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Artifact Survey for the City of Cary, North Carolina

08 Oct

Jason L. Harpe met Gary W. Roth of Capital Area Preservation (CAP) in February 2010 at the Ferrell Store and Carpenter Farm Complex after Harpe found information on the North Carolina Museum Council’s website about CAP’s interest in procuring a museum professional to conduct an inventory of the artifacts and objects stored at the Ferrell Store, Howard Farm, and Jones Farm, each located in Cary.  The initial meeting did not include a site visit to the Jones Farm because Roth was not able to secure a key to access the house’s interior. We did briefly conduct a visual survey of the artifacts and objects stored at the Ferrell Store and Jones Farm for Harpe to write and submit a proposal for the artifact survey for the Town of Cary. 

Nearly fifteen minutes after the visual survey of the Ferrell Store, Harpe uncovered a two-gallon, salt-glazed lidded jar made by J.D. Craven that has a hairline crack extending from the base of the piece to the neck.  (This piece is discussed in depth in the artifact survey.).  Harpe encouraged staff of the Cary Planning Department to procure the piece and relocate it to a safer location so that it would not suffer any future cracks, fractures, or breaks.  Finding and identifying this piece early in this informal visual survey led Harpe to propose a more in-depth survey of the Ferrell Store, Jones Farm, and Howard Farm to determine whether or not these buildings hold any objects or artifacts of historical significance to the Town of Cary.  Although the Town of Cary does not currently have a local history museum, there is a local effort to convert the Howard Farm property into a park while preserving the house, and possibly build on this project’s momentum with a new small history museum that collects, preserves, and presents the history of Cary. 

After submitting the initial proposal and cost estimate for a lengthy artifact survey, the Town of Cary decided to

J.D. Craven Lidded-Jar, Carpenter, North Carolina.

scale back the project and asked for a more abbreviated assessment that included an inventory of the artifacts and objects surveyed and recommendations for the preservation of these items and possible grants sources to assist with future preservation efforts for the objects included in the survey.  The scope of work agreed upon by Harpe and the City of Cary includes the following:

  • Conduct a cursory survey of the Howard Farm, Ferrell Store and Jones Farm properties to determine which items currently stored at these locations should be retained by the Town of Cary and which items can be discarded.
  • Prepare a database with photographs of the items recommended for retention by the Town.  Database to be provided to the Town of Cary in printed and electronic format.

Harpe conducted a complete initial survey of the Ferrell Store, Howard Farm, and Jones Farm on Thursday, March 4, 2010.  The Ferrell Store required the most attention from Harpe because this project’s largest collection of artifacts is stored at this location.  With assistance from community service worker Nick DePalma, Harpe sorted the artifacts at the Ferrell Store into discriminatory sections of the building based on their classification, paying close attention to objects whose condition was less than poor and irreparable.  Harpe and DePalma made a large pile for the vast amounts of Christmas decorations; threw into large trash cans broken glass, damaged ceramics, and other objects that were not part of or attached to the artifacts and objects that did retain enough historical significance to be considered worthy of inventorying in this survey; moved into the center of the building the objects that Harpe planned to survey and inventory; and, left in place the objects that were included in the survey but were too large and cumbersome to move to the center of the building with the other surveyed objects and artifacts.  The site visits to the Howard Farm and Jones Farm did not require much time because of the limited number of objects stored at each of these sites.  Although Harpe did photograph the various outbuildings located at the Howard Farm and Jones Farm, he did not inventory the objects stored in these outbuildings because they have experienced accelerated deterioration and are too modern to be considered for inclusion in this survey.

Jones Farm, Cary, North Carolina, 2010.


The methodology utilized in the completion of this artifact survey included four elements: on-site survey, research, condition, and funding for future conservation.  With the exception of the Jones Farm, the artifacts stored at the Ferrell Store and the Howard Farm have been exposed to conditions that include, but are not limited to, fluctuations in climate, non-discriminatory collecting practices, and a lack of documentation/provenience.  Much of this is contributable to uninformed holders/owners of these artifacts/objects and uncontrollable circumstances related to the transfer of the properties between owners.  The consultant has limited survey files for the artifacts and objects that are part of this artifact survey because of the parameters established by the client, but they include digital files integrated into the PastPerfect Software and data files in Excel spreadsheets.  The consultant has provided the client with a CD of high resolution images of the objects and artifacts included in this artifact survey and low resolution images integrated into the copies from the PastPerfect software, but the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets only contains data organized into columns and rows according to a numerical structure. 

Harpe established criteria for inclusion in this report early in the project that dictated his assessment of the objects and artifacts according to their age, potential benefit to the Town of Cary’s future efforts at establishing a local history museum, and the costs associated with restoring the objects to their original condition so that they can be exhibited in some capacity in the museum or in other locations throughout the Town of Cary to educate the general public about the town’s artifactual history and heritage.


The artifact survey of this project’s three locations yielded results that range from retention to discardation.  The artifacts and objects that are stored at the Jones Farm and Howard Farm have the benefit of being in good condition from the time of their purchase or installation at these locations, but the objects and artifacts stored at the Ferrell Store were in good, fair, or bad condition before the building’s owners relocated these objects or artifacts from their original locations to this building.  Further investigation is necessary with the owner of the building to determine the condition of these objects and artifacts before they were stored in this building.  Although this building seems to be structurally sound with a fairly new metal roof, the objects have been subject to a fluctuating climate, dust, dirt, and unprofessional housekeeping procedures that afforded the opportunity for termites, roaches, beetles, pigeons, rats, and other elements to contribute to the deterioration of these objects and artifacts.

The artifacts and objects located at each of the locations that are part of this survey are not in perfect condition or

Howard Farm, Cary, North Carolina.

ready to be on display in an exhibition.  This is one of the conditions that the Town of Cary must consider as they decide whether or not to retain these objects and artifacts.  All of the objects and artifacts that Harpe separated for the Town of Cary to consider for retention will require attention from a professional conservator because of their condition.  Some of the artifacts that have veneered exteriors that will require advanced conservation, but ceramics, glassware, and objects constructed of wood will require a basic cleaning to clear their exterior surfaces of dust, dirt, and any other exterior coatings exacerbated by storage in a building that is not climate controlled and open to various pollutants.

My recommendations include storing the objects inventoried in this survey at a location this not susceptible to dust and dirt infiltration, and is structurally sound.  Other recommendations are included below.

  • Relocate the objects suggested for retention from the Ferrell Store to the Jones Farm and store either in the house or the small building adjacent to the house.
  • Discard the objects recommended by Harpe that are currently stored at the Ferrell Store.  Discard them by either holding a yard sale or contacting a local antique dealer who will provide a quote to take all of the artifacts and objects.
  • Talk with the current owner of the Carpenter Store and elder members of the Carpenter community about the artifacts and objects marked for retention.  They may have stories to tell about some of these items. 
  • After talking with the owner of the Carpenter Store and members of the community, encourage them to provide the Town of Cary a list of artifacts in their collections that may consider donating to the local effort.
  • Move the piano from the Howard Farm to the Jones Farm.
  • Contact the North Carolina Museum of History for a consultation from their staff about the Town of Cary’s future efforts at preserving the town’s history at one of the locations that is part of this artifacts survey or another location.
  • Collaborate with a non-profit, history or historic preservation-related organization in Wake County and apply for grants to continue the work associated with this artfact survey.
  • Apply to the American Association of Museums for a Museum Assessment Program (MAP) II Collections Management Assessment.
  • Donate the artifacts and objects that are part of this survey to a museum in Wake County if the Town of Cary is not able to provide the financial resources and personnel to properly preserve them.
  • Contact a college or university in Wake County with a museum studies undergraduate or graduate program and ask if they have an intern that is interested in working with the Town of Cary on developing future plans for these objects and artifacts at the Jones Farm or another location.
  • Secure from Harpe a list of professional conservators that can provide a cost estimate for conserving the various objects and artifacts that require this attention.

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