Spring 2010 I had the pleasure of visiting the archeological archives of the National Museum of the American Indian. They have quite an impressive collection of archeological and ethnographic objects in the archives. You might never realize this going to the actual museum though, as less than one percent is ever on display at one time. They have a huge warehouse on the outskirts of Washington DC where everything is stored in a state of the art facility
. I had the opportunity to access the collection and encounter in person ancient pottery from the ancient Woodland Moundbuilder cultures.
In a place like this you need a focus or you could go insane. There are so many avenues you could take for study that it is easy to get more than a little distracted. My main interest was to experience ancient stamp impressed pottery first hand. You can learn a lot more about the maker’s process when you can pick an object up or turn it around to see the bottom.
NMAI has almost all of the artifacts unearthed by Clarence Bloomfield Moore in their archives. C. B. Moore’s original publications have been compiled into several large format books put out by the University of Alabama Press. My favorite is probably the “East Florida Expeditions.” My uncle, Richard Zane Smith introduced me to this book when I was his apprentice. Uncle Rich got me really excited about stamp impressed pottery while I was in his studio. Studying the photographs and drawings of these ancient pots inspired me to learn to create my own style of stamp impressed pottery, informed from ancient imagery sources.
I took a lot of photos with my little digital camera and also collected several from the database. The Museum is working to have the entire collection in an accessible online database. They have a lot of the collection up now and should be finished in the next couple of years.