We are not done yet! (Lab work–barney’s leadership project)

Students getting prepared for the field school—-buying excavation tools, getting camping gears, and saying goodbye to family and civilized world; going to the field and doing field works; and then going back home; are they done with it then? No, at least not for me, there are lab works to do.

Part zero/(literal heavy-lifting )

Artifacts and equipments will not go into places by themselves since they usually don’t have legs or wings so it has to be people to carry them up to wherever they are supposed to go. It is supposed to be simple work which might just take a little bit of time, only if everything went swimmingly. Of course an unfunctional keycard definitely does not fit in the category “swimmingly” and because of that we had to call UWPD for help, to help us get into our own department building. So, with the help of one UWPD officer, cart from fourth floor(since the elevator was broken we had to carry it up and down stairs), and our own hands, we successfully finished all the moving process within one and half hour. Finally, equipments and miscellaneous went to the storage and the artifacts were in the lab.

Part one/(cleaning the room)

Before we get our hands on those precious artifacts, these is still a lot to do, actually the work took a whole day: cleaning up the lab room and rearrange the cabinet. To put collections from the first two field school-yes, these ones need to be done as well-away to make space for FMIA 2017 artifacts, we first checked all the old drawers to see if there is anything problematic: mislocated, mislabeled or can’t even be sourced (isolated from nowhere). Fortunately, there is no artifact that we can not find in the database (if so it will be extremely hard for Ian and Yoli to try to track it down). Then we relabeled  all the “new drawers” that we rearranged, for FMIA 2015, 2016, and 2017 artifacts. In the drawers, we put all these artifact bags in order as well. And in the end, just to make it look better, we also separated used/blank bag slips and labeled them as well. After that things got nice and easy: cleaning up the room, washing up bins, trays, and plates to be ready for the future works, and making the room tidy, which is not for the artifacts’ sake, but for the people who will work here.

Part two/(washing artifacts)

Only cleaning up the lab room is not enough-lab people don’t usually have mysophobia-i am saying that we need to clean the artifacts and put them into categories(it might not be necessary to do at this step but it will make people’s life easier for sure). It is very interesting that washing reveals how “careless” sometimes people in the field can be, by figuring out that something in the bag that we thought were artifacts are actually good for nothing-natural rocks, twigs, or even just dirt(to be fair, sometimes a chunk of dirt with high percentage of clay could look very alike something worth picking up-but it really isn’t, since it melts in water!). Not everything we can wash in water though, things like wood/charcoal; tiny pieces of unknown material; twines/fibers; and anything that is too fragile to undergo regular washing, we could only use brush to dry clean. No matter which method we use it is always important to be gentle when we are doing it, because it is easier than people think to break an artifact that doesn’t look or feel brittle. One more thing needs to be mention is that when drying the artifacts they must be put on somewhere safe along with the plastic bags that they are taken out of-this helps the future steps-in order to make people’s life easier, like I said.

Part three/(organizing/cataloging)

After drying for a day, the artifacts that have been washed are finally ready to be touched(no, we are still not studying them, not yet). For this step, the ultimate goal is to put these artifacts back into the drawers-organized, classified, and in specific bags(in the same level bag they came from, that is why in the last step we are supposed to keep those plastic bags). In order to do that, there are several paper works that need to be mentioned: check out sheet (for us to check out each time we do anything to artifacts which could be to catalog and to wash), typology sheet (this one contains how many categories we divide one unit into, sometimes artifacts with the same material will be put into different groups), and a isolated sheet to keep record each step we did(this one needs the description of the artifacts). These sheets will go to different binders, there are also paperworks that go into the bags with the artifacts, like the new bag slips(annoying but yes, we have to redo it and throw the old ones away after we have the new one complete). Surprisingly, other than the extra paperwork, there is not really a difference than what we did in the field: put each category in its own plastic bag along with the bag slip; lable each bag as in the field and by the instruction(which could be found in lab), and put all the new bags in the same level bag that these artifacts came from. And don’t forget to put the name on as cataloger.

Part five/(future plans/works)

Something this blog post can not really emphasize is how time-consuming the process I just mentioned could be. It really depends what the artifact is, how many stuff each level bag contains, and how “messy” the stuff we found in the field could be. FMIA 2017 units occupied at least two layers, which sounds not that bad but it took us almost a week to finish washing and cataloging only the surface collection units which is not even twenty percent of the artifacts(it could be that we only have four people working for that week). We have to be really careful and concentrate when we are doing this since it is really difficult to fix problems after we put things back into the drawer. People work in lab have to be patient and invest huge amount of time. Fortunately I learned how to be patient and also I at least have some time to put into lab work. To finish the process earlier so that we can finally “study” these artifacts after all and to make people’s life easier(like I’ve been saying all the time). I will return.

Telling Stories Digital Story 2017

Maps are only one tool out of many that can tell the story of a location. Coupled with oral histories, technological tools such as GPS, Total Station, GPR, photogrammetry, photography and older tools like paper maps, stratigraphic maps and sketch maps, one can learn about the history of a location. For my digital story I used ArcGIS application to create a digital story map that focused on the intersection between community engagement, maps and exploratory excavation can be used to build a fuller image of life at Grand Ronde.


Architecture, Archeology and Achaf-Hammi

When we think archaeology, we inevitably picture ancient ruins of great temples and massive stone buildings. Architecture, in a word. But those only select examples of the types of architecture that was common in the past. Peoples from various parts of the world used materials that did not always weather well, and so structures would be lost as time moved on. Though the buildings did not always remain, signs of human residence can be found during with careful research, use of technologies like GPR, and sometimes with excavation. This relationship between architecture and archaeology is what drew my interest for my final project, and while at Grand Ronde I decided to focus on how modern architecture and historical structures were both important to archaeologists, and to the community.

My focus revolved around two main structures, the search for the Molalla settlement by Cosper Creek, and Achaf-Hammi, the first plank house to be built on reservation land since the 1850’s. Through research I learned that issues such as resettlement and land tenure issues would have had a huge impact on what types of structures could be built on reservation land. Buildings do far more than offer shelter from the elements. In fact, buildings are often where culture, story, traditions and language are learned, experienced, and passed on. Therefore, it is not hard to realize how disrupting architectural traditions of a group of people can be an effective way to disrupt the flow of knowledge from one generation to the next.

At the same time, the impermanence of the structures built in the past would make the search for the exact location of old encampments difficult. This was the case with the search for the Molalla encampment, though maps and GPR images both pointed towards a particular area, the exact location has proven to be elusive.
The exploration on how different structures in different times would have been important to the community and story of Grand Ronde taught me about the importance and role of architecture, archeology and the stories the community passes forward in telling the complete history of a place.

Engaging Nature Through Photography

While most of my experience with photography has been spent around busy people and bustling places, getting out into a more natural setting requires a fresh review of the skills I thought I had as a photographer. It also allows a chance to weather down the distinctly different sense of busyness that comes when engrossed in an full, flourishing, and unfamiliar environment.

After finding some free time one afternoon, I decided to wander down some trails that I had previously visited briefly in the weeks before. Coming from an urban environment, it really is a shock to the system to be somewhere with so little noise.

This is a close-up of the Douglas fir that is seen to the left of the previous photo. Partially because there was nobody else around, and because the sun began to set in a fantastic way that shone through the flora, I spent around twenty minutes in a stretch of the trail not more than five meters long.

During a trip to Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area, the small group I was with repeatedly heard a bird call that we could not place. Instead of putting on my city lens and walking away without paying the event any mind, I decided to stop and look for the culprit. The wait between each call was a struggle with impatience, but after a couple of long minutes, we spotted this (most likely) osprey hanging out and yelling at us from about 50 meters away.

One of the first things that was pointed out to our group on a trip to Mt. Hebo was the existence of wild strawberries that grew practically everywhere around the visiting areas. The size of the berries surprised me at first, while I was not expecting full grocery store sized strawberries, the wild ones were no larger than a dime. Getting a decent photo of them took becoming uncomfortably familiar with the low lying plants in the area as I had to nearly lie down on top of them.

Wild berries have since lent themselves a much more central role in the free time we find ourselves, resulting in our crew planning our weekends around the optimal times to go collect more.

Queen Anne’s lace or poison hemlock? A question that was asked far too many times for anyone’s comfort on our trip to Cape Meares. I found myself noting the more subtle differences between the similar looking plants as we wandered. In an effort to take pictures of the flower with the prettier name that is markedly less poisonous, I ended up with over a dozen pictures of very similar looking flowers. In the end, this one was my favorite… and it is definitely poison hemlock.

At the end of the fourth week of the program, it still feels like there is so much to learn and do out here in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. We are kept busy every day with new projects and fresh dirt, all of which offer new photographic opportunities on site. Photography offers a window to focus on a subject that can be as broad or specific as one’s own technology allows. In my case, preferring a longer lens forces me to consider more definite and distinct focal points, helping me slow down and take in the environment piece by piece. Each of those pieces has a story to tell, and I’m hoping to capture a single perspective of the massive narrative around me.

All photos are my own, taken with a Nikon D7100, and are unedited.