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Digging into the Collection

Archaeological repositories have a constant flow of incoming collections containing a range of different artifacts, and typically a collection’s common connection is the location in which the artifacts were found. The repository at Georgia Southern University accepts collections primarily from sites in Georgia, and cataloguing the University’s collections is a daunting task on its own. However, Amanda Sexton (anthropology ’18) has taken on the larger challenge of cataloguing collections from approximately twenty repositories in the southeast.

Sexton’s research focuses on the repositories’ means of choosing collections based on price. “I want to see the state of these repositories, which were surveyed in an archeological report in 2002, and their collections now that they’ve had more time to work with their budget and determine whether these prices will be sufficient. I also hope that another effect of this project will be that archaeologists will have an easier time finding a place to house the collections since this project will produce an updated list of the currently active facilities,” she said.

She began working on this project with Dr. Matthew Compton. Initially, he needed volunteers to participate in the management of Georgia Southern University’s collections. This work evolved into her current honors thesis: “Costs of Curation: A Comparative Analysis of the Southeastern United States.”

Sexton’s research caught the eye of the Curation and Collections Committee of the Society of Historical Archeology (SHA).

“I am excited that Amanda has been able to make this connection with the Society for Historical Archaeology through her honors thesis project. It’s unusual for an undergraduate student to have the opportunity to serve on a committee of a national organization such as the SHA. I think this is a great opportunity for her to share her research while also making connections with others in the field,” Dr. Compton said.

The SHA team is working on a similar project, except on a larger scale. She attended the 2018 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in order to meet and to network with SHA’s team members.

“We discussed my plans for the future and how I might achieve my goals with my research. I was one of the youngest people at the conference, so the professionals were interested in me starting research at a young age. It was incredibly interesting to hear the ideas that they had for what this research could be used for. They would like to use the data we compile to make an interactive map that archaeologists could use to find the best place to house their collections,” she said.

The 2018 Society for Historical Archaeology Conference allowed Sexton to gain hands-on experience and talk with professionals in her desired field of work. While at the conference, she attended several sessions and met with many professionals in her field. One session discussed the idea of material culture.

“One of the speakers had photos from some of the residents who live around a lighthouse that his team was excavating. Some of the artifacts that they had found could be seen in the photos,” she said. “For me, it’s always an incredible experience when I get to see someone interacting with a recovered artifact in a photo, because it gives life and depth to what I’m looking at. I think that feeling can get lost sometimes because we study people who have been deceased a long time.”

Looking back, Sexton said she began her research like many other students, unsure about what subject she wanted to pursue. “Don’t be afraid to start talking about research early. Even if you are not sure about what you would like to do, talk to people about it. They may know of opportunities that you would never hear about otherwise,” she said. “Let people know what you are interested in so that they can help you. Our mentors are here for us and want to see us succeed.”


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