Autobiographies of broken toy cars: between patina and restoration

Gabe Moshenska (UK)

Blue Bird Sessions on Thursday 29 October 15:00 GMT @Gabemoshenska

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

What makes a memory object? Does patina signify a long and storied life? What does it mean to restore a memory object to its long-forgotten original state? This paper is a reflection on themes of nostalgia, artefact biographies, the conquest of time, and the denial of aging. 

Last year I started buying old Matchbox die-cast toy cars. I had a collection of these when I was very young: I used to push them around in a pram. I wanted to replicate this childhood collection. Luckily many junk shops have boxes of battered old toy cars for 50p each. I bought dozens. 

I also began watching YouTube videos of Matchbox car restorers, who carefully repaint and reassemble these tiny toys to perfection. This is now a popular television genre: shows like The Repair Shop and Car SOS, in which a broken heirloom or classic car is painstakingly restored, ending with the reveal of the revitalised object to the tearful, thrilled owner. I love it, but I’m also a bit sceptical. 

What’s lost when patina is stripped away? Authenticity, episodes in a biography, and generally the passage of time. A bare-metal restoration presents us with a time-travelled object, as if by magic. This theme has roots in mythology: the broken sword re-forged, the dirty rags transformed to shining armour, the old made new again in a spiral of fairy-dust. 

The patina on my 50p toy cars represents the passage of a lifetime, childhood play, and memories – none of them actually mine. Meanwhile restoration is presented as a near-magical triumph of materials over time. I think there’s fun and interesting ideas to explore here about materiality, time, mortality, authenticity, and linear and non-linear artefact biographies. 


Dirty Laundry

Elizabeth Kryder-Reid (US)

Blue Bird Sessions on Thursday 29 October 10:30 EDT (14:30 GMT) @KryderReid

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

For more than a hundred year history years, businesses have used chemical solvents to clean textiles. This photo-essay, shared via 15 threaded Tweets, explores the intersections of laundry labor, racialized bodies, and the environmental harm that decades of use of perchloroethylene (Perc) and other solvents have created across urban and suburban landscapes. The photo-essay focuses particularly on the social and environmental history of dry cleaning in Indianapolis. It pairs images drawn from newspaper advertising, industry promotional materials, photographic archives, and contemporary site documentation with discourse from similarly diverse sources to reveal the complex relationships between clothing, its care, and the ideologies of race, class, and gender. It also locates that history in Indianapolis’ historical and contemporary landscape. The investigation speaks to the broader concern with toxic heritage as a central legacy of the Anthropocene and as an opportunity for activist scholarship that helps frame positive solutions for a more just future. 




Retreat: Mapping University Student Landscapes During COVID

Image © Dana Dobbins. Posted with kind permission.

Paul R. Mullins, Dana Dobbins, Shauna Keith, Abigail Ellenburg, Alisha Beard & Cory Beeles (US)

Blue Bird Sessions on Thursday 29 October 10:00 EDT (14:00 GMT) @mullins_paul

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

This Twitter thread examines a series of University students’ maps of the COVID landscape. We focus on mechanisms of retreat in quarantine and the ways students are creating new forms of social place. The students’ maps illuminate the experience of online education and new forms of digital and spatial socializing that negotiate isolation and anxiety while fabricating new forms of place.


Equality? Does it exist in Finnish archaeology?

Sanna Lipkin, Tiina Äikäs & Tuija Kirkinen (Finland)

Blue Bird Sessions on Thursday 29 October 15:30pm EET (13:30 GMT) @SannaLipkin

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

The current Government of Finland has become famous for a high number of young female ministers and its strategic theme of “Fair, equal and inclusive Finland”, which was based on the values of intersectional feminism. Finland is a forerunner in non-discrimination and gender equality at the work life. However, even the government’s program admits that a lot remains to be improved. In 2010, we raised these issues into discussion among the archaeologists with hopes that gender equality would improve. Now, ten years later, we wanted to see if anything has changed. Almost 80 Finnish archaeologists answered our questionnaire about equality, sexual harassment and discrimination within the national field. Even though some archaeologists see that things have changed, it seems that ten years is a short period for clear improvements in equality issues. For instance, within universities young female archaeologists have been awarded internationally evaluated high profile funding, but this has not led to permanent appointments. Instead, a vast majority of the university posts are still held by men. The answers provide that especially young Finnish archaeologists are well aware of the situation, are highly conscious of different aspects of equality and work actively for improvements. We will discuss the questionnaire results and future directions in an interactive Twitter thread.

Blood, sweat, and tears: Field notebooks as art objects

Alex Claman (US)

Blue Bird Sessions Thursday 29 October 08:00 CDT (13:00 GMT) @aclaman_archaeo

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

This photo-essay-via-Twitter-thread considers field survey notebooks and hand drawn survey unit images from the Sinis Archaeological Project in Sardinia as art/art objects. Archaeological survey data, the finds and find counts themselves, are collected in and from the fields represented by the sketches and then stored in the notebooks before being transferred to a more official and permanent repository, whether as graphite/ink on paper or bits on a disk. The field sketches may be referenced during the process of working on the project’s GIS, but by and large they exist primarily as last-ditch backups and failsafes; they are created but then languish, unused and potentially forgotten in attics, basements, or storage. 

These notebooks are by their nature art objects (as opposed to archive objects), composites preserving not only the imprints of pencil and pen but also (potentially) dirt, sweat, sunscreen, blood, and plant matter. The hand-drawn maps showcase a wide variety of artistic skill, and the variations provide an intriguing window onto understandings of spatial relationships and individual artists’ informational priorities. The notebooks, while broadly consistent in terms of categorization and physical size, demonstrate a wide range of organizational and use strategies, with project members prioritizing compactness, thoroughness, whimsy, or some combination thereof. 

Such creations are integral to the quasi-nomadic process of archaeological fieldwork; they are collections of preserved artistic fragments, creative engagements with fields and find counts.


Pandemic Perception: Navigating Materiality and Altered Landscapes During COVID-19

Stacey Camp (US), Dante Angelo (Chile), M. Lou Brown (US) & Kelly Britt (US)

Blue Bird Sessions on Wednesday 28 October 09:30 EDT (13:30 GMT) @covidart4

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

This Twitter thread is devoted to our collaborative work on how COVID-19 has altered the ways we encounter our material world. We will take attendees on an audio and visual tour of materiality and alterations to landscapes documented in the project collaborators’ communities and home countries across the United States and Chile. To interpret this data, we draw upon theoretical frameworks in the fields of collective memory, trauma studies, and psychogeography. The data include yard signs, chalk art, flyers, and other forms of artwork as well as public signage and material changes in how people navigate their communities (e.g. lockdowns, tracking people’s movements, etc.). We explore how these phenomena engaged notions of home, shelter, space, comfort, and community. The project collaborators will also reflect upon how we have used archaeological and anthropological methodologies of documenting and observing as a way of coping with the stress, uncertainty, and trauma of a global pandemic. A core approach to our work has been the recognition that we, too, are each part of the communities experiencing this trauma. Our analysis necessarily includes our own movements through emotional and physical space.


Wall Tweets: messages and grumbling in  the industrial environment 

“Please close the door” (added below: YOU F****** MORONS!)


João Luís Sequeira (Portugal)

Blue Bird Sessions on Wednesday 28 October 11:00 GMT @JoaoLuisSequei1

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

Let us take a ride into the world of messages from workers to workers in Portuguese factories! Guaranteed fun for sure, but also, we can read between the lines – most of these messages reflect the bustling union activity in Portuguese post-dictatorship, the rise of  the communist party then, and of course, the disputes between football adepts. 

And personal messages. And calendars with women. Lots of them.


Going to the loo. An archaeological vision on latrinalia

Mariana Nunes Silva & Tânia Manuel Casimiro (Portugal) @LatrinaliaP

Blue Bird Sessions on Wednesday 28 October 11.30am GMT

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

Festivals are time for celebrations and celebrations imply friends, food, drink and inevitable visits to the loo. 2020 did not allow us to go to many festivals thus we had to visit different toilets and since we pass a lot of time in universities these are the ones we will show in this Twitter thread. People express feelings, doubts, and share poetry, or even suicidal and political messages. In Portugal toilets are separated between male and female which confers a strong gender identity to these messages written by students, professors, and researchers in different languages. We will try to do an archaeological interpretation of all this evidence revealing the feelings and opinions of the people from two distinct academic institutions.

Mis.Steps: Our Missed Connections with Pittsburgh’s City Steps

Laura Zurowski (US)

Blue Bird Sessions on Wednesday 28 October 08:00 EST (12:00 GMT) @lzurowski

Note: this event will take place on Twitter

Pittsburgh has more public staircases than any city in the United States. With over 739 sets of stairways – containing more than 45,000 individual steps – public staircases were an engineering approach to mass transportation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that addressed the topography upon which the City is built. Located at the confluence of two rivers which cut through elevated land of the Appalachian Plateau, the city is settled at elevations ranging from 710 to 1,370 feet (220 to 420 m) above sea level. 

Constructed to bring workers from the “houses in the hills to the riverfront mills”, the earliest public staircases date back to the 1860s and were constructed from wood. However, a significant city-wide investment in municipal infrastructure occurred in the post-WWII era when the city’s population crested at nearly 700,000. Despite the recent decades of faltering economies and significant depopulation, almost all the public staircases are still viewable if not traversable. In 2017, writer and photographer Laura Zurowski began systematically documenting the stairways and to-date has visited over 500 locations throughout the city’s 90 neighborhoods.