Restoration Begins on Artifacts Found in Newport's West End
A collection of artifacts - including bottles, various ceramic pieces, and even a pair of shoes found in Newport's West End neighborhood - began the process of being restored this afternoon as a team of students enrolled in Northern Kentucky University's Public History Program cleaned the pieces with brushes, soap, and water. The students acted under the supervision of Dr. Brian Hackett, Director of NKU's Public History MA Program and Scott Clark, Executive Director of the Newport History Museum at the Southgate Street School.
The artifacts were found in two privy's found beneath a now-demolished addition that was attached to the former Green Derby Restaurant. The current owners of the building had been working with Clark to restore it to its former appearance. The pieces were dug up over two days and Clark estimates them to be from the 19th century.
"There is a group of guys that live in Newport that dig up privies like this as their hobby, so I knew who to call once we discovered what was under the kitchen," Clark said. "We've found a lot of broken pottery, chamber pots, prescription bottles, and old perfume bottles - these privies usually functioned like trash holes as well as normal privy stuff, but we believe some of these items had been accidently dropped in."
Clark said that one item, a prescription bottle, had been stamped with the name of a Newport Apothecary that was open for approximately 15 years at the corner of 5th and York. He believes this piece will help date the other items found in the hole.
"What we're looking at right now is kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle," Clark said referring to the bits of broken pottery. "These students are going to sort alike-pieces on the table, then begin cleaning each piece with dish soap and brushes."
The students will then use deductive thinking they've learned in their classes to identify what the pieces were, and what they were used for. Then the pieces will be catalogued and prepared for display at the Newport History Museum.
"This is actually quite exciting for those of us that are interested in the past and Newport's history," Clark said. "These items are going to help tell the 230-year history of our city."
Clark said that these artifacts are also important because these privies are often destroyed without a second thought to make room for new developments. The pieces recovered are expected to be on display at the Newport History Museum once it reopens.
Written by Connor Wall, associate editor