Signing a five-year agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) the Burke Museum will hold in trust the Tse-whit-zen archaeological collection uncovered by archaeologists in Port Angeles.
The collection, which totals approximately 900 cubic feet of material, is the largest archaeology collection currently at the Burke. WSDOT will ultimately transfer the collection to a museum and curatorial facility being developed by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (LEKT).
The Burke Museum was selected by the WSDOT to care for the collection because of its staff expertise in archaeology, its vast experience curating archaeological collections, and its excellent record of working with area tribes. Burke Held-in-Trust Program Manager Steve Denton said, “Area tribes and the archaeology community are pleased that the collection is being held in trust by the Burke Museum because of our reputation for providing respectful care for Native collections.” According to Peter Lape, Burke curator of archaeology, the Tse-whit-zen collection is one of many such archaeological collections held in trust by the Burke Museum for federal, state, county, city and tribal governmental bodies, and made available for research.
Museum staff recently completed inventorying the collection, a process that took five months to account for the 86,000 catalogue entries. According to Denton, “This is the biggest excavation of a precontact Native American settlement in recent memory and will greatly increase our understanding of the region’s history when it is analyzed.” Access to the collection for research purposes is managed by WSDOT and will be made available to tribal members and qualified researchers.
The Tse-whit-zen village was uncovered while constructing a dry dock in Port Angeles from August 2003 to December 2004. WSDOT worked closely with the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the Federal Highways Administration and the LEKT during excavation of the site to ensure that all human remains were immediately transferred to the tribe. The collection at the Burke Museum spans the period of site occupation from approximately 2500 years before present to 1900 A.D. The artifacts from the site include spindle whorls, stone bowls, combs, needles, harpoons, and other typical objects of daily life found in Native villages along the Puget Sound coastline.