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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beauty in a Bottle

by Laura DeNormandie-Bass, chief curator of the Historic Sites

In late October, Kerri Wilhelm (archeology curator for historic sites) and I visited Fort McKavett in Menard, Texas. Upon our arrival, we found something unexpected: a treasury of intact historic bottles from the fort’s 19th century trash dump! Cody Mobley, Fort McKavett curatorial technician and Jay Wright, staff member at Fort McKavett, encountered this stunning collection in a fort storage room as they were conducting collections inventories late last summer.

The bottles range in age from 100-plus years old and are diverse in source, shape and color. From milk of magnesia to perfume to whiskey, the bottles’ original contents reflect daily life at the fort at the turn of the 20th century.

Research found these artifacts had been acquired in the 1970s from a local source, Lee & Ed Antiques of Menard. THC staff looks forward to learning more about the collectors and circumstances associated with this important acquisition.

In the meantime, staff has packaged and documented the bottles and brought them to Austin’s Wheless Lab, a THC archeological storage and processing facility. This month, the bottles will travel once again, to Texas A&M’s Conservation Research Laboratory in Bryan, where at least 40 of the bottles will be conserved and stabilized. Once stabilized, a subset will be brought back to Fort McKavett as an exhibit. Others will be housed and stored in Austin as a research collection.

While Fort McKavett’s bottles’ historic value is significant, their beauty must also be acknowledged. Take a look at how gorgeous and intriguing these artifacts are!

**Fort McKavett is located west of Menard on FM 864 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

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