Sarah Platt, “Light cheap Arms fit for this hot Climate’: Archaeologies of Guns and Gunsmithing at 87 Church Street, Charleston”

About the lecture:

From the 1730s to 1768, two generations of a gunsmithing family and the skilled craftsmen they enslaved operated a workshop at 87 Church Street, a townlot in downtown Charleston, South Carolina now occupied by the Heyward-Washington House. Through their participation in the colonial government, residents at 87 Church Street were implicated in a wider colonial network of material and social interaction tied to firearms unfurling across the Atlantic and throughout the southeast spanning white, Black, and Indigenous spaces. Guns are emotive artifacts with a violent genealogy. They were also technologically complex objects requiring an infrastructure of people and spaces to craft and maintain them. Archaeologists have investigated this site over the last fifty years, but until very recently the results of these excavations and the townlot's critical role within these wider colonial networks were not fully understood, hidden in boxes on museum shelves and sheaves of lost paperwork. This talk will address recent efforts to uncover the life of this property during the gunsmithing period, including work with legacy collections, new excavations, and radiography (x-ray) testing.

About the speaker:

Dr. Sarah E. Platt, assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Charleston, is an anthropologically informed historical archaeologist. She focuses on the urban South, especially the archaeology of downtown Charleston, South Carolina, using predominantly collections-based methodologies. Broadly, she is interested in how memory and Lost Cause perceptions of the Southern past impact the "archaeological archive" and the collections repository. In the face of the ongoing collections crisis in archaeology, where the production of collections outstrips the resources available to store and care for them, she is also invested in creative uses of pre-existing legacy collections and applying new research questions to old sites. As part of her dissertation research, she completed a two-year residency with The Charleston Museum.  Prior to her faculty appointment at the College of Charleston, she served as an Archaeological Analyst at the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), a digital humanities project based in the Archaeology Department at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. She has worked with archaeological projects based in the Maryland and Virginia Chesapeake, the South Carolina Lowcountry, and Gambia, West Africa.