Friday, May 02, 2014
ARCHAEOLOGY IN VINP - WHAT'S HAPPENING
My name is Matt Schlicksup and I worked as an intern with the Virgin Islands National Park archaeology program for four months during the Spring of 2014. I have a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Beloit College and will soon begin a Master's in Anthropology and Museum Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. I first came to St. John two years ago as a student participating in the first Virgin Islands archaeological field school from Beloit College. Having experienced the Park's impressive archaeology program first hand, I decided this would be an excellent place to revisit to gain some additional experience before continuing my education.
Shorty after I began in January, a group of nine undergraduate archaeology students from Beloit College arrived for a week-long archaeological field school similar to the one that brought me to St. John for the first time in 2012. I worked with these students as they learned basic archaeological field techniques such as mapping, survey, and excavation at a newly discovered prehistoric site. After the students left I helped process the artifacts they had collected and began working on a brand new museum display for the archaeology lab at Cinnamon Bay. This unique display features the incredible variety of artifacts found here on St. John in one large case, and is designed to present them just as we find them buried beneath the ground. Reconstructed layers of artifacts and an accompanying timeline serve as a prelude to more in-depth displays on each of the distinct time periods of St. John's rich history.
Although I spent the majority of my time in the lab working with park staff, volunteers, and the public as I helped bring the exhibits at Cinnamon Bay closer to completion, I had several opportunities to work on other projects and park events as well. At the end of February I helped give a presentation on the history of St. John with park archaeologist, Ken Wild on a boat cruise along the island's north shore. The other interns and I also represented the archaeology program with a booth at the 2014 Folklife Festival at Annaberg Sugar Plantation. In April I also worked with students from the University of Copenhagen to investigate and map the ruins of a historic sugar plantation on the south side of the island and learned about artifact conservation by creating a sodium carbonate "bath" for a large metal artifact on display at Cinnamon Bay.
For someone pursuing a career in archaeology and museums, this has been a great opportunity to build on my archaeological background and gain hands-on experience building educational museum displays and working with the public. My time as an intern at Virgin Islands National Park has taught me a lot about public, federal, and Caribbean archaeology as well as archaeological curation and exhibit design. But while these skills and experiences have enriched me both as an individual and aspiring professional, I am most proud of my contribution to the park's efforts to make archaeology and the history of St. John accessible to the public.