Avocational Archaeology in Action: Charleston Museum’s Work at Dill Sanctuary, and Recognizing Volunteer Bill Turner

Charleston Museum Archaeologist Ron Anthony shares some insight on the museum’s work at Dill Sanctuary on James Island along with a key contributor to their volunteer program. Learn more about the Charleston Museum and their archaeology program at https://www.charlestonmuseum.org/.

Besides owning and managing two historic houses in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, The Charleston Museum owns and operates the Dill Sanctuary.  Located on James Island the sanctuary has been the locus of intensive and extensive cultural and natural investigations which contribute significantly to area education and research. Containing almost 600 acres, Dill Sanctuary is the location of over 16 archaeological sites.  Deemed eligible to become a National Register District, this sanctuary contains a diversity of both prehistoric and historic cultural properties – Woodland Period sites, colonial plantation sites, Civil War earthworks, tenant farmsteads, and two historic cemeteries, among others. 

Many people have positively contributed to the archaeology of the Dill Sanctuary through the years.  These individuals, from professional archaeologists and historians to students to volunteers of all sorts, have helped to add, in their unique ways, to our knowledge of the past through their involvement in the archaeology of Dill Sanctuary. The effort of Charleston Museum volunteers surely merits a special notation because these individuals participate simply to help and enjoy the activity normally working with no other “agenda” operative. They often volunteer for tasks that are the least “glamorous” requiring repetition and, at times, hard physical work.  Most Museum staff, I feel, would acknowledge and laud the service that these special individuals provide.  

Longtime Charleston Museum Volunteer, Dr. Bill Turner

One such individual deserves special recognition as well as The Charleston Museum’s gratitude for nearly 15 years of volunteering in the museum’s Archaeology Lab.  Dr. Bill Turner, a retired surgeon and former Charleston Museum Board Member has furnished outstanding help with the metal artifact conservation of objects from Dill Sanctuary as well as from other local sites. Over the years Bill has generally helped once a week with the conservation of thousands of artifacts.  His dedication and interest is reflected in his invention of several simple but effective hand tools used to remove stubborn tarnish – present particularly on oddly shaped copper alloy objects and artifact fragments.  Knowing that in reality most objects that he works with will mostly likely receive only a single effort or a single set of sessions of conservation work, his relentless attention to the conservation of often very fragile items is truly impressive. Bill truly enjoys his conservation work and visits to the Museum’s archaeology lab.  Via his conversation, quick wit, and the general camaraderie, his visits, without fail, brighten up The Charleston Museum archaeology lab. We in the lab always look forward to his visits. 

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