"Around the Hearth: Where Archeology and Public History Intersect at Mead's Tavern"

Publication Title

Archaeological Society of Virginia Quarterly Bulletin

Publication Date




Faculty Mentor

Prof. Donna Donald


American Material Culture | Cultural History | History | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Public History | United States History


Parrow, Emily and Rebecca Lair. "Around the Hearth: Where Archaeology and Public History Intersect at Mead's Tavern." Archaeological Society of Virginia Quarterly Bulletin 73, no. 4 (December 2018): 117-120.


For the public historian, a historic structure’s functional evolution invites the study and interpretation of related eras, events, and figures. Similarly, archaeological contributions provide tangible evidence of a site’s changing use. Together, these two sub-fields allow for the placement of a site into a more complete historical context. Abundant archaeological evidence at Mead’s Tavern in New London, Virginia not only speaks to the structure’s changing purposes, but prompts a conversation about how best to interpret this evolution and share its story with the public at large. This idea is evidenced in the tavern’s newly-excavated basement, where 18th Century domestic artifacts and features reveal that the space, previously assumed to be primarily used for storage, almost certainly acted as a place where people lived and worked, perhaps including enslaved people. Thus, archaeology can make significant contributions to a deeper understanding of underrepresented aspects of history. Mead’s Tavern itself exists as a material testament to the effects of broad changes in American history on rural Virginia and proves that historic sites, no matter how relatively obscure, hold the key to a comprehensive appreciation of history. At Mead’s Tavern, this prompts archaeologists and public historians alike to reconsider how unexpected discoveries change the direction and goal of the site’s interpretation and invite further exploration into its fascinating story.

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