Community Outreach: the Material History of the Carleton Campus

Claire Dettelbach, Emily Moses, Tanya Bush, Holland Votaw, MJ Fielder-Jellsey, Miyuki Mihira, Lena Stein, and Brendan Glenn

After spending ten weeks learning about archaeology and the archaeological implications of our own surroundings in Northfield, Minnesota, our class felt that our perspectives on both our community and the field of archaeology had changed immensely. This was made especially clear to us and our classmates when, towards the end of the term, our class interviewed family, friends, and peers about their perceptions and expectations of archaeological inquiry and excavation. In these projects, we observed a lack of awareness regarding the content and practicality of archaeological inquiry in public daily life (ideas about Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park predominated in many of these discussions).

Especially as our class learned about the growing concern and interest in public archaeology, cultural resource management, and public access to educational sources and material culture, our interest in increasing the level of visibility and accessibility of archaeology at Carleton College and in Northfield, Minnesota increased.

Our Project

Our final project was inspired by the Community Archaeology Day hosted by the Archaeology of College Hill class at Brown University, the lack of knowledge about archaeology that we perceived in our own community, and projects our classmates began earlier this term which investigated the archaeology and material culture of buildings on Carleton’s campus. In these projects, our classmates looked into long-standing and culturally rich buildings on campus such as Skinner Memorial Chapel, Laird Hall, and Margaret Evans Hall. This research looked into subjects such as the history of the buildings and their namesakes, the architectural history of the structures, and the material culture that has resided at each location from its construction to the present.

Our final project seeks to continue this initial inquiry by investigating four of the longest-standing and most prominent locations on campus, Skinner Memorial Chapel (source of spiritual and communal life on campus), Sayles-Hill Campus Center (formally a gymnasium and always a hub for student activity), Goodsell Observatory (which brought fame to Carleton’s astronomy and meteorology findings before the school itself was well-known), and the Arboretum (host of a variety of campus and community activities and three ARCN 246 excavation sites). After conducting research on each of these locations, our group created four posters to be presented during a Campus Archaelogy Day Event and to be continued to hung up and used for educational purposes by the Archaeology departtment in the future.

Campus Archaeology Day

At our Campus Archaeology Day event, hosted at four different stops around campus, we presented these posters, offered snacks to visitors, and discussed the work our ARCN 246 class had conducted at the Waterford Mill site this term. At each stop (outside Sayles-Hill Campus Center, outside Goodsell Observatory, at the entrance to the Arb in front of the Rec Center, and on the Chapel steps facing the Bald Spot), group participants discussed their site’s history, architecture, and contemporary use—as well as connecting the project to larger concepts covered in class. Participants were especially interested in the fun facts that our group discovered about each campus location, but also got to engage with material histories they had not known about and with the question “What will still be standing here in 1,000 years?” This event was fairly casual and our group members engaged with about 20-25 vistors in total, including classmates, other Carleton students, professors, and even a prospective student and their family.

We did not reach a large amount of people, but that is what we expected and were happy that those who did stop by expressed that they enjoyed the project. Based on the feedback we got from visitors and general reflection after the event, our group thinks the concept, posters, and engagement style were effective. Future years might consider using the Community Archaeology Day style event that was organized by previous classes—a larger engagement could perhaps take place if our team was all in one place rather than being distributed around campus, had more time to develop the event, and had more resources. This event could take place in the Great Hall, the Arb Office, or a more visible location on campus such as the Bald Spot. However, we are additionally optimistic that the resources put together by our group will continue to inform other students and community members’ understanding of archaeology and the Carleton campus.


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