Like so many of you, in the middle of March this year, nearly all employees of George Washington’s Ferry Farm & Historic Kenmore began working from home and did not return to our offices for two and a half months. We expected a lengthy time away and, as such, prepared as best we could for the change. For some departments, the change mainly involved figuring out access to digital files but, since our jobs revolve around physical artifacts, we archaeologists had to do a little improvising.
First, while it’s normally not a “best practice” to take artifacts home, we really had no choice if we were going to remain productive. This meant I as archaeology lab supervisor and that Elyse and Judy, archaeology lab technicians , all had to create what essentially amounted to an a archaeology lab in each of our homes. Elyse and Judy need space to wash, label, and catalogue artifacts while I needed space to analyze artifacts while simultaneously keeping them away from my extremely inquisitive preschooler! I mostly succeeded in that last task. Elyse actually enlisted the help of her older and amazing daughter June with washing artifacts. As so many of us found out in 2020, working and parenting from home is not easy but Elyse and I adapted well, I think.
It should also be noted, however, that keeping artifacts away from all of our many, many dogs and cats proved challenging as well. While my cats were thrilled (well, as thrilled as cats can get, at least) that I was home all day, they were occasionally of the opinion that the Washington-era porcelain sherds I was researching looked much better on the floor.
Despite these challenges, we got the job done and eventually returned to the lab at Ferry Farm having accomplished quite a bit.
Life inside Ferry Farm’s archaeology lab looks quite different now, too, compared to this time in 2019. Since the lab is relatively close quarters, we instituted a rigorous cleaning schedule, spaced our work areas out as much as possible, and started taking temperatures every day. Our beloved volunteers have not come back (Shout out to our volunteers! You guys are awesome!) because we needed to limit the number of people working in the lab to only myself, Elyse, and Judy.
One of the coolest features of our lab is the huge viewing window through which visitors could see real live archaeologists at work. While Ferry Farm is now open to the public for tours, the visitor center remains closed and there’s no longer any inquisitive folks peering at us through the glass. It’s a surprisingly lonely feeling not to glance up from our work occasionally to see visitors watching what we’re doing. We also put a temporary halt on lab tours that we do occasionally during special events or children’s camps at Ferry Farm. Both of these changes are a bummer because we really liked the interaction we had with visitors. That being said, we’re optimistic that someday life will return to normal eventually and we’ll be able to share our lab with the public once again. When that time does finally comes, please visit and check out the archaeology lab at George Washington’s Ferry Farm. We miss you!
Mara Kaktins, Archaeologist
Archaeology Lab Supervisor