Community Archaeology Day

Bianca Lott, Katie Davis, Zoe Heart, Ayanna Rose

In archeology, community outreach is an equally important part of the archeological process as the analysis and excavation of the material remains. Community Archeology Day is a form of community outreach where members of the community and stakeholders pertaining to the location or the material remains are invited by archaeologists to learn more about the work they are doing on-site. This is part of the work to correct the misgivings of archeology of the past and improve relationships between archeology and local communities to provide insight into what is actually going on at excavation sites. It also allows the community to play a direct role in the archeological process by providing information that might be only relayed within the community. In general, community archeology days help connect archeologists to potential stakeholders by providing a tangible bond between the work being done and the community stakes in the project. For our community archeology day, we hoped to share not only what we have learned at the Olin farm site with the community, but also what we learned about archeology in general. It was important for us to clear any misunderstandings about archeology as a study, namely the fact that archeologists do not, in fact dig up dinosaur bones. We were also hoping to gain some knowledge back through the process of sharing the data we were able to uncover about Carleton and the arb.


To prepare for our Community Archaeology Day event, there were many pieces of the puzzle to figure out in order for this event to come together. To start, we brainstormed as a group what we wanted Community Archaeology Day to look like, going off of Professor Kennedy’s suggestions as well as our research on Community Archaeology Days done elsewhere. We came up with lists of what we would want to include in the event–the other groups’ final project presentations, a timeline about the Olin Farm (perhaps including the groups’ presentations), maps and a tour of the site, refreshments, the CHAT Trailer and other interactive elements. From there we were able to build our event. 

Our next steps were advertising the event. To advertise, our group, as well as an Archaeology Program student worker, made two fliers (see below): 

In the hopes of getting as many guests as possible from Carleton and the wider community, we hung these fliers in cafes around Northfield and in many buildings around Carleton College’s campus to spread the word about our event. We wrote emails reaching out to various organizations in the local community (the Northfield Library, local historical societies, the Northfield Rotary club, and more) inviting and asking for advertising help through putting up our poster, or putting our event in their organization’s calendar. We wrote to our class’s guest speakers as well, inviting them to the event. 

We also were fortunate to have the opportunity to go on two radio shows advertising our event and talking about our class (see Figures 1 and 2). Thank you to KRLX[1] and KYMN[2] radios for having us!

Follow these links to find out what we said about our event!

Early on in the process, we also had to start acting on our thoughts for the event. This consisted of reserving the CHAT Trailer from the CCCE[3] for the day of the event, renting iPads to help in our and other groups’ room presentations, and also preparing our materials such as the fliers (shown above), brochures, maps, and more. 

As we got closer to the day of the event, we worked together as a group to figure out the last details needed for the event: collaborating with the other groups to make sure the other groups’ presentations were all set (and what we could do to help them present in the way they hoped), planning out the room layout for the event, and organizing and preparing refreshments by reaching out to the CCCE (see Figures 3-7). 

Through this preparation process, we all learned valuable lessons about planning and organizing an event such as Community Archaeology Day.

[1] KRLX: Carleton College’s Radio show

[2] KYMN: The radio show in Northfield, MN

[3] CCCE: Carleton Center for Community and Civic Engagement


The Event

The Community Archaeology Day event was held on November, 15th from 2-4pm in room 121-122 of Olin Hall at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. The room was organized in a U-shape with different stations of tables set up around the room. Each table had a group of students presenting on a different topic of research. 

The first station, welcoming visitors to the room, was a What is archaeology? Table (see Figure 8). This consisted of images taken from throughout the term of lab work, an informational brochure (see Figures 9 and 10), printed maps of the area of excavation, and an archaeological tool kit.

The second station was about the history of the Olin Farm pre-Carleton era (see Figure 11). This spanned from the beginning of recorded information about the area to the purchase of the property by the school in 1916. The station consisted of a timeline with images and archival documents as well as a quiz to test knowledge.

The third station was about the Olin Farm as a part of the Carleton Farm (see Figure 12). This spanned from its purchase in 1916 until its usage stopped in the 1960s.This station consisted of artifacts and archival documents.

The fourth station was the usages of the Olin Farm property after its use as part of the Carleton farm, primarily as an area for waste disposal (see Figure 13). This focused on the time period from the 1960s through the 1980s until its incorporation into the Cowling Arboretum. This station consisted of a poster board, artifacts, and information gathered from interviews.

The fifth station was about the modern curation crisis that the departments Carleton, as well as countless other institutions, are dealing with (see Figure 14). It discussed artifact curation and potential ways to remedy the issue. The station consisted of artifacts, 3D models, and written proposed plans.

The corner station contained information about the site of the Olin Farm and our excitation (see Figure 15). It consisted of virtual reality glasses (see Figure 16) with 360 images of the site and a detailed map of the site including data uncovered and historical imagery.

Go here to see the Olin Farm Site in Google Street View:

The Olin Farm Site

To interact with the whole map:

The last area had some miscellaneous components. Among objects at this table were books, more informational posters, mystery artifacts, and a place for guests to leave information. There was also a printed timeline showing an overall assessment of the Olin Farm.

The Olin Farm Timeline:

CHAT Trailer

The CHAT trailer (Carleton Humanities and Arts Trailer) is a mobile workspace and recording studio intended to support events of Carleton’s humanities and arts departments. It was brought to campus this year by the Carleton Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE). 

We decided to incorporate the CHAT trailer into Community Archaeology Day as an opportunity for guests to put their perspectives on the record. Our hope was that in using the technology of the trailer, we could make our guests’ oral histories available to us and future Carleton students. We set up the trailer with a sound system (a Yeti microphone connected to a MacBook), two chairs, some artifacts from our archaeological sites, and a space heater to keep the people and technology functional (see Figure 18). The trailer was parked in its usual location, the Skinner Chapel parking lot (see Figure 17). The parking lot was about a two minute walk from the indoor Community Archaeology Day event. 

Unfortunately, we experienced cold, snowy weather on Community Archaeology Day, so the two-minute walk to the trailer was difficult for many of our guests to take. For this reason, we did not record many interviews. However, we did have the opportunity to interview local farmer Larry Richie. Larry discussed some local archaeological investigations he has taken on in the area of his farm. He shared details about bison remains he has found, as well as hypotheses he has derived from the patterns of these findings. He also shared perspectives about archaeological work in general, including the idea that in every archaeological project, it is critical to involve people who know the land. 

From Larry’s interview and our experience with the CHAT trailer in general, we were reminded of the value of accessibility. The easier it is for community members to become involved in our class’ projects, the more we will be able to expand our knowledge of Carleton’s past.


The event had a great turnout (with over 50 guests in attendance), and it was great to see community interest in what the class has been working on all term. Among the visitors were members of the wider Northfield community, former Carleton alumni, as well as many Carleton faculty and students. Each person who visited added to the atmosphere and overall knowledge and experience of the event. Members of the community would pose questions to us about a variety of things, from generalized questions about archeology as a field to specific inquiries on the different methods we used in class. The most common questions were about tools we used on-site, specifically the mallet and the toothbrushes. We were able to share a lot of information with the community about our class and what we have uncovered, but we also learned so much from others in the community. Visitors were able to identify unknown artifacts, such as vintage Carleton ashtray, from their own personal experiences at Carleton.

Thank you to everyone in the Carleton and wider area community for coming to our event and helping us make this day possible!