Archaeology Blog

Meet the Team

I have engaged a workman to build offices… Thomas Jefferson, April 18, 1813

In the Spring of 1813, Jefferson initiated his plans for the East Wing of Offices here at PoplarForest.  In 1989 archaeologists began to investigate the remnants of the Wing, looking for any original building materials that would help to answer questions about the size and functions of the rooms within it.  Although the Wing has since been reconstructed as part of the museum, questions still surround how the different rooms were used, when it was torn down and remodeled, and perhaps most importantly, what was everyday life like for the different residents that worked and lived in the building.  PoplarForest’s Department of Archaeology and Landscapes has begun the re-analysis of the materials and information gathered from the excavations of the Wing to hopefully answer some of these questions and tell some of the intimate stories about life at PoplarForest.  Here’s the team that will be conducting this project:

Jack Gary is the Director of Archaeology and Landscapes at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.  He leads an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists, specialized consultants, and scholars in order to discover the hidden landscapes of Poplar Forest and to understand the lives of the many residents, both enslaved and free, that once lived there.  He received his undergraduate training in Anthropology and History at the College of William and Mary and a Masters degree in Historical Archaeology from the University of Massachusetts Boston.  He has conducted research in Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts with specific research interests in plantation and ornamental landscapes, the material culture of marginalized communities, environmental investigations of historic landscapes, and applications of geographic information systems to historical archaeology.  Jack is the coeditor of the recently released book Jefferson’s Poplar Forest: Unearthing a Virginia Plantation, published by the University Press of Florida.

Jack is responsible for the overall direction and management of the Wing Re-analysis.

Dr. Eric Proebsting is the Associate Archaeologist of Poplar Forest. He works alongside the department director to oversee and implement all phases of archaeological research at Poplar Forest, and currently leads the ongoing excavations of the Carriage Turnaround. Eric completed his undergraduate training in history and anthropology at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He then received his Masters degree in historical archaeology from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and his PhD in Environmental Dynamics from the University of Arkansas with concentrations in historical archaeology, environmental archaeology, and environmental history. Dr. Proebsting has conducted research in Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Arkansas, and Missouri. Topics of interest include nineteenth-century agricultural communities, landscape archaeology, historical ecology, plantation studies, site-formation processes, spatial analysis, and teaching students and the general public about historical archaeology and the broader history of Poplar Forest.

For the Wing Re-analysis Dr. Proebsting will be working to integrate all of the field records from the excavations into a comprehensive geographic information system in order to conduct more thorough spatial analyses of the artifacts recovered.

Jenn Ogborne is the Laboratory Supervisor for the Department of Archaeology and Landscapes at Poplar Forest.  She received her BA in History and Art History/Archaeology from Bowdoin College, Maine.  Jenn received her Masters degree in Anthropology from the College of William & Mary in 2004, and since then has continued her education through their doctoral program.  She is currently in the process of finishing her PhD dissertation in Historical Archaeology (focused on the Coloma gold mining town, Montana).  Jenn’s research interests include the study of foodways, labor relations, industrial archaeology, historical ecology, zooarchaeology, and topics related to nineteenth-century material culture.  She has worked on several projects in Connecticut and Montana.  In Virginia, she has worked on various sites including Werowocomoco, Menokin, and most recently Farfield, located in Gloucester County.

Jenn is responsible for the daily management of the Wing Re-analysis project and will direct the cataloguing efforts as well as conduct new analyses on the artifacts and faunal collection from the Wing.

Crystal Collins is a Laboratory Technician for the Wing Re-analysis Project.  Crystal first came to Poplar Forest as an intern from Sweet Briar College.  After receiving her undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Environmental Studies, she joined the staff in 2010 as a field technician on two major landscape restoration projects, including excavation of the West Allee of paper mulberry trees and the subsequent Ornamental Clumps and Oval Beds project.  Under the direction of Dr. Eric Proebsting and Lori Lee, Collins was able to conduct research regarding the archaeology of enslaved childhood at Poplar Forest.  Winner of the undergraduate Student Paper Competition at the 2011 Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference, she was awarded the opportunity to publish her research in the 2011 volume of the Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology.

For the Wing Re-analysis Crystal will be conducting historical background research, managing the social media outreach efforts, and performing various collections management tasks.

Susan Payton is a Laboratory Technician for the Wing Re-analysis Project.  Originally from Athens, West Virginia, Susan graduated from Washington & Lee University in 2011 with a double major in Sociology and Anthropology/ Archaeology.  She has worked at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in both laboratory and field settings, including the Plantation Archaeological Survey project.  She has also worked on various Cultural Resource Management projects for Dovetail Cultural Resource Group in Fredericksburg, VA.  As a fun fact, Susan has become an avid collector of a type of teacup known as Mustache Cups, which were popular within the Victorian Era.

Susan will be cataloguing the bulk of the material collection from the Wing as well as conducting the analysis of the different artifacts and performing background research into the different artifacts and material classes.

The Poplar Forest Department of Archaeology would like to thank The Cabell Foundation and the Roller-Bottimore Foundation for their support in funding the Wing Re-analysis project.  We would also like to thank Anne R. Worrell, a long time Friend of Poplar Forest and former Chairman of the Board of Directors, for her contributions to this project as well as her continuous support of the museum.