George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a privately held historic house museum owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA), has recently undertaken an exciting and innovative initiative to create this website devoted to an important archaeological feature excavated in the early 1990s and curated by MVLA. This feature, an oval-shaped midden (a pile of trash called the South Grove Midden), contains evidence of the material lives of successive generations of Washington households and the enslaved individuals who lived and labored in the mansion and surrounding outbuildings.
Despite the site’s significance to Mount Vernon, colonial history, and historical archaeology, the collection (like many others here and at other historic sites) is rarely seen by anyone except the occasional lucky visitor to the off-site archaeology lab. Bits and pieces of the feature’s assemblage have gone or are currently on exhibit, starred in publications, and spurred on theses and dissertations, but the artifacts still await a comprehensive analysis and presentation. With much foresight, the Ladies, with direction from Mount Vernon’s Archaeology Department, decided to reach this goal through an interactive, in-depth, content-driven, and well-illustrated website.
The support of this project by MVLA and our prestigious and generous donor group called the Life Guard Society could not be more timely. Archaeology is increasingly occurring in the lab or the curation facility as emphasis shifts from accumulating new data to revisiting old, previously excavated data that either received no analysis and interpretation or that warrant re-analysis in light of new questions or through contemporary theoretical lenses. This institutional support coincides with a new era of archaeology online and an increased focus on digitizing artifact and object collections. This will result in a unique and cutting edge web-based product featuring the archaeology of Mount Vernon and will hopefully provide a model for future web endeavors focusing on other archaeological sites around the estate.
We believe that with this Archaeological Collections Online project, we are entering a new era of archaeology on the web — an era in which nuanced and holistic archaeological collections information is presented to the general public, but also is accessible and serving the needs of archaeologists looking for comparative data.
As our website is created you can follow our progress on this blog and our Facebook page.