Thursday, March 7, 2019

Demers Collection at the New Castle Historical Society

In the 1970s and 80s, New Hampshire divers Ray and John Demers recovered thousands of artifacts from colonial shipwrecks during diving expeditions in Hart's Cove. Many of these artifacts have recently been donated to the New Castle Historical Society, where they can now be viewed by visitors and locals and appreciated for their significant educational and historical importance.  The New Castle Historical Society worked with Dr. Emerson Baker from Salem State University to identify and display many of the artifacts donated by the Demers and in 2017, the Historical Society opened the “Piscataqua Discoveries” Exhibit at their museum. The exhibit has been well attended, but there is not enough room to display all of the artifacts donated by the Demers.

Last fall, the Strawbery Banke Collections Department staff and volunteers made the short trip over the bridge to the New Castle Historical Society to help sort and store the many artifacts in storage.  Once organized, these artifacts have the potential to be used for comparative study with other historic collections recovered by archaeologists in the Piscataqua region. 

Strawbery Banke archaeology volunteers Sally and Allen sorting a box of ceramic sherds

Labelled boxes of artifacts in storage and ready for further study

While working with the Demers Collection, Strawbery Banke volunteers noticed a number of  ceramics similar to early 18th century artifacts in the Strawbery Banke collection.  Here are just a few examples:
Staffordshire Brown Stoneware: on left, tankard fragment recovered by David Switzer's Piscataqua River Survey (A-0340);
on right, sherd recovered by Demers 
Westerwald: on left, tankard fragment recovered by David Switzer's Piscataqua River Survey (A-0346; also pictured in Switzer 2016, in The Archaeology of Vernacular Watercraft Fig. 9.2);
on right, sherd recovered by Demers
Westerwald: on left, mended tankard from Deer Street excavations (A-0514); on right, sherd recovered by Demers
Being able to study these ceramics (and in time, other types of artifacts from the Demers Collection) enriches the archaeological and historical study of the colonial Portsmouth area and enhances our understanding of British trade and import.  The Strawbery Banke Collections Department is grateful for the opportunity to work with the New Castle Historical Society on the Demers Collection!

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