The last few weeks have felt like things are really starting to come together for whatever the post-pandemic incarnation of Anthrospin is going to be. I have been researching in more depth than I have since I was spending time at Harvard measuring various aspects of the bottoms of primate skulls in a project conducted for an undergraduate honors thesis in biological anthropology. Only now I’m doing cultural work.
As many of you know, I have been a bit too interested in cast iron cookware for a couple of years now. Early on it spurred the Crazy for Cast Iron blog series, including the deep dive into Krone Kast and what that’s all about (or not about…as it were). Since then I’ve turned my focus more local in looking at American (even though Krone Kast isn’t German as once thought) cast iron, and more specifically New England, more specific than that is Rhode Island, and even more specific than that is the Barstow Stove Co., which I wrote about briefly in another blog entry.
The American aspect of cast iron is the subject of my current book project, entitled The Cast Iron Field Guide: Researching 19th Century Hollow Ware and How to Identify it in the Wild. The first draft book is close to complete, and for the last month and a half I have estimated said completion at about 2 weeks away. That means at this point, I should have the first draft completed in about 2 weeks. Life with an infant can be hectic.
The book addresses a significant gap in popular literature about 19th century American iron, namely that the entire century is a gap in the popular understanding. Much is assumed to be unknown and unknowable. This book uses research into cookware as a template for cultural/historical research in general,showing and describing the more common (and some fairly less common) pieces of 19th century hollowware and how we can flesh out its history. In doing so it serves as a guide for collectors of cast iron cookware and an archival research guide in a general sense.
Regardless of how busy the baby keeps us, this book should be published some time around July, 2022. I am hoping to make it available for pre-order sometime in June.
The Barstow Stove Co. has been a major offshoot of this book, and has occupied some several hours of each day. Barstow is a lesser-known foundry unless you specifically focus on early hollowware, are a Rhode Island industrial history buff, or both. Their goods were sold worldwide and they had several sales locations across New England. Their castings are close to unparalleled and won numerous awards. Yet there is a lot of assumption and vague understanding about this foundry, their prominence, what they produced, and even where they were located. I’ve been working pretty incessantly to try and piece together a solid timeline. I don’t know what form of publication that will take, but it will be readily available. I’ve started a facebook group that is essentially a research dump for everything I come up with for Barstow. Like everything I post, I try to make it an example of how we can learn about the past.
I have also been fanning the flames of paleoanthropology once again. Given that in a few short months we will be in Germany, I’ve decided to focus more on Neandertal than in the past. I’m reading some books and articles that have been getting exciting in a way that paleo hasn’t felt in a while. So maybe the circle is nearing completion there. I’ll be posting some fun content about our last common ancestor with them, our divergence, our differences, and our similarities.
But beyond these few projects of varying scope, these last couple years, and more specifically the last year, has really helped me reshape my approach to research and networking as well as my expectations for Anthrospin and what I can accomplish with it.
That said, this is the start of a new era, and from here on out I will be making a full-time go of Pedal Powered Anthropology as a career foundation. I hope over the next few months to be fully rebuilt with my own content and perspectives being peppered by that of contributing anthropologists with different background and expertise. Two new board members have been added, one with considerable experience getting funding for pretty serious research projects in paleoanthropology. The goal by the end of the year is to have two contributing writers, a solid funding base, maybe a little bit of a paycheck, and to be starting off 2023 offering a paid internship for anthropology-related majors.
It is going to be a huge undertaking as I’ve never done anything like this before. I also don’t think anything quite like this exists yet. With the baby and the international move I’m sure there will be some unforeseen (and foreseen…) snags and complications, but I’m confident that this weird amorphous pet project nonprofit can become a serious contributor to the public understanding of academia, as well as a viable interface for serious students to get into a narrow, intimidating, and honestly sort of vague job market.