Author: Terry Williams, Conservator
Wow, another year has come and gone in the blink of an eye. We at the lab would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the year it has been and to thank you for your support.
If last year was the year of the cannon, this year could be known as the year of naval construction – realized in the form of ship’s timbers and an ancient canoe. If you had the opportunity to visit the lab this year, you may have seen the ship’s timbers that have recently completed conservation. These timbers have a long and storied life, serving as the structure of La Concorde then Queen Anne’s Revenge before they became part of the ocean floor. Recovered in 2000, over the next 23 years they underwent careful treatment, including desalination, chemical cleaning, rigorous documentation, and impregnation with polyethylene glycol before undergoing freeze-drying at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab. As of May this year, the timbers are safely dry and stable, and ready for continued investigation, research, and safe keeping until they can be transferred to the North Carolina Maritime Museum (NCMM) in Beaufort.
Spring continued to be a busy time of year as we took part in the recovery of a 930-year-old canoe from Lake Waccamaw. A process two years in the making, recovery of this artifact was a moving experience couched in complicated, delicate procedures. Arriving at the lab in April, it was showcased in our April Open House, but more about the Open House later.
We transfer artifacts to NCMM for exhibit and curation each spring and fall, and this year we transferred 14,022 artifacts in total. Of special note was a mechanical jack. An elegant piece of machinery, hearty, yet fragile, the jack is one of the more complex objects in our collection and underwent six years of conservation treatment. As you may have guessed by now, conservation is not for the impatient!
Our outreach programs continued strong: our two Saturday events on April 22 and November 18 garnered 340 visitors. The offerings at the Open House, held in conjunction with the NC Science Festival, were the largest in number and the most diverse to date. Members of the Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe, the African American Heritage Commission, the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, Joyner Library, and the Maritime Studies program at ECU, among many other groups, were on hand to assist with speaking to visitors about their work and partnerships with our lab.
Outreach spanned not only Greenville and North Carolina, but throughout the country with lab staff giving talks and lectures, conducting lab tours, attending expos and festivals, writing to young scientists enrolled in the Letters to a Pre-Scientist pen pal program – the list goes on. In all the lab reached over 230,000 people.
Staffing levels remain minimal, and we are only able to achieve these accomplishments with the assistance of our dedicated students, volunteers, interns, and partners. This year, volunteers contributed nearly 2000 hours and helped in key events like the canoe recovery, and everyday lab processes like photography, solution testing, and illustration.
As you know, we fall under the Office of State Archaeology, and it is with heavy, yet happy hearts that we wish farewell to John Mintz on his retirement as State Archaeologist. At the same time, we look to the future, as the lab will celebrate its 20th anniversary here on the ECU campus.
Another item crucial to our success is your continued support. We greatly appreciate it and are thankful for the opportunity to work at a job we truly enjoy!
We hope to see you in the coming year and wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!
-Part of the team responsible for the safe recovery of the canoe (from left to right): Chris Southerly (OSA Deputy State Archaeologist-Underwater), Jess Hill (landowner where canoe was stored), Quinn Godwin (NC American Indian Heritage Commission), Elton Jacobs (NC Commission of Indian Affairs), Chief Mike Jacobs (Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe), John Mintz (OSA State Archaeologist), Madeline Spencer (OSA), David Cranford (OSA), Stephen Atkinson (OSA), Kimberly Kenyon (OSA), Elise Carroll (OSA), Mandy Posgai (OSA), Daniel Lowery (OSA), Alyssa Saldivar (ECU Maritime Studies Program). Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Timbers returning from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab after freeze-drying. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Canoe recovered from Lake Waccamaw. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-Jack following conservation. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-April 2023 Open House. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
-ECU Maritime Studies student Ian Dunshee documenting the timbers for his thesis.
-Removing concretion from cannon C5. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.