On Tuesday, we met as a class in the Carleton archives in the basement of the library. There, Nat Wilson talked to us about what is included in the college archives and how we can go about utilizing them as a resource for our research. He talked to us about the Women’s League Cabin, which we’d already discussed as a class before, and showed us some of the archives–pictures, letters, and records–housed there that related to the cabin.
After that, we all rode over to Faribault, a town about 20 minutes from Northfield, and visited the Rice County Historical Society that resides there. Inside, we met a retired archaeologist who showed us the museum’s collection of Native American artifacts, which included arrowheads, axe heads, tools, and potsherds dating from the paleoindian period to far more recent. He gave detailed information about how the artifacts were made, who made them, and how old they were. His professional insight was a good indicator of what the field of archaeology entails, and the people there stressed that one of the most important parts of being an archaeologist isn’t just knowing things, but knowing who to ask and where to look in order to find things out.
Rice County Historical Society Sign
An archaeologist tells the class about stone artifacts found in the area at the Rice County Museum of History.
After a brief tour of the museum gallery, we all climbed back into the vans and rode to Dundas, where we stopped at the site of the Archibald Mill ruins, left over from the days when this area was one of the most prosperous milling sites in the country. We studied a map that showed the locations of the numerous mills between Faribault and Red Wing along the Cannon River and its tributaries. We then had the chance to walk amongst the ruins themselves. They consisted of crumbling stone walls beside the bank of the river, and Alex pointed out the ruins of another mill on just the other side of the river. He also pointed out the spots in the walls where the masonry changed, indicating places that had been rebuilt when the mill was functional but plagued by constant fires that destroyed parts of the building.
Archibald Mill ruins in Dundas
On Thursday, we began the class with a visit from CCCE director and sociologist Adrienne Falcon, who spoke to us about the three essential components an academic civic engagement course entails: academic rigor, an impact or reach beyond the classroom, and a reciprocal relationship with the community. She then spoke, with several class members contributing, about what it means to give back to the community in the specific context of archaeology, how we might go about doing that, and some of the ethical questions involved. Several students brought up this course’s ability to help provide more information about local history to the community and several methods through which we might share our findings.
Following her visit, the class rearranged the chairs in the room into a circle to begin a class discussion of the past few classes worth of readings. Alex introduced the discussion by framing the readings into three general categories. Some of the readings, as well as our field trips on Tuesday, dealt with local Minnesota and Northfield history, from prehistory to the present. Others, primarily the textbook, outlined more technical archaeological methods. Finally, readings like Deetz’s In Small Things Forgotten explored archaeological thought, how archaeologists think and create narratives based on material objects. From there the class began a wide-ranging discussion of our impressions and interpretations of the readings, largely centering on Deetz’s book. We discussed the role of space, style, materials, the context, cultural attitudes, and ethical question of stakeholders. In the final, third portion of the class, students split up into groups based on the general locations they focused on for their essays on local places of historical interest. After sharing and comparing finds within groups, the class reconvened to share as a group and to tie everything together.