Tribal Historic Preservation Office: Collections Division

The Tribal Historic Preservation Office’s Collection Section plays many roles in the preservation and care of the Seminole Tribe’s archaeological collections.  From carefully cleaning artifacts as they come in from the field, to cataloging and housing the objects through archival methods, the Collections Section works hard to uphold the highest standards of safeguarding the archaeological collections. 

Left: Katy Gregory, Right: Kate Redente working in the conservation lab.

One of the most important aspects of the Collections Section is the lab.  The lab is where most of the work takes place including the cleaning, sorting, identifying, cataloging, and accessioning of the objects.  Below is an explanation of the life of an object once it enters the lab.

Most of the objects come from the archaeological excavations done by the Tribal Archaeology Section and primarily consist of animal bone and ceramic fragments.  Once excavated, the objects are brought back from the field to the lab.  Depending on the material and type of object, it is gently cleaned in order to remove any excess dirt and sand.  Cleaning is done to prevent future damage and deterioration to an object.  However, it is important to know that not all objects are cleaned especially if the historic or cultural integrity of an object could be affected or destroyed.  Most of the time cleaning can be done by using a soft bristled toothbrush and distilled water.   

After the objects have been cleaned, they are left to dry on the drying racks.  It takes about a day or two for the objects to completely dry. 

Once the objects are dry, they are carefully sorted into like groups and cataloged.  Each group of objects receives a unique number which helps to identify the object as well as link the objects to their records.  Keeping track of each individual object is important and helps keep the collection organized and as well as allow for easy research access. 

Object Sorting

The final stage of preparing the object for storage is to place the objects into archival bags.  Each bag has an identification tag which is also printed on archival paper.  However, because some objects are too fragile to house in bags, custom boxes and supports are sometimes made to help prevent damage and deterioration.

The Collections Section is excited to be a part of the preservation of the archaeological collections.  It is great to be able to preserve these objects so that we might have a better understanding of the past!

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Archaeologists at Work

My name is Julie Richko Labate and I am the Tribal Archaeologist here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The Tribal Archaeology Section, or TAS as we like to call ourselves, works with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to protect and preserve artifacts and important archaeological sites on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s (STOF) six reservations. We are responsible for the pre-emptive cultural survey of areas undergoing development on all Seminole Tribe of Florida Reservations.

My name is Julie Richko Labate and I am the Tribal Archaeologist here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The Tribal Archaeology Section, or TAS as we like to call ourselves, works with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to protect and preserve artifacts and important archaeological sites on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s (STOF) six reservations. We are responsible for the pre-emptive cultural survey of areas undergoing development on all Seminole Tribe of Florida Reservations.

 We are a team of ten archaeologists who are all college graduates with degrees in either Anthropology or Archaeology. We have had special training in archaeological field and laboratory methods through our experiences in cultural resource management work and various archaeological field schools.                                                                                             

We use the most advanced data gathering technologies to maintain an innovative and ever–evolving research design (much cooler than Tomb Raider because we DO archaeology). By using state-of-the-art Global Positioning Systems (GPS), the TAS is able to record and complete archaeology for the Tribe on both paper and in an electronic database. Our archaeological data collection and analysis database is one of the nation’s top tribal archaeological databases.

Archaeologists at Work!

The archaeological field crew excavates shovel test units in the first phase of archaeological site detection. Every shovel test is recorded and mapped using a Trimble GeoXT (GPS Device). The Trimble provides the location of the test unit at sub-meter accuracy. The maps created by the TAS aid in the writing of reports and in the archaeological research conducted on the Tribe’s reservations. The TAS, in conjunction with the THPO, is compiling an extensive and accurate research database. In years to come, a few simple clicks of a mouse will show what has been surveyed and the areas to be avoided due to the presence of the Tribe’s invaluable cultural resources.

Our goal is to maintain the cultural landscape of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As the archaeological field crew, we pride ourselves in being an integral part of preserving the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Thanks for reading. Sho-na-Bish!