institution: Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan
category: Exhibition and Collection Extension
Excavating Archaeology @ U-M: 1817–2017 is the online extension of the exhibition presented at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology from October 2017 to May 2018. This show, curated by Carla M. Sinopoli and Terry G. Wilfong, explores the history of archaeology and museums at the University of Michigan for the past 200 years and looks forward to the coming century.
The exhibition website recreates the unique look of the “Excavating Archaeology” show, designed by Emily Pierattini and Scott Meier; it relies on carefully chosen objects, archival documents and images, and other illustrative materials to trace the growth of the University’s archaeology museums and the development of archaeology as a discipline.
The central element of the site is an interactive timeline that serves as the main navigation tool, dividing the exhibition material into three periods. The Early Collections period (19th–early 20th century) focused on acquisition of original objects belonging to various epochs and cultures. A highlight of the show is the story of the so-called “Michigan Relics” — artifacts known as the “Soper Fraud” collection that were the subject of public controversy in the 1890s–1920s.
The Institutionalization period (1920s–1940s) saw the foundation of two new archaeology museums — the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology (1922), and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology (1928). Both museums undertook large-scale field projects, such as the Philippine Expedition and excavations at Karanis in Egypt. This website displays a selection of the tens of thousands of artifacts brought to Michigan from these expeditions during the first half of the 20th century.
During the Postwar period (1945–present), the archaeologists at the University of Michigan have expanded their research to new geographic areas and academic disciplines; the areas of their projects are diverse, ranging from the early human cultures of the Paleolithic to the states and empires that emerged in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the New World. The website showcases four of the current field projects, two sponsored by the Kelsey Museum, and two by the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology.
The chronological narrative leads website visitors through the past, present, and future of archaeology at the University of Michigan. Gallery views and lists of objects serve as alternative ways of navigation and discovery.