Maanya Goenka


On the 9th of April, Tuesday my classmates and I visited the Carleton archives which are housed on the 1st floor of the Laurence McKinley Gould library. The Carleton archives are a repository for non-current official documents of historical, informational and archaeological significance pertaining to mainly Carleton but also some other Northfield sites. We met Nat Wilson, who is responsible for its upkeep. He showed us an enlightening presentation through which he debriefed us on the letters, photographs and films present in the archives and the structure of institutional archives in general. It was interesting to note that not all archives were well organized and maintained. Some of them can be very chaotic with important books tucked away in far corners, no chronological ordering of documents and letters and no staff to look after the documents. There are other archives which are looked after with great care and are regulated strictly allowing no food or drinks inside and asking people to use pencils over pens for any work in the archives. The most common documents one finds in these stores, we were told, are collected and preserved photographs, drawings, financial statements, letters, past oral interviews, maps, and old videos and films. Many institutions have an efficient database to make access to these resources quick and easy. Well maintained archives have proper office hours, digital equipment, printers and scanners and a set of primary and secondary research sources.

Following the presentation, we were shown pictures of the Women’s League Cabin, which had been excavated during a previous archaeological fieldwork lab of 2015. The collections included both staged and candid pictures and depicted the life of the occupants of the cabin back when it first started out. The remnants of the site can still be found today in the Arb and so can a tube-well which many of the students living there were photographed near as seen from the archive collection. Some other examples of pictures included a picture of the girls on some sort of picnic, one of them repainting the walls of the cabin, and a couple of them skiing and engaging in other snow sports. We were also shown letters that the students had penned addressed to the Carleton administration detailing a breakout that had taken place in the cabin and requesting for further investigation to take place. What particularly fascinated me was a map presenting an overview of the cabin back in the day which depicted an array of rooms including a lounge with a fireplace where students perhaps gathered together in the evenings for tea and conversation as seen in the photographs. It was fascinating to see how the campus had changed so much in a short span of time.


On the 17th of April, Wednesday we went to the lower arboretum on our first archaeological expedition outside. We were divided into two groups of seven each and I was part of the first group of enthusiastic and budding archaeologists . Five members from each group including me were assigned the field-working task. We were made to stand ten meters apart from each other and follow a path straight ahead of us, walking parallel to each other, inspecting the survey zone for any traces of material culture. Of the remaining two members, one was given the responsibility to map out the survey units that we were studying on a geographical map which was provided to us for reference. The other member was in charge of recording our finds on a sheet of paper, while at the same time looking at and recording visibility in percentage form, compass bearings and individual collections of team members.

Even though it was pouring and all of us were drenched, the rain failed to dampen our spirits. We walked slowly and carefully across the muddy field trying to look for anything that grabbed our attention. We categorized our finds into several groups: plastic, metal, concrete, glass, ceramics, lithics, bricks/tiles etc.  I managed to grab hold of quite an array of things in the first survey unit including the sole of a shoe, several broken pieces of glass, some ceramic pieces, metallic tablets and the lid of a can. Other things I couldn’t identify but placed in the bag for further research. The second survey unit hardly yielded any interesting finds for us or for members of the other group, perhaps because it was more densely covered with vegetative matter preventing us from undertaking a successful surface survey. Once we got back to LDC, we bagged our collections and labelled the bag with our initials and other identifying information. In spite of the heavy showers, the archaeological survey was successful in providing us with a foundation for further such expeditions.