Industrial Archaeology in Colorado

These past few days here in Colorado Springs for the Society for Industrial Archaeology 2010 conference have been filled with mining culture and operations, mountain views, scenic roads, never-ending blue skies, and of course a wonderful day of paper sessions.

The expansive view from the Cripple Creek & Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Of course, we did talk about more than mining; I just happened to go on the mining tour. I couldn’t resist; it’s title was “Gold in Them Thar Hills.” That’s just a teaser for now. This is, too:

Again, how could I resist? I may have been the only to take a picture of this sign. You can't keep me away from the kitsch, but, yes there were burros at play (just not near the sign).

Sunday is a very long travel day for me with shuttles, layovers, and flight connections back to Vermont, so I’ll be preparing posts on the SIA conference experience – tours and beautiful Colorado pictures included.

Summer 2010 Internships

One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard lately for internships is to record your daily activities, to document as you go. Otherwise, you will forget. Like those road trip pictures from three years ago you were going to label and never did — where was that particular “middle of nowhere” shot? — well, sort of like that, but you know what I mean.  Most of all, it’s practical. Whether you have an internship report requirement or whether you want to make sure you can identify your new skills, records are important.

Of course, a fun way to document highlights of your internship is through a blog. Share with classmates, friends, family, and fellow preservationists what your day-t0-day internship is like.  If you have an internship blog, let me know so PiP readers can read about it. Or consider guest posting your experiences like Lauren McMillan’s summer 2009 archaeology field school posts or Nicholas Bogosian’s monthly preservation trades posts. Either way, I’m sure a lot of people would love to hear about it. Think about it, ask me about it, let me know.

Readers, if you have a preservation blog that isn’t linked here, comment below — share the wealth of blogs and spread the word. The more people who read about preservation and learn what others are doing, the better!

Society for Industrial Archeology 2010

Preservation friends: will anyone be attending the Society for Industrial Archeology 2010 conference in Colorado Springs this June? I will be there talking about the Lake Champlain Bridge, so if you’re thinking about going, let me know! We can do lunch or coffee or any of the spectacular tours. The conference theme is Industry on the Frontier so some of the tours include Pike’s Peak, gold mining towns, steel mills, and the royal gorge. (I’m psyched — I’ve never been to Colorado.) I hope to see some of you there. Thanks!

NPS WebRangers

At many National Parks across the United States, children can become Junior Rangers by completing a book of activities relating to their visit in the park. They talk to park rangers about their answers and then receive a badge, patch, or certificate. To participate in the parks there is an age limit, but now the National Park Service has a WebRanger site for kids of all ages!

The WebRanger website. Choose your own ranger station!

On the WebRangers site, kids can create usernames (or just visit) and begin their adventures. The activities are too numerous to list, but include word games, maps, puzzles, mazes, and many more in order to learn parks’ history, about the work of park rangers, animals, associated people, science, and nature. Kids can even sign up as a Ranger and have a ranger station, track their activities, view webcams, and send e-postcards. Check out the site here.

And the NPS has even more activities for kids interested in the parks, whether it’s a coloring sheet to match the park, fun facts, and much more. Check out the kids archaeology program, where kids can learn about the different types of archaeologists and what they do (it’s not like the WebRangers program, but a good introduction to archaeology).

Way to go National Park Service — the people who are a part of the NPS are always doing great work and really trying to showcase the resources of the parks. So, check it out. I know a few “older” kids who would love to be a WebRanger…

Anthropology, Archaeology, Space, Historic Preservation

Every once in a while, someone writes an extremely detailed and well thought out comment on PiP. Since I am unsure of how many people read comments I post, I like to share them with all readers by making it a separate post. Here is one such example.

First, read the Landmarks Shaping Me post. Now, to the comments. Kristin Landau is a PhD student at Northwestern University in Illinois; she studies anthropology and archaeology as reflected by her comments. Often Kristin draws connections between anthropology and historic preservation. See below and feel free to continue the conversation:

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I think what’s most interesting about space/place [space being a mathematical function and place being infused with meaning, cf. de Certeau] is exactly as you say: we shape and are shaped by space/place. Conceptions of space/place are thus recursive or dialogic and they are multiscalar. We influence and are influenced by, make and are made by, places at all levels – individual, familial, community, societal, regional, hemispherical, etc. So the group of us who spent a lot time in Mrs. Morahan’s room made that room what it was – gave it its meaning. The room, in turn, shaped our last few years of high school, on an individual and group level as you demonstrate, Kate.

More challenging is getting at notions of space/place in other cultures (e.g., Japanese mobile [shoji] screens, which act like dividers rather than walls in a house) and how they change (or not) over time and geography. In archaeological contexts for example, concepts of space/place are inferred by referential linguistics (when/if written language exists) or representations of space (i.e., murals and iconography) or settlement patterns and elements of city planning. I would argue that universally, notions of space/place are primarily structured by so-called astronomy as well as the geographic landscape. The movements of the sun, moon and stars from and with the Earth’s perspective is formative. This would do well to explain the similarities – and differences – among creation stories the world over.

Within archaeology, the subfields of landscape and cognitive archaeology (and more generally British social anthropology) assess critically notions of space/place. For a long term paper this year I am working on explicitly incorporating these two fields with archaeoastronomy – the study of the practice of astronomy in culture. I argue that studying another culture’s astronomy (or astronomIES) will lead us to a better understanding of how they thought about things, how they conceived their landscape and how they made sense of and ordered their universe (i.e., worldview and cosmology). And we would also approach a more refined understanding of concepts of space/place and place-making. This, in response to some who have stated the futility and irrelevancy of archaeoastronomy for anthropology.

Nevertheless, your points bode well Kate, and it seems like historic preservation and anthropology intersect and can be mutually informative in the realm of space/place.

A Life in the Trades Series

Preservation in Pink welcomes a new monthly series by Nicholas Bogosian, a student at Belmont Technical College’s Building Preservation and Restoration Program in St. Clairsville, OH. His primary interests lie in the preservation trades and community development. In each “A Life in the Trades” post Nicholas will discuss preservation trades lessons and information that he is learning program.  From his training, he will be able to apply new skills to the Benjamin Lundy House, the home of the first notable abolitionist in America, which is currently owned by an architecture firm and leased by Nicholas. As Nicholas will show readers, it is like living in a preservation project. In addition, he will share local history with readers. Restoration, preservation, a historic home, hands-on work, local history – what could be better?

A Life in the Trades will be posted on the 30th of each month. To find all of the series, click on the category for “Nicholas Bogosian” or “A Life in the Trades.”

Adventures in the Field: Week 6

Adventures in the Field: Archaeology at Historic Bath, NC is a series of posts about Lauren’s experiences as a TA at East Carolina University’s summer 2009 archaeology field school in Bath, NC.  This is post # 6.

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By Lauren McMillan

Week 6: 6/22/09 – 6/26/09

The last week of field school is always bittersweet; you’re excited about what has been accomplished and about the experiences you have had, but also sad it’s over.  You’re sad you didn’t loose all that weight you thought you would digging and you’re not very happy with the strange tan lines that have appeared over the last six weeks, but happy about the friends you’ve made, the stories you’ll have to tell and the fact that you are now qualified to be a shovel bum.  Or, at least that’s how I felt as a student, but as a TA (and I’m sure Dawn feels this way a billion times more than I do) you’re a little nervous about what’s next: analysis, interpretations and general deep thought.  However, I’ll leave those particular deep thoughts to Dawn and her thesis and tell you about our last week in Bath.

All of Monday and half of Tuesday were devoted to finishing the last bit of the cellar and the builder’s trench.  We finally came down onto the sandy occupation layer in the cellar and were expecting all sorts of neat, possibly whole, artifacts from when the building was in use.  We were sorely disappointed; the artifact density almost completely dropped off under the fill layer.  We did find a few nicely dated pieces of ceramics, such as Staffordshire slip-wares, and thank the archaeology gods, no whiteware or even pearlware!  One of the biggest surprises was a half a cask, or barrel, hoop.  We weren’t exactly excited to find this on Tuesday, as we were trying to finish because Wednesday was our last day, and it was a half day at that.  But, Ash pulled through for us, and got the whole thing out pretty quickly.  The cask hoop was a nice way to finish up the season though, because it helps support the interpretation of a merchant’s storehouse.  It would be in this type of container that merchandise, such as lead shot or naval stores, would be shipped to and from England.

Half of a cask hoop on the cellar floor. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Half of a cask hoop on the cellar floor. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

At the end of Tuesday Robert brought out the laser scanner again (I mentioned in week 4 he scanned in the Palmer-Marsh cemetery to create a 3D image of it).  This time, he scanned in the excavated cellar.  It was quite funny at the time, because two students and I were making a section map of the stairs, the old fashion way, when the technology-mobile pulled up and somewhat one upped my line level and pencil. Again, I’ll defer to Robert in explaining how this works.

Laser scanner. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Laser scanner. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

You saw how long it took you to make just a profile of the stairs, well in roughly the same time I made a 3D map of the entire cellar with an error budget (average error) of 1mm. So I essentially collected all the data on the size of the cellar, bricks, mortar, etc. and it can all be verified, measured, manipulated, rastered, and rendered into a hard surface easily within a computer, and that data is much easier to store and preserve than even acid free paper (a damaged hard drive can still store data). So if Dawn or anyone at a later time wanted to import the cellar data into GIS they can and view any aspect of it they wish, and they can get measurements in any unit they want. Heck if you were bored you could change the unit to parsecs and see how infinitesimally small our site is.

Measuring and drawing the stairs the old fashioned way. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Measuring and drawing the stairs the old fashioned way. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

I have not seen the results of the scanner, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  I’m not sure how well it would have been able to pick up the depth differences of the slots for the wooden steps; when I asked the professor out there helping Robert, he told me that he didn’t think the scanner would get it. So, we still would have had to hand draw it.  It was a John Henry story, minus me dying in the end.

Cellar with laser scanner prisms and measuring the old way in the background.  I almost became a Luddite. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Cellar with laser scanner prisms and measuring the old way in the background. I almost became a Luddite. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Cellar from the roof of the Intern House. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Cellar from the roof of the Intern House. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

On Wednesday we did our final cleaning, drawing and took the site photos.  I must say, from the roof of the Intern House, the cellar looked pretty awesome.  Promptly after lunch, it was filled in by a backhoe, which, in itself, was cool to watch.  We backfill the site for a variety of reasons; people always ask why we don’t leave it open for the public to see.  To me, the most important is for the preservation and integrity of the cellar itself.  Secondly, it’s kind of dangerous to have a big hole in the ground on public property.  Lastly, for future research; we did not dig the whole cellar, because some of it is under the Intern House.  Also, what’s left there can be excavated and a restudy can be conducted when there are new techniques, technologies or simply fresh research questions to ask.

Cellar being filled in with a backhoe. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Cellar being filled in with a backhoe. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

ECU Bath Field School 2009. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

ECU Bath Field School 2009. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

This finished up the 2009 Bath field school.  It was a fun six weeks in which we all learned, not just about the past and dirt archaeology, but about what’s next in the field, the technologies, and of course, a little bit about ourselves.

Since this was a somewhat short post, I’ll go ahead and tell you all about what Dawn and I did the rest of the week.  We skipped out during the filling of the cellar and headed back to campus to put all the equipment away and as soon as this was done, we hit the road.  We went to Town Creek Indian Mound, near Charlotte, NC, to dig and camp for a few days.  Town Creek is a Mississippian influenced Pee Dee site, dating from around 1100-1500AD and is the eastern most Mississippian mound in the country.  Basically, it was an awesome experience, and my first prehistoric excavation.  We were part of a volunteer group under professors from UNC Chapel Hill, and one of our ECU professor’s, whose work has revolved around the village at Town Creek.  The purpose of this investigation was to find the outer palisade, and we did.  As far as artifacts, we found a Clovis point, the oldest artifact ever found there, and more lithics than I thought possible.

Town Creek archaeological site with the mound in the background. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Town Creek archaeological site with the mound in the background. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Dawn and me working?! I guess we’ll dig if we’re not being paid. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Dawn and me working?! I guess we’ll dig if we’re not being paid. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Palisade postholes. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Palisade postholes. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Well, this is my last Adventures in the Field post.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and possibly even learned something.  I know I’ve had fun writing these, and thinking critically about what I do and what I’ve learned.  Thanks for reading!

Preservacation: Reflecting on Funerary Architecture in Eastern North Carolina

Preservacation is a series of essays by Brad Hatch about the preservation related adventures, issues, and sites that he and Lauren have encountered on their travels.  This is #6 in the series.

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By Brad Hatch

What more can I say about gravestones that hasn’t already been said? If you’ve read In Small Things Forgotten (as most of us Mary Wash alumni have) you already know about the seriation of headstones going from death’s heads to cherubs to urns and willows and how that reflects a society’s feelings about death. Rather than trying to understand what long-dead people thought about the headstones in their graveyards I’ll talk about what I know, what I think about them. I don’t want to make this post long, as several of my previous ones have been, so I’ll quickly give you my thoughts then let you come up with your own by showing you some images of the gravestones I’ve encountered in my travels in North Carolina.

I should start by saying that I have a strange fascination with graveyards. I think it must stem from an obsession with things that are not knowable. After all, what is less knowable to us, the living, than death? I know, it’s weird, but if you think about it, as an archaeologist it’s no surprise that I’m taken by these ideas. I deal with the unknowable on a daily basis. I can never know what happened in the past or what things meant to people then, how they felt, what they thought. I only see little glimpses of them in what they’ve left behind and I have to use their little trinkets to come up with interpretations about humanity. While many may think that archaeologists speak about the past in their interpretation it is truly the present that we address. Everything we do is driven by what is happening at this moment in our lives, in society, and in the world. Archaeology, like so many other creative pursuits, is partially a quest to find one’s self, and in my case I use the medium of material culture.

Gravestones are like archaeological artifacts on historic sites. Often they are mass produced, or at least made for mass consumption, which is why they can be seriated. Like artifacts, they carry heavy symbolic meaning, which can be seen in the artwork on them, their shape, or epitaphs. More easily recognized among headstones though is the fact that they are for the living, not the deceased. While some may have chosen their markers, most were likely commissioned after they died. This means that tombstones are often devoid of meaning to the person they commemorate. In actuality, they reflect what others thought of them or what others thought that the deceased held dear or believed.  However, there is always the possibility that the stones represented what the living believed, which is likely the case. This means that the people who placed the stones acted as archaeologists for the deceased. They attempted to know the unknowable, the thoughts of somebody who could no longer tell them. Burying grounds fascinate me because of this.

When I make my way through a cemetery I am effectively doing the archaeology of archaeology. I am interpreting interpretations. It seems quite ridiculous, but I know that one day somebody will be doing the same with my work. In a way I find my “connection with the universe” when I do this. It helps me to realize that even what I do, while it may seem insignificant in the grander scheme, will make an impact on somebody in some way. If I am able to make just one person think about who they are then my job is accomplished.  Now, it’s your turn to think. As you look at the selection of headstones below think about what they mean or what they might have meant. Before you turn away, though, think about why you made the interpretations that you made, what does it say about you? What does it say about the world you live in? It makes no sense to try to understand the past or other societies until we have an idea of the present and our places in it. Enjoy your moments of reflexivity.

Adventures in the Field: Week 5

Adventures in the Field: Archaeology at Historic Bath, NC is a series of posts about Lauren’s experiences as a TA at East Carolina University’s summer 2009 archaeology field school in Bath, NC.  This is post # 5.

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By Lauren McMillan

Week 5: 6/15/09 – 6/19/09

This was our last full week in the field, and while we did run into a few hurdles, we did eventually jump them and got a lot accomplished.  We continued with the same old stuff in the cellar, and are almost there!  One more day, and it should be finished.  Some of our most interesting finds this week were two different porcelain tea cup bases.  These delicate pieces of ceramic would have been imported from China at quite some cost.  These artifacts will be important in the analysis and interpretation of the site, because they appear to be the only “high status” items that we have found, and represent costly signaling.  The fact that someone in Bath was able to engage in such conspicuous consumerism should be an interesting talking point in Dawn’s thesis.

Partially excavated builder's trench. Note the uneven shovel marks on the left. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Partially excavated builder’s trench. Note the uneven shovel marks on the left. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

We started and nearly completed my second favorite part of the site, behind the entrance stairs; the builder’s trench.  This feature should give us a good construction date of the building.  The reason I like it so much is that I can feel a personal connection to the people who once stood in it.  As it is being excavated, you can see that a straight line was not dug out nearly three hundred years ago, instead, you can see shovel divots.  I find it so fascinating that you can literally see where the men put their shovels into the dirt to dig that trench that they later stood in to lay the bricks.  What is even more exciting is that we have found a large concentration of pipe stems in the trench.  I can just imagine the bricklayers standing there, smoking their pipes, and as they break or get clogged, discarding the stems into the trench.  The stems are basically the 18th century cigarette butt.

Ohm Mapper in action. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Ohm Mapper in action. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Robert continued to work on his geospatial thesis work down at the Palmer-Marsh cemetery.  He ran the ground penetrating radar over the whole site early in the week, and then on Thursday, brought out a new piece of equipment, the Ohm Mapper.  This thing looks like whoever is using it has a long tail dragging behind them.  I will defer to a short paragraph Robert wrote explaining it.

Resistivity is not new to archaeology, but the system employed by the Ohm Mapper is. Instead of the usual method of systematically probing the surface to send a current through it, the Ohm Mapper uses what is essentially an electric induction method which means that all you need to do is walk along survey transects dragging it, no need to take few steps probe and repeat. This makes the process much more efficient and less destructive than a larger array (usually mounted on a truck) is. The only problem with this is that it is really designed for detecting inconsistencies in soil at a minimum the size of a grave shaft, and at depths far greater than we would ever conceive of looking. So we have to adjust the array and see how it works, we follow a set of guidelines that Geometrics makes (the manufacturer) but it’s still an effort of trial and error.

Well, it sounds cool, and I hope he finds something there. But I think I’ll stick with my shovel and trowel for now.

High heel shoe marks on the site! Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

High heel shoe marks on the site! Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Now, as for the few hurdles we had to jump; we were flooded in more ways than one.  It was a media circus all week.  We were visited by the Washington Daily News and the Greenville Daily Reflector.  The most “exciting” of the reporters was from the local ABC station.  She walked up our three hundred year old cellar stairs, and left high heel shoe holes in the site! (For those of you who don’t know, these are both very big no no’s.)  I can’t believe how right Noel Hume was.  The other fun thing happened on Thursday; we got poured on during lunch.  By the time that we got back, the cellar was a swimming pool and the builder’s trench was a moat.  It was not fun cleaning that out.  But, that’s part of being an archaeologist; being a jack-of-all trades (and master of some?) and rolling with the punches.

Dawn sucking up the water with shop vac. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

Dawn sucking up the water with shop vac. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

The site moat. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

The site moat. Courtesy of Lauren McMillan.

We will be finishing up next week.  The rest of the cellar needs to be excavated (about half a foot in two units) and then we will be cleaning up and photographing.  Thanks for reading!