A Truly Low-Tech and Innovative Archaeological Exhibit
On April 16, for our Spring Family Fun Day at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, we unveiled our new Brister Archaeology Discovery Laboratory (BADLab), an upgraded version of our 2008 innovation, the Hands-On Archaeology Lab. The upgraded configuration honors the lifelong contribution of Ron Brister to the Chucalissa Archaeological site. Ron was first employed in 1966 at Chucalissa by Charles Nash, for whom the current museum is named. After a 37-year career as the Collections Manager at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis, in his retirement, Ron is once again back at Chucalissa lending his considerable expertise to a wide range of our museum practices.
One of the innovations in our upgraded BADLab is the representation of the Chucalissa House Mound Excavation Trench on one of the rooms walls.
In the late 1950s archaeologists excavated a trench through a prehistoric ridge or mound at the Chucalissa site. When built nearly 1,000 years ago, the long ridge or mound was a place where the Native Americans built a variety of structures, including houses. Beginning in 1962, the archaeological excavation through the house ridge served as an entrance into the Chucalissa mounds and plaza. However, the trench is now closed to the public because of erosion and safety concerns. The new BADLab wall exhibit provides a summary of what archaeologists discovered when excavating the trench in the 1950s.
Our recent NCCC AmeriCorps Team painted a representation of the trench stratigraphy on the BADLab wall (In addition, the NCCC Team painted the rest of the room and laid the tile floor.) Former C.H. Nash Museum Administrative Associate and photographer extraordinaire Katie Maish photographed features from the actual excavation trench that were then printed, mounted on foam core, and installed in their approximate location on the wall painted by the NCCC.
The above tasks would have accomplished my initial plans for the exhibit. However, Ron Brister suggested that we include “sediment peels” in the exhibit design. When Ron first raised the idea, I was uncertain how the peels would work. However, I have learned to stand back and let such initiatives unfold – and the result was outstanding.
A sediment peel is where you build a small frame, adhere it to an excavation profile, fill the frame with what I refer to as glop but Ron says is an expanding foam insulation. You then let the insulation set and dry and then remove it from the excavation wall profile. Adhering to the hardened insulation is a 2-3 mm “peel” of the profile “sediment” that can then be mounted and exhibited. In this way, the excavation trench is literally brought into the exhibit, not as a replica, but as an actual archaeological feature.
Total price tag for materials – under $500.00. All labor donated or Student/Graduate Assistant supplied.
Check back next week for a post on the entire BADLab upgrade process.