Clamshells and Catalogs: Preservation and Organization at the CMNH Anthropology Library

Author: Lumnija Gjoni

Archaeologists by trade are multi-disciplinary. Digging in the hot, dusty field in a foreign country and the lab of a world-renowned museum are both familiar aspects of work for an archaeologist. Early within my career, I’ve had the great privilege of working hands-on with remarkable objects, from identifying bones among co-mingled ossuary remains to restoring arrowheads and stone tools in a conservation lab. Archaeologists learn a plethora of skills to analyze the huge variety of materials we unearth during an excavation. Sometimes, we even learn skills or topics that we were not expecting, such as library science, as I did in my internship in the Anthropology department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH). 

Before I started my academic poster for the 91st Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Society of Archaeology (PSA), I had only been a patron of libraries. This project, the Clamshells and Catalogs: Preservation and Organization of the Anthropology Department's Library, required me to learn about organizing a small academic library, make a database, and thoroughly document each book, thesis, field survey, and more that I found in the Pennsylvania section of the Anthropology department of the CMNH. 

My project took place at the Edward O’Neil Research Center, which acts as an annex for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The annex houses 1.4 million objects which 90% of such hail from The Upper Ohio River Valley Region. This includes a library that provides publications and other forms of written text that have been utilized by Pennsylvania researchers for decades. However, over the years, the shelves have become disheveled due to the influx of materials the annex has received since it opened. To combat this, the project began to reorganize the Pennsylvania section of the library and tend to the books that are in need of preservation in order to save the useful information they hold. This project will act as a template for all other portions of the library and will allow Pennsylvania archaeologists to find texts in our collection more easily through improved organization and a digital catalog. Unfortunately, the PSA conference was canceled. But, as all archaeologists learn, sooner or later, we must exhibit adaptability to extenuating circumstances beyond our control. 

Lumnija Gjoni, Spring 2020

Constellations Group