop culture that the children of Grand Ronde school may have been exposed to.

We have carefully pulled back some of the edges and have observed a face (perhaps a superhero?), a pair of hands, other bits of undetermined illustration, and various fonts of typing throughout the pages. These aspects have led us to believe this could be from a newspaper, but there is still much to learn about the object.

In the early stages of this project we had full intent to learn and apply methods of cleaning and preservation to the object ourselves—this would have been done through video observation, written resources, and websites devoted to such. We even tried one test, a process of humidification which reintroduces some moisture into the fibers on a small test sample of the comic. We found that this elementary test caused the color of the ink to fade, and the amount of moisture was not sufficient to separate the pages.

However, we did find that the UW campus library has a conservation lab! Since then we have had a few meetings with conservation specialist Claire Kenny. Her knowledge, advice and involvement in the conservation of this piece has been a crucial element. She has provided us with many insights, and is currently working with the object. This project is still underway. Please stay tuned for more updates and reviews in the future!

Photos of comic book taken with a digital microscope camera


By: Danielle Sakowski

Meanings are not fixed

In my final project I used an object biography approach to understand how Chinookan sheep horn bowls can accumulate meanings through their lives. Procurement, production, use, and discard are the major periods in the objects’ ‘life’ (Kopytoff 1986). As horn bowls move through different periods in their lives, they have different uses and meanings to the people who interact with them. I examined ethnographic sources, letters, websites, and transcribed an interview to understand how meanings are not fixed. I particularly enjoyed learning more about how horn bowls are used in contemporary museum contexts (afterlife).

Horn bowls are used for education for the general public and as research tools for Native artists. I found it very interesting how Native material culture in the 21st century is now referred to as ‘art’.  Although ‘art’ is a better word to describe the skill and practice of Chinookan cultural patrimony, than ‘specimen’, a term used from the 19th century, it does not fully encapsulate the traditions and practices that are embedded in the lives of the bowls.

In my paper I argue that learning about the life history of objects like the Chinookan horn bowls and incorporating Native voices into museums, we can acknowledge our present entanglements with the past and provide new meanings and paths toward healing to create a ‘living record’ (Lonetree 2012).

Click here for an interesting article about the Portland Art Museum and the issues that arise when displaying Native American art and culture.


Breaking apart the chairs

The chairs at the Preserving the Past Together workshop were literally locked together. To create small groups for discussion participants had to work together to pull apart the chairs. Dr. Gonzalez made an interesting comment about how the chairs represent archaeology’s structural impediments to collaboration and it had me thinking about that metaphor more deeply. If individuals want to work together but the system does not allow that to be easily implemented, how do we break apart the “chairs” toward a more collaborative archaeology?

The questions raised by the audience also mirrored this concern. How do we find the time, personnel, and funding to build meaningful collaborations? In the lowest bidding environment, the cheapest bid wins. How can archaeologists demonstrate that working with tribes is an asset to the project and not a hindrance?

Dr. Gonzalez mentioned that working with tribes from the outset of CRM projects saves money. Long term planning and relationship building seems to be a useful strategy for saving money and for demonstrating the worthiness of collaboration. I think that in these beginning stages of collaboration it will take many individuals putting in overtime, going above and beyond their bids, and being creative about how to reach out to tribes. We may have to swim against the current until the tide changes. Breaking apart the chairs, breaking apart structural impediments, and breaking apart attitudes will be a long battle, but a battle worth fighting.

Hunyadi Janos, Fights Ottomans and Constipation!

The hunt for more information about this green, 2-piece-cup bottom bottle started with the word “Bitterquelle”. I thought the embossed letters on the base was another word for “bitters”, as in a cocktail mix, but it turns out that bitterquelle is actually a mineral or spring water.


                                        The mineral water bottle company belonged to Andreas Saxlehner of Budapest, Hungary. His brand “Hunyadi Janos” features a Hungarian military hero on the label. Hunyadi Janos, or John Hunyadi, was a military and political leader for the Hungarian military during the 15th century. Outnumbered 2 to 1 in a battle against the Ottomans, Hunyadi escaped from the battlefield to be captured, imprisoned, and eventually set free. He became governor in 1446 and continued to finance wars against the Ottomans.

The marketing campaign for the mineral water took the form of a dietary and health-conscious laxative. The claim was that the mineral water was for fighting “the evil consequences of indiscretion in diet,” and was a primary elixir for relieving hemorrhoids. Perhaps this campaign is a play on words for “diet of Hungary” which was a Hungarian legislative institution that met once every 3 years. Saxlehner’s marketing is so funny. A man known for fighting Ottomans is also on your side to fight constipation and IBS.

These mineral water bottles were a popular import and were commonly found in the United States between 1870 and 1920. The bottle that I examined in the lab was in pretty good condition. Even some of the paper label glue was still intact. This hunt for more information made me interested in 1900’s marketing campaigns and how we use romanticized images of the past to sell just about anything.

One Theater, Many Names

1300 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA is the site of a Pantages Theater that is no longer standing today. Alexander Pantages, the “king of vaudeville” commissioned Benjamin Marcus Priteca (23 years old at the time) to design and build the theater in 1915. Pantages liked Priteca’s work so much he hired him to create many more theaters and stage houses all across the Pacific Northwest.

Pantages was a beautiful theater designed with classical and Renaissance architecture. The building was lavishly ornamented, but also not as expensive as it was made to look. This was a unique theatre because it hosted traditional plays, vaudeville acts and also played moving pictures (films) with a live orchestra.

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Historian Chris Skullerud lists eight name changes for this theater, beginning with New Pantages, Follies (1931), 3rd Avenue (1931), Rex (1935), Mayfair (1935), New Rex (1936), and Palomar (1936-1965). It was unclear if these name changes were due to a change in management, or if these were colloquial terms for the theatre because there were so many Alexander Pantages theaters in the area.
Alexander Pantages died in 1936 and since his death the theater had (somewhat) consistently been called Palomar. In the pictures below the theater is located on Third and University. The map from the 1920s calls the theater Pantages, while the 1930s map calls it Rex Theatre.

As of 1936 the Pantages was officially the Palomar theater. Palomar hosted a number of vaudeville acts and was one of last vaudeville playhouses up until the 1950s. Pantages also hosted African-American musicians such as Bobby Tucker and Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington. The last public show was “Annie Get Your Gun” performed in April of 1965. The Palomar was gutted and demolished to create a parking garage that year. The parking garage is still standing at 1300 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA today.

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Reoccurring motifs and decorative elements

Calvary Cemetery is a Roman Catholic cemetery that has provided funerary services for families since 1889. Cemeteries are places where historical archaeology can be seen and used in action, so our class visited Calvary cemetery and collected attributes of over 100 different grave markers. We recorded information about the birth/death dates, grave adornments, the size and shape of the markers, the decorative elements, the associations between single and family plots, and much more.

The frequency of artifact types change through time as a result of new technologies, styles, and available construction materials. Seriation is a relative dating technique used in archaeology to visualize the distribution of a these changes in chronological sequence.

*Click on the images to enlarge

You can see from the graphs above the frequency in reoccurring motifs or decorative elements on the graves in our sample changed through time. The width of the bar indicates a higher proportion. The occurrence seriation chart does not give a visual representation of frequency, but shows a presence/absence visualization. The most dominant symbols are the cross and flower. These decorative elements occur most frequently across all time periods. The celtic cross does not start to appear until the 1980s. It would be interesting to see if there was a large Irish Catholic population and find out how the use of the celtic cross relates to the changing leadership or rules and regulations at Calvary Cemetery.

Technology also plays a key role in what kind of decoration is used on gravestones. With the advent of the CNC machine and more sophisticated CAD software, increasingly elaborate individualistic designs are available and secular scenery such as fishing, trees, and sunburst decorations begin to occur in the 2000s. Hand-carved designs were most likely very expensive and a family in the 1920s, for example, most likely would not enough money for commissioning a hand carved and elaborate design on their loved-ones gravestone.

The Problem with Plastic

Our class engaged in a short garbology project in which we recorded our garbage habits for one week. Everyday I cringed at how much plastic ended up not in the recycling bin, but in the trash. Even with only one week of recording, I know from here on out I will work towards keeping unnecessary plastic out of my trash.

Plastic is not biodegradable. No natural process can break it down. It photodegrades instead. Plastic particles divide into smaller and smaller particles which are called nurdles. These nurdles are very hard to get rid of once they are mixed in with other refuse.


Nurdles do not go away – like other plastic over time they just fragment into smaller and smaller plastic particles.

After reviewing the King County plastics recycling website, I was surprised to learn that yes, many plastics are recyclable but the codes and symbols you might see printed on the plastics does not necessarily mean the product is recyclable anywhere and/or anytime.

“Resin codes (indicated by the small number enclosed by the “chasing arrows” ) are often misleading to the consumer because they were not intended to indicate if the plastic is actually recyclable. Rather they indicate what general type of chemical compound is used to make the products. The codes are not a guarantee to consumers that a given item would be accepted for recycling in their community.”

The disconnection between what people think is happening about their trash habits and what is actually happening had been ignored until the findings of the Garbage Project by Rathje was reported in 1973. Consumerism is directly linked to garbage and the more we engage in buying, the more garbage we accumulate. Thinking about our consumer goods as pre-garbage may be a way to shift our thinking and eventually our shopping habits. Also buying goods and packaging with “post-consumer recycled’ content should be a good way to ‘vote with your dollar’.  Understanding the processes in which we buy, consume, discard and recycle is important for advances in environmentally friendly waste management.

I am also thinking about future archaeologists. What will our garbage say about the way we lived our lives? What other stories about us will be evident in hindsight? What will they find out about us that we do know already know about ourselves?

Six months later they would be sharing the Nobel Prize, but for now all they could do was stare in amazement at what they had discovered...two incredibly well preserved specimens from the styrofoam age.'

Yoli’s Bio

yoliscubaI have not always been an archaeologist. I started my academic career in audio, video, and animation. After a few years of freelance videography, I realized one, that filming weddings every weekend is absolutely soul-sucking, and two, that I needed to be challenged again. I took a few scuba diving classes and (re)discovered a love for underwater/maritime archaeology. In undergrad I finished multiple research projects which led me away from underwater archaeology and more toward my strengths of digital media production. I finished a B.S. in archaeological studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2014. I made the decision to apply for graduate school and boom! I just finished my second year as an archaeology graduate student at the University of Washington. My research interests are museum curation, landscape archaeology, geophysical survey, Indigenous archaeology, GIS, and Northwest Coast Archaeology.