Although the Wednesday lab group did not get to visit the Rice County Historical Society, we did get a taste of historical societies and their archival work in our Tuesday afternoon session with Nat Wilson, the College’s digital archivist. In this session, we visited the reading room of the Gould Library Special Collections, where we learned about archives and even got to view a span of documents recording students’ experiences at Carleton over the past century.
In particular, Wilson spoke about the difficulties in archival work that result from many institutions’ lack of resources dedicated purely to the time-consuming task of sorting and maintaining archives. As an example, Wilson talked about Faribault’s Minnesota State Academy of the Blind, which has a room full of documents, photographs, and artifacts which date back to the beginning of the institutions and show a broad range of activities engaged in by students at the school. However, because there are no staff members whose work focuses on working with these historical documents, the artifacts have historically been left relatively unorganized. Wilson also discussed the difficulty in working with archives from a researcher’s perspective, as some locations are more secure than others and require researchers to meet with archive staff at specific hours under varying conditions.
Additionally, our class was able to begin looking into the historical record of the Carleton experience housed by the Special Collections. Using caution (and latex gloves!), we examined a range of documents such as black and white photographic prints taken at the Women’s League Cabin during WWII, unprocessed film from athletic events in the early 2000s, a student’s freshman year scrapbook, and memos written between students and staff about misconduct at the Women’s League Cabin in the 1970s. Hopefully, this exposure to exploring archives and asking questions of historical artifacts will be helpful in our research later in the course.
This week, the Wednesday lab section did our first bit of archaeological field surveying. We split up into two teams in order to explore the ground surface of a field north of Carleton’s main campus. For my team, I served as the team leader, which meant I had the responsibilities of documenting the location using the survey unit form and keeping track of how many artifacts members of my team collected. We surveyed two units, for each of which the surveyors of our team spaced themselves out by ten feet and walked about fifty feet, scouring the ground for ceramic, tile/brick, concrete, metal, plastic, and glass objects. While the surveyors collected objects, I recorded the visibility and conditions of the location and handed out bags to the team members for them to collect and keep track of the artifacts they discovered.
On the note of visibility and conditions, this field survey was made more difficult by the weather on Wednesday. Though it wasn’t raining much when we left campus, the rain increased as our survey of the first survey unit continued. Not only did this make conditions less than ideal for being out of doors, but the mud may also have made some artifacts on the surface of the field harder to detect. These conditions also made it difficult to fully document the findings of my peers and the geography and topography of the location, as we were kind of rushed.
Overall, our lab section got a taste of field surveying and some methods of archaeological work but additionally saw firsthand some of the difficulties of the work.