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Educating the Next Generation of Conservators

This post was co-written by Sarah Watkins-Kenney, QAR Lab Director and the Underwater Archaeology Branch’s Chief Conservator and graduate assistants Jeremy Borrelli and Hannah Smith.

The QAR Lab has been located at East Carolina University’s West Research Campus since 2003.  Through this partnership with ECU the QAR Lab is able to provide an exemplary site for contributing to education, training and research in maritime archaeology and conservation of archaeological artifacts. Staff at the QAR Lab has worked with students and researchers from ECU and other universities since 2003.

Each year we interact with ECU students through class visits, lectures, facilitating Master’s thesis research, providing volunteer opportunity and hosting graduate assistantships.  Since 2003, hundreds of students have been touched by our team's outreach efforts.

This year we are pleased to welcome two new students as graduate assistants at the QAR Lab: Hannah Smith and Jeremy Borrelli. Each tells their story below.

Jeremy Borrelli

My name is Jeremy Borrelli, and I am one of the two new Graduate Assistants working at the QAR Conservation Lab at ECU. I received my undergraduate degree from SUNY New Paltz in Anthropology, with a focus in archaeology. During my tenure at New Paltz, I was involved with several dig sites around the Hudson Valley ranging from a prehistoric hunting camp to a Native American burial to the excavation of a historic stone house. I’ve always had a passion for history so being able to work directly with the physical remains of people from the past is something special for me. I became especially interested in artifacts from historic sites, such as Huguenot Street in New Paltz, where we excavated areas in and around the stone houses.

For the past eight years I’ve probably spent more time in water than I have on land as a competitive swimmer. Along with swimming, I’ve worked as a lifeguard, swim instructor, and Masters swimming coach so it’s safe to say that I have a certain comfort being around water! In 2009, I got SCUBA certified and learned more about the growing field of maritime archaeology. Ironically, I remember reading an article in the magazine Sport Diver about the Divedown program that was offered to divers allowing them to dive the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck in North Carolina.

At the time I thought that it was so cool that something so enigmatic had been found and that maybe someday I’d be able to see or work on something like that. My background in swimming and the water coupled with my interests in archaeology led me to become interested in maritime archaeology. This past August I began graduate school at ECU in the Maritime Studies program. Through the program I was granted a great opportunity to work here at the QAR Conservation Lab; the same wreck that got me interested in and introduced me to maritime archaeology! I am looking forward to interacting with the artifacts and learning from the skilled conservators and archaeologists working on the site as I begin my graduate studies in the field of maritime archaeology.

Hannah Smith

Hannah SmithAfter receiving my B.A. in Studio Art/Art History and German from Bucknell University in 2010, I took a roundabout path to ECU's M.A. in Anthropology program and the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab.  Originally planning to become an art conservator, I took some time off before applying to graduate school and studied more chemistry and studio art and tried to get more experience in conservation. As a result, I spent a little time in the QAR Lab in the summer of 2010, but never imagined I’d get to come back. During the summer of 2011, I assisted with William Peace University’s Field School at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site, where I’d been volunteering in a variety of roles since the fall of 2010. Getting to be involved with that dig and running the field lab, reminded me how much I enjoy archaeology.  After spending some time thinking about it and plenty of advice from the people around me, I decided to apply to ECU’s M.A. in Anthropology program, and focus on Historical Archaeology and conservation.  I hope to combine my interest in historical archaeology of the southeastern United States with conservation as I complete my Master’s thesis.  I was thrilled when I found out that I had gotten the Department’s Graduate Assistant position at the QAR Lab and would get to continue working on the archaeological site that started this journey.

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