MILLVILLE – On April 1, The Museum of American Glass at WheatonArts and Cultural Center opened “From the Ground Up: Archaeology, Artisans, Everyday Life.” On view until December 31, this is the first major exhibition of artifacts excavated in conjunction with the Interstate 95 Improvement Project which began in 2009 in Philadelphia. The ongoing dig, undertaken by PennDot and the Federal Highway Administration and executed by AECOM Cultural Resources, has recovered nearly one million artifacts from the Northern Liberties, Kensington-Fishtown and Port Richmond neighborhoods.
When the excavations began, no one expected to find so much evidence of the past remaining in an urban industrial area. Among the biggest surprises was the discovery of nearly a dozen Native American sites, the earliest dating to about 3,560 B.C. The excavations also included a portion of Dyottville Glass Works that remained deeply buried beneath the roadway.
The majority of the artifacts were recovered from backyard privies (outhouses) in the neighborhood adjacent to Dyottville and other waterfront glass factories. These discarded household goods dating from the late 18th to early 20th century tell how families living along the waterfront prepared and served their food, lit their homes, cared for the sick, fed their children and addressed personal and social issues that are still relevant today.
Many of the artifacts on display were made in glass factories and potteries that were established in the area to take advantage of the region’s sand and clay. The excavations have recovered an exceptionally large amount of early glass ranging from bottles and whimsical creations to blown, pressed and cut tableware. The glass offers insight regarding the ties between the South Jersey glass industry and the glass factories that once stood along the Delaware River waterfront in Kensington.
“From the Ground Up” offers WheatonArts visitors the opportunity to learn about the lives of the people that lived in the Delaware Valley in recent centuries, while paying special attention to the glass and pottery industries. The objects and what they represent are explored and interpreted in this special exhibition. Visitors are encouraged to visit both the Glass Studio and Ceramics Studio while at WheatonArts to experience artists at work employing traditional and contemporary artistic process techniques, which is designed to further understand of all the temporary and permanent artifacts housed in the Museum collection. Visitors are able to learn about these artifacts in a self-guided tour of the permanent collection and the special exhibition and/or participate in a docent-led tour that is offered daily at 2:30 p.m. As of April 1, WheatonArts is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission prices and additional information for planning a visit to WheatonArts can be found by visiting wheatonarts.org or by calling 1 (800) 998-4552 or (856) 825-6800.