Troop 624 Visits LCMM

by Alex Lehning

As a Conservation Technician with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, I spend the majority of my time doing research, preserving artifacts, and documenting our archeological collections. Each day in the Conservation Lab I have the opportunity to literally hold history in my hands, and there is nothing I enjoy more than to be able to share part of that experience with our guests at the museum.

This past month, LCMM was proud to host Boy Scout Troop 624 from Essex Junction, VT here in our lab as they began work on their Archeology Merit Badge. Each Scout was in the process of completing a series of diverse requirements that provided them with both a scholarly and practical understanding of archeological methods and their place in uncovering our local history. The Archeology Merit Badge was established fairly recently, in 1997, and earning it is not a simple task. A Scout working towards this award is asked to research several historically significant excavations located both in the United States and abroad, study local colonial and/or Native American history, and spend professionally supervised time either in the field at an archeological site or in a conservation laboratory.

Alex shows the types of materials that are able to be conserved in the lab.

Alex shows the types of materials that are able to be conserved in the lab. (photo: Tom Larsen)

Our afternoon together began with a discussion of archeology, and its place alongside other disciplines such as anthropology, history, and geology. As a group, we debated about what it meant to be an archeologist, as well as our role in protecting precious cultural resources. The Museum views the responsibility of sharing our knowledge of the past with the public as a critical part of our mission. I then explained the process of examining an underwater archeological site, from initial discovery and survey, to documentation, excavation, and analysis. Many of the same techniques and ideas that are used on land can be applied underwater as well. Artifacts from various locations on Lake Champlain, including naval battles and shipwrecks, are brought to the Conservation Lab for analysis and treatment. The Scouts also shared how their “Leave No Trace” training would apply to any newly discovered artifacts they might encounter.

Alex shows how to determine the amount of PEG (polyethelyne glycol) in a piece of wood undergoing conservation

Alex shows how to determine the amount of PEG (polyethelyne glycol) in a piece of wood undergoing conservation. (photo: Tom Larsen)

Paul Gates talks about careers and schooling for archeology

Paul Gates talks about careers and schooling for archeology. (photo: Tom Larsen)

We also spent some time reviewing the various treatments that are performed here on LCMM’s campus throughout the year. The Conservation Laboratory is equipped to preserve wooden, metal, organic, and composite artifacts. The highlight of their visit was a chance to do some actual “hands-on” archeology. Each Scout mechanically cleaned a piece of canister shot that dated to the War of 1812 and the Battle of Plattsburgh Bay. Using dental picks and wire brushes, the Troop worked carefully and diligently to remove rust before documenting their efforts.  Finally, along with my fellow Conservation Technician Paul Gates, we discussed career options and educational pathways in archeology. I encouraged the Scouts to study chemistry, biology, and mathematics in addition to the social sciences to broaden their opportunities as future archeologists.

The visit with Troop 624 was a great success and an enriching experience for all, and I look forward to working further with them and other local Scouts on the Archeology Merit Badge this spring.

Alex Lehning
Alex  works as a Conservation Technician with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and in his free time volunteers as a Merit Badge Counselor with the Green Mountain Council/Boy Scouts of America.

About Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is a private non-profit museum located on the shores of Lake Champlain, just seven miles from Vergennes, Vermont. Our mission since our opening in 1985 is to share the rich history and archaeology of Lake Champlain and its surrounding region. We accomplish that through exhibits, education programs, special events, on-water activities, replica vessels, nautical archaeology research, and so much more. Learn more & get involved by visiting our website:
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2 Responses to Troop 624 Visits LCMM

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