Retired Archaeology Curator: Artifacts “Never Stop Telling Us About the People Who Made Them”

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A so-called “Rally for History” today at the Ohio Historical Society is part of an effort to draw attention to the agency’s more than $2 million in funding cuts in the Senate version of the state budget.

With this backdrop, former OHS Curator of Archaeology Martha Potter Otto is adjusting to retirement by returning often to the Society’s center on 17th Avenue, planning summer programs.

Otto recently retired after 35 years as curator. She began her work with the society as a high school volunteer in 1959. And she returns today, as a volunteer. As she moves from display case to display case in the center’s room for the earliest Ohio History, Otto captivates with her ability to weave stories of people and culture around individual artifacts.

And she expresses concern about the consequences a loss of funding would have on preservation of such artifacts for future generations. She describes archaeological sites as “fragile.”

Among Otto’s favorite artifacts is a collection of effigy pipes, on display since they were found in 1916. She says each generation of archaeologists to look at the pipes explores different aspects. In her words, these pipes and other artifacts “never stop telling us about the people who made them.”

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