chapter  24
Observed decay: telling stories with mutable things: Caitlin DeSilvey
Pages 15

The ideas in this article germinated at a derelict homestead in Montana where I spent several years poking about in a scrambled deposit of domestic and agricultural rubble. My excavations performed an ad hoc archaeology of the recent past in a place not yet old enough to be interesting to (most) archaeologists (though see Buchli and Lucas, 2001) and too marginal and dilapidated to be interesting to historic preservationists. The farm, settled with a homestead claim in 1889, lay a few miles north of the city of Missoula, tucked into a swale in the bare foothills of the Rocky Mountains. For most of the 20th century, the Randolph family ran a market garden and subsistence operation on the site, but by the 1990s these days of productivity were long past. The youngest son in the family died in 1995, leaving behind a complex of ramshackle sheds and dwellings crammed with the debris of decades (Figure 24.1). I came along in 1997 and began to work with the site’s residual material culture, fi rst as a volunteer curator and later as a research student working towards a doctoral degree in cultural geography.