Martha Zierden, curator of historical archaeology at The Charleston Museum and a longtime collaborator with the anthropology program at the College of Charleston, is the recipient of the College’s 2018 Albert Simons Medal of Excellence.
Established in honor of the late Albert Simons, a well-known Charleston architect, preservationist and College of Charleston professor, the Simons Medal is awarded annually to recognize individuals who have excelled in fields such as civic design, architectural design, historic preservation and urban planning. The award is administered by the College’s Historic Preservation and Community Planning program in the School of the Arts.
The award ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in the Simons Recital Hall located in the Simons Center for the Arts at 54 St. Philip St. A reception will follow at the Hill Gallery.
Zierden was critical to the early development of the anthropology program at the College of Charleston in the 1980s, helping to develop and maintain the archaeological field school that the anthropology program conducts with The Charleston Museum, hosting CofC interns at the museum and supervising independent study students.
Well-respected in the professional community, Zierden has amassed an impressive record of archaeological work across the Southeastern U.S., including decades of archaeological research and excavations at numerous sites around the Lowcountry.
“Very few women have contributed more to understanding what life was like for Charleston residents in our historic city,” says Grant Gilmore, associate professor and Addlestone Chair in Historic Preservation at the College. “Buildings are great to preserve but knowing what people did in and around them is far more provocative. She is truly our ‘City’s Archaeologist.’”
Zierden holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in anthropology from Florida State University and began working at The Charleston Museum in 1981. She became the museum’s curator of historical archaeology in 1985.
“I am deeply honored to receive the Albert Simons medal from the College of Charleston,” says Zierden. “This award recognizes the vital role of historical archaeology in the broader field of historic preservation and community heritage. Working as a team is the best, and likely the only way to preserve and interpret our collective past.”
Zierden is co-author of Charleston: An Archaeology of Life in a Coastal Community, from University Press of Florida (2016). The book recently received the 2018 James Deetz Book Award from the Society for Historical Archaeology. She has also published articles in the journals Historical Archaeology and South Carolina Antiquities, and her research has appeared in edited books, including Another’s Country: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives on Cultural Interactions in the Southern Colonies (University of Alabama Press), Unlocking the Past: Celebrating Historical Archaeology in North America (University Press of Florida), and Archaeology in South Carolina: Exploring the Hidden Heritage of the Palmetto State (University of South Carolina Press). She received the Whitelaw Founders Award from the Historic Charleston Foundation in 2006.
The Simons Medal was established in 2010 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the College’s School of the Arts. Past recipients include former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, architect Andres Duany and Prince Charles.