Fort St. Joseph Museum

The Michigan Alliance for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (MACCH) arranged a conservation “angel project” with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project (FSJAP) as requested by Dr. Michael Nassaney of Western Michigan University (WMU) and Carol Bainbridge of the Fort St. Joseph Museum (FSJM). The “angel project” was a survey and assessment of the collections management practices by WMU and the FSJM of the archaeological artifacts from the Fort St. Joseph site.

William Fritz, Collections Conservator for the Mackinac State Historic Parks (MSHP) and MACCH board member was chosen as the “angel consultant” and deemed an appropriate match because of MSHP’s well-established archaeological program; a program steeped with 46 years of collections management and conservation experience. Both Fort Michilimackinac, an MSHP archaeological site, and Fort St. Joseph have similar 18th century artifact assemblages.

In September of 2005, Fritz conducted site inspections at both repositories and interviewed both principals on management practices. Due to the nature of the project and time constraints the survey’s scope was limited only to the management and storage of archaeological artifacts from the FSJAP. The survey did not inspect the greater collections of the Fort St. Joseph Museum (FSJM) or assess their exhibit practices.

Fritz set up hygrothermographs both at the WMU archaeology lab and the FSJM collection storage room to capture general daily environmental trends for four weeks. Fritz also sampled and tested curatorial materials to determine their appropriateness for the project. The 35-page report provides recommendations for field procedures, archaeological documentation, lab processing of artifacts, proper storage facilities, loan terms, and collections management. The report also includes supporting documents covering suitable artifact containers, conservation treatments for collections, test results of storage materials, an analysis of the environmental data, and a list of vendors and suppliers for curatorial materials and equipment. These recommendations will serve the principals well as they plan for the long-term curation and conservation of the materials that are being collected under the auspices of the FSJAP.