by Gabriel Guzman

Who could forget the logged miles on the dashboard, infinite rows of trees and sightseeing at state parks? A portion of Andrew Carter’s childhood was a marriage of traveling and studying the past. Spending quality time with his father, a Boy Scout, and exploring state-run parks foreshadowed his current success as the curator of collections at the University of West Georgia’s Antonio J. Waring, Jr. Archaeological Laboratory where he was recently awarded a grant from the National Park Service (NPS).

Andrew Carter
Andrew Carter looks through files.

“I think it is difficult to ignore these experiences when trying to explain my penchant for studying and sharing stories about the past, along with striving to be a good steward for our cultural and natural resources,” said Carter.

He attended UWG as an undergraduate with the desire to continue exploring the past and obtained his bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a concentration in physical anthropology and archaeology. He worked at the university’s Waring Laboratory, an archaeological research facility, where he continued to hone his craft.

Following graduation, Carter was introduced to Dr. Ann McCleary of the public history graduate program at UWG and became involved as a public historian. Juggling graduate school and his professional career, Carter split his time between the lab and NPS. There he did archival work at the Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, where he worked on several projects. He helped start its artifact digitization program, and he also helped develop the Center for Digital Research and Curation.

“I was later asked to return to the Waring Lab as interim co-curator of collections and would later be offered the job,” he reflected. “I think it would be fitting to say it is kismet that I found myself back at the lab.”

The Waring Laboratory is home to various artifacts and records and works with several clients to preserve their collections. Visiting researchers travel from across the country to analyze collections housed there. The lab is also open to school groups and the general public for events, such as its annual open house, which provides tours of the facility and hosts several activities and demonstrations to engage community members with archaeology in the region. The open house will be held on April 29 this year.

Carter’s current job is similar to that of a curator at a small-to-medium sized museum. He has a hand in every area of the lab and works closely with clients, researchers and government agencies to plan, collaborate and finalize a variety of projects. He is also involved in creating and maintaining the policies, which uphold the lab’s high level of curation standards.

“With the excess of information that is afforded to people by means of technology today, I think it is more important than ever for us as historians, archaeologists and museum professionals to use our resources and expertise to help others identify and cull inaccurate and misinformed, even wholly false, narratives and interpretations of the past,” said Carter.

Andrew CarterMuseum standards are policies and procedures of a lab that inform the curator and its staff of how to best care for and interact with cultural resources and how to run an institution in general. This includes how they handle and store different objects.

The Waring Lab surpasses federally required standards, making them one of the premier archaeological repositories in the Southeast. Carter oversees the team of undergraduate and graduate student employees, interns and volunteers to complete duration projects and ensure they are properly trained in every aspect of the curatorial process.

This year Carter was granted over $20,000 from NPS for his project, Preservation and Accountability of Museum Collections at Cane River Creole NHP (CARI). His team will be responsible for the processing and preservation of items from CARI to bring the museum into compliance with museum standards.

Carter is currently working on The Cane River project, a partnership between the Waring Lab and NPS. They are working with the Southeast Regional Office and Cane River National Historic Park to bring a portion of CARI’s historical collections up to current curation standards.

With a curation project such as this one, Carter and his team are working with the artifacts and records to preserve them as long as possible. They are cataloging and organizing them in a manner that would help historians, curators and other researchers easily investigate the stories these collections have to tell.

“Perhaps in the future we will have an opportunity to revisit these collections with research and interpretive projects in mind,” Carter completed. “If and when we do, we should have no obstacles exploring them.”

Posted on April 10, 2017