What a Great Open House!

Members of the CHCP and Stanford University meeting at the Open House. From left to right, Anita Kwock, Barb Voss, Gina Michaels, Lillian Gong-Guy, Ezra Erb, and Ken Jue.

The Open House on February 8th was a great success! Thank you to all who attended for coming. There was a great mix of Chinese Historical and Cultural Project members, History San Jose personnel, Stanford University students, and interested members of the public, many of whom mentioned the great article in the February 7th San Jose Mercury News as piquing their interest in the project. Thanks are also due to the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, which is providing the funding for the project as a whole, which makes both our work in general and events such as the Open House possible. We don’t have an exact count of visitors – we were too busy talking with everyone who came! We estimate the attendance to have been between 40 and 60, which was a great turnout.

Visitors examining ceramic and glass displays at the Open House.

There were a variety of artifact displays at the Open House, including a table laid out with the typical varieties of Chinese export porcelains recovered at archaeological sites in California. In the picture to the right, Gina Michaels is discussing these wares with two visitors to the Open House. We had three rooms open for visitors. The room in which this photo was taken is our lab workspace, where we also had displays of stoneware vessels and also examples of the sort of documentation that we are using to study this collection. In the adjoining room, we had displays of glass artifacts, small finds, leather, and textiles. We also had our database entry system running to display to visitors. Finally, we had the storage room open, where visitors could see the artifacts that have not yet been processed. In this room it was quite clear that we are still at an early stage of the project! It was really great to have visitors at this early stage, as everyone shared great ideas, and some offered translation help (thank you!). The greatest success of the Open House was in seeing how many people are interested in this site. One of the biggest motivations for this project is to get it out of the warehouse and into contact with researchers and members of the Bay Area community. The great turnout at the Open House demonstrated that there is a real interest in this collection.

Artifact of the Week

Unidentified ferrous artifact, and an iron horse or mule shoe.

After the excitement of the Open House, we returned to the classroom. This past week we discussed the manufacture and identification of metal artifacts commonly encountered on historical archaeological sites. Some of these artifacts, such as nails or “tin” cans – which are very seldom actually made of tin – can be used to establish an approximate date for a site. However, metal artifacts often pose a challenge for identification and analysis, because in most soils they corrode, often quite extensively. The pictures of the artifacts of the week illustrate this. On the right is an identifiable hand-forged iron horse or mule shoe, recovered from feature 19. Such shoes are fairly common on 19th century sites, because animals were still quite important in transportation, agricultural activity, and the transport of goods. Indeed, in the southeast part of the Market Street Chinatown, maps indicate the Dexter Livery, which suggests the presence of a number of horses and perhaps other animals in and around the site. Metal artifacts such as the one on the left in the photograph are also quite commonly encountered. This artifact has corroded so much that its original form is unidentifiable with the naked eye. The process of corrosion has led to the embedding of small stones and dirt within the rust of this artifact, and the original surface of the artifact cannot be observed. In such cases, for artifacts that might yield significant information other techniques might be used to identify them, such as X-rays or the removal of corrosion through mechanical or chemical treatments. For less significant artifacts, they may simply be recorded according to the material from which they are made.

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