The weather prevented us from traveling to Fairbault for lab on Wednesday.
But as a part of class on Tuesday, we visited the college archives. I had never been to the archives nor did I know where exactly they were located. Nat presented a brief overview of what the archiving process is like, how various archives are (or aren’t organized), and let us look through some of the archived information pertaining to the Woman’s League Cabin. It was interesting to think about various degrees of value that organizations place on keeping and storing archived information. And further, the steps that some organizations place on encouraging people to engage with the materials (i.e. providing reading rooms etc.).
The photos were most interesting for me to look at, as it’s always fun to see (as opposed to just read) what these places looked like and how they were used/enjoyed. Beyond this it was surprisingly interesting to look at the seemingly mundane archived pieces, such as key requests or the settling of logistical issues through paperwork. These are things that I truthfully wouldn’t think to keep. Why keep a key request? But Nat provided interesting insight, saying that these documents, though trivial, actually help construct a clearer, more detailed picture of how the spaces were used and what the communication was like among those that interacted with the space; perhaps as much as the photographs do. Our visit to the archives made me interested to revisit for future projects and to understand if there are some things that archives decide to discard. Or is everything, no matter how mundane, understood to have value?
Wednesday’s lab was wet, but interesting. Our class split into two teams and practiced fieldwalking in a section of the upper arb. After arriving, we first became familiar with what our own version of ten meters felt like in steps. My number was 14. We then each used this variable to spread out from one another (by ten meters). Sam and I were responsible for flagging the boundaries of our own grid site and demarcate ourselves from team two.
Despite the unfavorable weather, I was happy to start practicing the methods we’d been reading about in Deetz and Renfrew & Bahn. I found myself rushing a bit, while field walking, to keep up with my team and also move the activity along (because of the weather). But if it had been nice out and/or had more time, I would have enjoyed slowing down and conducting a more meticulous search. For everyone on my team (and I assume generally for those on team two), we found fewer items as we moved further away from the road. This makes sense and is evident from the items in bag one versus the number of items in bag two.
I found my findings to be both intriguing and concerning. I found beautiful shards of a shattered ceramic pot as well as a broken lightbulb, a can, and a lot of plastic. Pieces such as the shattered ceramic pot were beautiful and made me feel like I was I was conducting an alternative version of antiquing. But it was also concerning to note how many plastic pieces and shards of glass I found in the field; pieces that I did not collect. This made me wonder about the ethical and environmental responsibilities that come along with archaeology (or that should come along with archaeology, going forward). For the sake of our own study, the pieces of plastic weren’t very important or interesting. But for the sake of the environment, I don’t feel that it responsible to just leave the bits of plastic there. I am curious to learn more about what this looks like in actual fieldsites and fieldwork, and if there has been more of this discussion in recent literature. Can archaeology and environmental efforts, in this sense, work in tandem?