Monday, October 28, 2013

Questions, Questions - " "Following our Path: Regis College through its Art Collection"

Sarah Vedrani, Undergraduate Student

While developing this exhibit, we’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions: about certain pieces, about the flow of the exhibit, about every aspect of this project. But questions are good! They help us work through the issues we’re dealing with and come up with some creative solutions. Here’s some of the questions we’ve asked ourselves so far:

What pieces will/will not be included in the exhibit?
We’ve only got so much space in the gallery, so this is an important question to ask. The big thing was selecting pieces that fit in with the big idea of our exhibit, which has three main parts: education, tradition, and service. Creating those three parts has made the selection process somewhat easier. 

But, we can’t have everything. Pieces that did not fit our big idea, or that were too large or too damaged to display, were not chosen.

How will the exhibit flow?
I think one of the toughest things about this exhibit has been that we started out with many two dimensional objects, and not enough three dimensional objects. Part of the exhibit title is “art and artifacts”, so we had to figure out how we could incorporate artifacts into the exhibit without losing our initial vision. 

Three dimensional objects also help to visually break up the space, and help the exhibit feel more like an exhibit, and not like an art gallery.

Who were the Morrisons?
One of the important lessons we’ve learned in developing this exhibit so far is that we’re all too familiar with our subject and with museum jargon and ideas.

We wanted to include in the exhibit a space to talk about how the College came to be, and the Morrisons are a huge part of that. Fannie Morrison sold the property that is now the College to the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1927; her father had bought the property in 1888 and had built Morrison House, which now serves as our President’s House.

WE all knew that, but would the visitor? We’ve learned through this that our labels need to be simple and understandable for our visitors, but not so simple that we’re dumbing down what we’re trying to say. That makes label writing a difficult process!

These are not the only questions we’ve asked so far, and they definitely won’t be the last. Developing an entire exhibit is a lengthy process, but I think that all of our questioning shows that we’re learning, and we’re trying to work through everything. Hopefully, we’ll come out with some good answers by the end, and not more questions!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Breaking Bread

By Margaret Bogosian

The second dinner in the "Evolution of Flavor" dinner series took place last night. I do not want to assume too much but I think everyone had a great time! If you recall from older posts, these dinner series take place once a month, and each month we use different ingredients for the meal. Last month, we only used ingredients that were available in the New World before the Columbian Exchange in 1492. Last night, we used food items that were available on the Old World before the exchange.
After the meal in September in which we were not allowed to use ingredients that are pretty essential to any cook (olive oil, garlic, onions, butter, dairy), cooking this month was a lot easier and less restrictive. We started the meal with cured meats, seven (yes seven), types of cheeses, fresh baked bread, and of course, wine. You can not sample 7 types of cheese without a nice French white to wash it down. For dinner we had rice pilaf, brussel sprouts, and oven roasted herbed chicken breast. In one of the pictures I will post later, you can see the making of the dessert in action. The picture with the swirls in the pan is the toffee I made for the ever popular banoffee pie. The name of the dessert which originated in England comes from the ingredients that make up the dish: bananas, toffee, and coffee. Layers of sweetened pie crust, homemade toffee, sliced bananas, fresh whipped cream, and topped with espresso was a real crowd winner last night. We finished the night with coffee, tea, and small group discussions.
Throughout the meal, students from the school presented the research they had found about some of the ingredients we used during the meal. One student discussed the origins of rice and how it was cultivated in the Old World. Another student explained the myth and rituals that were associated with coffee in the Old World. This discussion we had as a group about the ingredients eventually broke apart into many little conversations between professors and students, graduate students and faculty, faculty and professors. It was wonderful to see the different members of the Regis College community together, and all of us at the Heritage Studies Program would like to thank everyone who came out to support this event. We look forward to seeing old and new friends at our next dinner, the last one in the series. Please RSVP to if you would like to attend.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

News from the World of Archaeology

By Sarah Vedrani

There are many more archaeological excavations going on RIGHT NOW all over the world. This week, I’ll highlight one going on at Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Colonial Williamsburg has a long history of archaeological work. Much of what is known about many of the site’s reconstructed villages comes from extensive archaeological research that has been conducted over the last several decades. With most new projects, an excavation is completed first to get the most accurate information on the site. Williamsburg’s Archaeological Research Division has recently completed a large project, and has already moved on to another.

The most recent excavation has been at the site of the Anderson Public Armoury. In 1776, blacksmith James Anderson became Virginia’s Public Armourer, meaning that his shop would produce various military supplies to Virginia troops. Six buildings have been reconstructed on the site-the armoury, a tin shop, a kitchen, a workshop, two storage buildings, and a privy-and their construction is based off information discovered during the excavation process, a multi-year project that was just completed in August of this year.

The Armoury’s official opening is in November, but the site has been open to visitors to Colonial Williamsburg since September.

Colonial Williamsburg’s current project is an excavation of part of an area of Market Square, which would have been the main center of town, and was used for military musters, public gatherings, protests, and a market house, which is the subject of current research and excavation. The market house was a large covered area where people would gather to buy and sell goods. There would also be an area set aside for the butchering of meat and the keeping of horses, as well as livestock meant to be sold.

It is this area that the team thinks they’ve uncovered, and not the original market house.

In the photos above and to the right, you can see some older exploration trenches, dating to the 1940s, 20th century drainage pipes (the site was the location of a church and parsonage in the 1920s-30s) and just how large this dig site is. The research team has had to expand the area based on the evidence they’ve found: post holes, all exactly eight feet apart. It is these post holes that have lead the tea to believe that they have uncovered the secondary area, and not the market house, because of the size of the site. So far, the site is sixty-four feet long and about forty feet wide; too large for a market house, but large enough to keep livestock. Their first goal was to reach the sub-soil, a point far enough down that there would be no artifacts, meaning that they had dug down to the point before human contact. Their new goal is to find out just how large an area they’re dealing with. Most of the artifacts found have been coins and small personal items that may have been dropped.

While there is no information currently online on this dig, there is a wealth of information on Williamsburg’s Research Division and past projects at:

There is also a blog that was kept during the Anderson Public Armoury Project at:

Carney Gallery: Museum Exhibition and Design - "Following our Path: Regis College through its Art Collection"

JP Harwick, Undergraduate Student

Installing an exhibit requires the work of all those who are part of creating the exhibit as well as those who researched material from the archives.  When we are planning for our exhibit, we have to make sure everything will fit within the gallery and fit the overall theme of the exhibit. During our last class, we laid out our sample pieces of art (replicas on paper) from Regis’s collections for the exhibit. We are still deciding on what items go where and making sure the items are appropriate for the exhibit. We laid our pieces of paper out across tables as we tried to mimic what the final display in the Carney gallery will look like.
 The planning is rather complicated as sometimes when we think everything is set to go, we find a flaw of some sort and reconfigure the design to make the art display more interesting and educational. One of the challenges is how to best show the collection of paintings done by one of the Sisters of St Joseph who lived for many years here at Regis as well as how to best exhibit other Regis memorabilia.  As a team we work together to choose the items to exhibit making sure the choices connect to the mission of Regis College as well as the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Archaeology – What’s the point?

By Audrey McCullough 

This week, we will diverge a bit from talking about our site, and take a look at archaeology as a whole. Many people don’t understand the importance of archaeology. Why bother digging in the dirt for old pieces of junk?

Archaeology tells us things about the cultures that have since gone away for whatever reason. So that piece of junk you think was found may actually be able to tell us about some aspect of the culture. Trash, especially, can tell so much. Think about what you throw away in your trash: this could one day be studied to understand our culture!

Without archaeology, so much of what we know about our past would never have been learned. Archaeological digs may be painstakingly thorough and precise, but the information around the artifacts may be just as important to understanding a culture as the object itself. That is why archaeologists need to be so careful when digging.

Massachusetts has learned much about the past through archaeology as well. There are hundreds of registered sites, both Native American and colonial. Some sites date back thousands of years! The points in the picture are 8000 to 9000 years old, and can be seen in the Robbins Museum of Archaeology. We know so much from archaeology, from how long people have been settled here and when they left, to what they ate and how they dressed, all based on remnants of their culture. It is pretty amazing how much we can learn from minimal information. Learning about past cultures is how we learn about our own. Archaeology is a useful way to learn, and that is why its important.
Learn more about Massachusetts archaeology here:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Old Findings at the Dig Site

By JP Harwick
            We’ve had a lot of fun in archaeology so far and since our first day, we’ve had more than our share of surprises. Overall, our first field experiences have turned out beautifully. Thanks to Professor Fontes our teacher, Karen and Audrey our coordinators, and Sarah our historian we have a great deal worth of artifacts for two days worth of digging.  We dug into the hard New England soil and started our quest for knowledge. It was Sarah, Jason, and I who was in the first group followed by Karen, Audrey, and Professor Fontes in the second. We dug down and encountered what seemed to be a brick wall in the midst of a half foot deep hole. Our team was getting really excited. “Oh my gosh!” Sarah exclaimed. “What if we actually find a complete wall. That’d be totally awesome!” Jason was less enthusiastic. “I bet this is just a big oddly shaped rock. That’s probably what it is……” “We’ve gotta keep a positive outlook” I said. Meanwhile Professor Fontes had gone with one of Regis’s groundskeepers to examine a site that might be a good place for us to dig. When she got back, she led us to the spot. It was what looked to be a colonial stone wall that originally led all the way down Wellesley street. It had a post on one end and a protusion coming out of the post told us a gate must have originally been there. We were so excited! Professor Fontes said that we ought to wait for the 2nd semester when all the weeds and debris would clear out. We went back to our dig site and a few minutes later after unearthing charcoal and granite pieces from the metal clad soil. Our biggest discovery came next. We found a pottery shard in the dirt and it measured about ¼ of an inch in diameter. It was miniscule find, but a momentous discovery. We left the dig site with caution tape around it.

The next dig was even better. We started earlier as we didn’t want to lose any precious time and began clearing up dirt for sifting. Karen’s husband had very generously made two sifters for our class and they were used to good effect as Karen and Professor Fontes sifted about 20 pounds worth of dirt. Jason and I were clearing the grass away so we could slowly but surely excavate with our little shovels. Sarah joined in after taking a few pictures for documentation of the site and we started digging. It didn’t take very long to find another big discovery. Sarah had exclaimed in class that if she found any conclusive evidence that Weston was a farming town she could do her Master’s thesis on it. “All I need is a nail, horseshoe or something…..” She told us how in her Sophomore year she had started researching the history of Weston and how her research had led up to this point. Soon we had found found Sarah’s golden fleece. Jason saw something peculiar sticking out of the soil. “I think I see something. It’s going into the ground.” “Let’s see what it is” I said. “Dig around it carefully” Sarah suggested. Within a couple minutes we had found an old nail. It had a flat top to it so that suggested it was really old. Karen examined our find and said it was probably made in the early 1800s. Sarah labeled and catalogued our specimen and took pictures of it. We continued to dig that day, but didn’t find anything else except for more coal, granite and rusted soil. A week or so later, we came across more things in the rusty-clad soil. It was pieces of glass. They came in different colors, which is kind of odd since they were found so close to each other. They came in brown clear and blue. A couple of weeks later we found another small piece of pottery which is exciting for us as we don’t know how old it is and are hoping it’s from colonial times. Now that it is halfway through the semester, we knew that not everything is found in an entire semester. We are thankful that we have found several unique artifacts. These are important as they will give us clues about Weston’s past. It has been so much fun in this class and I can’t wait to see what is to come. Maybe we’ll find a horseshoe or more pottery shards. Whatever it is, I can’t wait to continue digging into Weston’s spectacular past!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Writing Challenges: Labels -"Following our Path: Regis College through its Art Collection”

Kerry Pintabona, Undergraduate Student

Labels seem like one of the easier and more trivial pieces of building and creating a museum exhibit. This initial impression could not be further from the truth. If you write a label that does not give enough information you will leave the exhibit viewer frustrated and unsatisfied. On the other hand, if you write too much in a label then you will bore the average exhibit viewer. The trick with labels, as with most things, is to find the right balance. We have been working on our labels recently and are learning exactly how difficult writing a label actually is. We have the advantage and are lucky enough to have a whole class to share this writing experience with. We were able to write our labels on our own and then share them in class. Through the guidance and criticisms of our peers I think that each of us were able to take our labels, and edit and craft them into labels that are more well written and better suited to not only our exhibit, but also to the audience. As we continue to work on our labels, hopefully they will continue to get better and our label writing skills will improve.
The other aspect to the labels is how many should be included in the exhibit. We could have longer introduction panels at the start of each section and then just have tombstone labels for the individual pieces. However, based upon previous class discussions, I think that we are leaning more towards individual labels for each piece that contain the information for that corresponding piece and leaving out the introduction panels. I am excited to see how the labels will be written, arranged, and eventually work within the exhibit as a whole.