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STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
in St. Augustine
Bruce John Piatek
The Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board,
an agency of the Florida Department of State,
recently completed field work on the
Government House excavation. The
Preservation Board is an agency that is charged
with the study and preservation of the historical and
archeological resources of colonial St.
Augustine, FL, and its environs. The "-"o
Preservation Board is assisted in its archeolog-
ical research efforts by the St. Augustine
Archaeological Association whose members GOV]
are avocational archeologists. The
Association's members provide volunteer ARCH,
assistance to professional archeological inves- E xc
tigations and assist in archeological education-
al programs for tourists and residents. The
Government House investigation is currently
in the analysis phase, with active field work
having ended in September of 1993.
The author, along with Stan Bond, Mary
Martin, and the volunteers of the St.
Augustine Archaeological Association, recent-
ly completed a successful excavation season
working on the Governor's House site in St.
Augustine. The dig was conducted by the
Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.
The project was designed with three principal
goals for research and three goals for public
education and outreach.
The first research goal was to identify the earliest
European use of the Government House lot and better
Screening for replica artifacts.
Students enter unit for detailed explanation.
define the boundaries of the 16th century settlement.
Behaviors which could be encountered are associated
with the guard house and watch tower shown
H ] on the 1586 Boazio Map produced after Sir
Francis Drake's raid, and Governor Canzo's
O"- -1t home built on the site in 1598.
1ENT Second, we hoped to better document the
E evolutionary history of the buildings that
CICA L served as the governor's home and office. The
o N historic maps contain inconsistencies in the
structural layout of the building over short
periods of time. These inconsistencies appear
to be the result of different map makers pro-
ducing maps of the same building but with
differing perspectives on what was important.
1-. Sorting out these inconsistencies would help
us better understand the evolution of the site
and future assessments of other colonial prop-
Third, we hoped to collect data on the daily
life of the governors, their family, servants,
and slaves. This was the first archeological
research conducted on the site which served
as home and office to Florida's colonial gover-
nors. It was hoped that data from the excava-
tion could provide new insights and a broader compara-
tive database for St. Augustine.
The findings from the excavation are preliminary since
laboratory work is not complete, but the effort was suc-
cessful. We discovered that during the 18th century the
governor's courtyard was first paved with small stones
that came into the colony as ships ballast. Later the court-
yard was resurfaced with two successive tabby floors.
The foundation from an 18th century guard house was
identified and information was gathered on its construc-
tion sequence and dimensions. Post molds indicating an
early-18th- century or late-17th century wooden building
were also identified. Below these features was a mid-
17th-century well that graced the governor's courtyard. It
had four coquina stone columns that rose from the cor-
ners of this square well apparently to support a roof. This
elaborate structure was an enhancement of an earlier bar-
rel lined well. The high point and final day of the excava-
tion was the recovery of the complete, intact barrel from
the bottom of the well and the board and post well repair
1994 No. 1
structure. The wooden items are currently being con-
served by the Maple Leaf Shipwreck Conservation
Laboratory in Jacksonville. It is hoped that the well struc-
ture can be reconstructed and eventually placed on dis-
play at the Government House museum.
The public outreach effort required a high degree of
planning and effort prior to beginning the excavation.
Once the background history was known, research ques-
tions were developed, and the site was selected, the logis-
tics of doing the excavation were time- consuming but
familiar. The concept of public outreach was first
planned to be a simple process of opening the site to the
public and having a site interpreter present current find-
ings and working hypotheses to visitors. Next a brochure
was added to the concept so that visitors could take addi-
tional information from the site. The concept then grew
to include an exhibit gallery, visible working laboratory
space, and small museum shop. All this enhanced the
visitor's experience and provided additional vehicles
through which to teach people about archeology. Exhibit
design and construction, and the activities of developing
signs, visitor flow patterns, advertising, booking school
tours, obtaining goods for resale, etc., were new activities
for Stan Bond and the author who were responsible for
getting these jobs done.
The first goal of our outreach effort was to invite the
public into the site and allow them to watch the work
and ask questions. The goal was to maximize the public
benefit from the expenditure of public funds without sac-
rificing archeological quality. We threw open the gates
and invited the public to watch as artifacts were discov-
ered before their eyes. They could see history buried
under their feet. This component of the project was high-
ly successful. It did slow down the excavation and the
same questions were asked thousands of times, but it
was a great opportunity for people to see the real St.
Augustine, and to make a link to the past.
A second goal was to develop the 3,000 square foot
exhibit gallery. The author designed the exhibit hall to be
a hands-on, do what the archeologists do, exhibit space.
This effort was something new and it worked well.
Visitors could reconstruct a ceramic dish, match artifacts
with the people who used them, dress up like a colonist,
use a surveyor's level, see building foundations under
the existing building, step into a mock excavation unit
which appears 6' below ground, see artifacts, look into
the laboratory and even excavate and screen for replica
artifacts. People were able to grasp the bigger picture of
what archeology was and how it discovers the past. The
exhibit invited people to learn by not only seeing artifacts
but by touching and doing things.
The final goal for public education and outreach was
the school tour program. School groups toured the exca-
vation, archeology gallery, and the Government House
museum. Staff archeologists or volunteers led the tours
which served over 1,000 students. We also had tours
from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind which
provided an interpretative challenge. Tours did not end
with the coming of summer. Students from the local
school board's Summer Marine Sciences program came
to the site throughout the summer. They learned how
important marine resources were to the colonist and even
made tabby while in period dress. Students from the San
Luis Archaeological & Historical Site summer program
1994 No. 1
View site with visitors. Interpreter is in period dress.
assisted with the excavation.
Volunteers were an integral part of this and other com-
ponents of the project and provided over 4,500 hours of
labor. Most of the project volunteers were retired profes-
sionals, a few high school students, and working people
that helped on the weekends. Two dedicated volunteers
helped construct the archeological exhibits and provided
labor as well as expertise in engineering and technical
drafting and design. Once the project began, one volun-
teer coordinated and scheduled volunteers to run the
gallery space and assist in the museum store. Volunteers
greeted and interpreted the exhibit space to over 105,000
visitors. The exhibit was staffed by volunteers from 10:00
a.m to 4:00 p.m., seven days a week. Volunteers also
assisted at the excavation screens and in the washing and
initial sorting of artifacts. Many of these volunteers are
members of the St. Augustine Archaeological
Association. The Association is a volunteer organization
started by staff of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation
Board to encourage interest in archeology and channel
that interest in positive directions. Other volunteers were
not Association members but wanted a chance to help in
this exciting project and to meet other people with simi-
lar interests. About three fifths of the volunteer hours
were spent in the operation of the gallery with the
remainder related to field work. Since volunteers had
total freedom to select the activity they wanted, they all
moved into tasks that suited them and required little if
any supervision once they were trained. All aspects of
the project, which spanned nearly eight months, were a
Bruce John Piatek is the museum administrator for the Historic
St. Augustine Preservation Board. For his work on this project,
Mr. Piatek received Florida's Department of State Productivity
Award and the Florida Association of Museums' 1993 Museum
Services Award for Innovation, citing his creation of a unique
urban archeology exhibit at the Government House site in St.
Photos by the author.