Plimoth Plantation Announces Gift of Pilgrim-Era Pottery
The Museum of London has given several 16th and 17th century ceramics to Plimoth Plantation.
Plimoth Plantation is pleased to announce that the Museum of London has transferred ownership of eight ceramic pots from the 16th and 17th centuries. These pieces will help Plimoth Plantation recreate the artifacts used by the early colonists.
The ceramics have been at Plimoth Plantation since 1970, when Assistant Director James Deetz asked London’s Guildhall Museum, a precursor of the Museum of London, to lend Plimoth Plantation some examples of everyday pottery.
According to Curator of Collections and Library Karin Goldstein, “Almost all of the dishes from the Pilgrim era that are preserved in museums are special, decorated pieces that were passed down through families. Very little common pottery survives outside of archaeological sites.”
Because of the harsh New England climate, with its cycles of freezing and thawing, only small pieces survive in the ground.
“The ceramics from the Museum of London help us learn about and recreate what these everyday vessels looked like,” added Goldstein.
In the past, “permanent loans” were not uncommon, but museums across the world have started reviewing their files to clarify the legal status of such loaned artifacts. Staff at the Museum of London have been working since February, 2011 to officially transfer these pots to Plimoth Plantation. The process of resolving “historic loans” frequently takes a long time—the request to transfer title has to pass through the lending museum's deaccessions procedure. In this case, Museum of London staff had to apply to the UK Government for a permanent export license, and comply with UK and European export laws for cultural property such as the 400-year old pots.
Museum of London curators established that, while the ceramics are important to Plimoth’s interpretation, they do not have a specific London provenance. Therefore, they could be permanently transferred to an organization abroad. Plimoth Plantation is grateful to the Museum of London,particularly Registrar Nickos Gogolos, for his efforts in helping to permanently transfer the ceramics to Plimoth Plantation.
The ceramics include:
- A Borderware pipkin (three-legged cooking pot)
- A Borderware porringer (small, handled dish for eating porridge or stews)
- A Borderware bowl
- A red earthenware “pudding pot” (for steaming puddings)
- Two majolica drug jars (cylindrical pots for holding salves or medicines)
- A brown-glazed mug
Borderware was made in the 16th and 17th centuries in potteries near England’s Hampshire/Surrey border. Examples of Borderware have been found at many colonial sites in America, including Jamestown in Virginia. Pieces of a Borderware pipkin were excavated from the Allerton/Cushman Site in Kingston, MA, and in 2005, a rim fragment from a Borderware chafing dish, similar in shape to the Museum of London bowl, was found near Town Square in Plymouth.
Plimoth Plantation uses several of the pots as prototypes for making reproductions in the museum’s Crafts Center, for use in the recreated 17th-century Village. Curator of Colonial Reproductions Martha Sulya makes pottery in the Crafts Center, were several of the pots are exhibited.
“The brown mug has a lovely form for something so humble—it sits nicely in your hand,” according to Sulya.”
Museum guests appreciate the authentic artifacts. “The look of wonder on the visitors’ faces, when they see the original pot in the case, and compare it to the reproductions we’re making, is wonderful,” she noted.