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My Path to Conservation

Friday, May 15, 2020
My Story
Author: 
Tim Smith, Lake Phelps Canoe Conservator

My name is Tim Smith, and I am a Staff Archaeologist and the Lake Phelps Canoe Conservator for the Office of State Archaeology, based at the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab in Greenville, NC. History has been a passion of mine since I was in grade school, but it was not until high school and thinking about my future that I discovered archaeology would be perfect for me. I love to read, but I did not just want to be a historian and do research in a library all the time; instead I wanted to be out discovering history for myself and getting my hands dirty.

For undergrad, I went to the University of Evansville in Indiana where I majored in archaeology and art history, focusing on classical and Near Eastern archaeology. My love for archaeology grew when I studied abroad in Rome, Italy and participated in our university’s summer field school in Israel called the Jezreel Expedition. I participated in the Jezreel Expedition for four field seasons, working as a student, square supervisor, and assistant area supervisor. Jezreel has a wealth of archaeological information, with the site being almost continuously occupied from the Late Neolithic, around 8,000 BCE, to today. The amount of archaeologically significant material we discovered was staggering.

During my time in undergrad, I also started to consider what field of archaeology I would like to work in after I graduated. To expand my horizons in archaeology, I decided to participate in an underwater archaeology field school through the University of Rhode Island in Bermuda. I got certified in scuba diving in a quarry in Indiana a couple of months before the field school, and my first dive in the ocean was on site in Bermuda. I immediately fell in love with underwater archaeology. It was everything I loved about archaeology except done while diving.

To further my journey in archaeology, I continued my studies in the master’s Program in Maritime Studies at East Carolina University. While at ECU, I participated in two more field schools, another in Bermuda and one in North Carolina. I also discovered a new passion for conservation when I started working at the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab as a graduate assistant my first year. I enjoyed working on all the artifacts recovered from this site and with all the people there so much that I was determined to stay as long as they would have me. After my graduate assistantship ended, I continued working at the lab as an assistant conservator, and shortly after that I was hired in my current position, funded for two years through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. I am re-conserving two Native American canoes discovered at Lake Phelps, one about 600 and the other about 1700 years old. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting project!

Images:
-Tim leading a tour of the QAR Lab. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-The Jezreel Expedition. Image by Tim Smith, used with permission.
-Tim in the water. Image by Tim Smith, used with permission.