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What Is It?

Archaeology, Architecture, Collections, Conservation, New Facilities

Small metal objects are usually the most difficult artifacts to identify in our archaeological collection. It often takes some super sleuthing and a lot of research to figure out the function of each small item. A collection of such artifacts kept us puzzled for quite some time until four years ago, when two members of our preservation department went looking for clues about the way the original sash windows in Drayton Hall functioned. They removed the stops and casings that hold the sashes in place, uncovering the hollow channels that allowed weighted ropes to move inside of the wall as the sashes (yes, both of them!) slid up and down. The ropes moved back and forth on boxwood pulleys, each of which had a small brass collar in the center where the pulley wheel turned. We found one of these broken pulleys, a piece of flax rope, and a brass collar at the base of the window inside the hidden channel. Finding the brass collars in place was the “eureka!” moment in identifying the small mystery artifacts in the archaeological collection.

These newly conserved examples of the original brass window collars found archaeologically will be on display in the Stephen and Laura Gates Exhibit Gallery when it opens this spring.

When placed side by side, one can see how the collar would fit inside the broken wheel pulley.

This photograph shows where the wheels would fit inside the hollow window jamb (two collars are still in place here). Drayton Hall’s double-hung sash windows were very progressive for colonial America as these became more widespread later in the eighteenth century.