Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Archaeology in the Community: Ryan Murdoch

Hi folks,

My name is Ryan and I am an undergraduate student in psychology at Western Michigan University. I am enrolled in Dr. Nassaney’s class “Anthropology in the Community”, and as Ann has already said, we are researching how rivers and waterways interact with and impact the community of Niles, especially as it relates to Fort Saint Joseph.

Niles Board and Paper Co. 1912
(Image pulled from: https://thekingbug.wordpress.com/category/st-joseph-river/page/2/ )
My research partner Alex and I have decided to focus our research industry on and around the St. Joseph River, possibly starting from the settlement of the fort and leading up into more modern times. We are interested in everything from the fur trade, and how the river was used as a means of transportation for industry, to factory life on the river.

            By the end of this project we hope to uncover which industries were most important to the community of Niles at various times in its history, and help readers of our panel to be able to quickly travel through time and understand the importance of these various businesses, and the river, to the local community. We will hopefully be involved with a local partner from the City of Niles, who will be able to generate a lot of information on the area’s various industries, and condense this information into a viewer friendly panel for the open house!


-Ryan Murdoch

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Anthropology in the Community

Hi everyone, my name is Anne and I’m an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University, majoring in Anthropology. I am currently enrolled in Dr. Nassaney’s class, Anthropology in the Community and completing independent study under his supervision. I plan to attend the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological field school in the summer, but until then this class will be the next best thing!

In this class, we are partnering with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and will be providing it with informational panels regarding rivers and waterways for its open house this upcoming summer. The St. Joseph River, as I’m sure you all know, HUGELY impacts the excavation of Fort St. Joseph and it will be the focus of our research. We will be exploring various aspects of this waterway, and deciding upon specific themes for our panels. Some different ideas that we have tossed around so far have included river resources, transportation along the river, recreation, industry, and daily life (among others). For some of these theme ideas, we have discussed focusing on the past and present ways in which the river was/is playing a role. One thing that I think will be very interesting to learn is how river resources were manipulated around the time of the fort’s occupation compared to how they are now, as well as how access to certain resources has changed over time!


In applying anthropological methods to our research, we are hoping to better understand how anthropology can be useful in communities. In collaborating with community members of Niles, we will gain important knowledge of the area that one cannot just access on the Internet, as well as tighten the bonds that the fort already maintains with the community! We will all benefit greatly from this experience in various ways and gain a deeper understanding of the local history. We will keep you all posted as we progress with this project and can’t wait to learn more about the St. Joseph River!

-Anne Volpe

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Career Cruising with Fort St. Joseph


Hello all, Genevieve here again.

Genna working with an interested student
            I am also among some of the students from the 2015 FSJ field school that have decided to work with Dr. Nassaney in the Independent Study course this semester. One of the most rewarding things about participating in this course is that we have the privilege to attend many important activities on campus and around Kalamazoo, if not around the country. Recently, some of the students in this course, including myself, were able to participate in WMU’s Career Cruising event for middle school students in the area. This WMU event allows students to broaden their career options by exposing them to different fields. There were several stations set up presenting different departments at Western. We represented the Anthropology department along with a biological anthropology professor and graduate student. Middle school students came in small groups, to which we presented a short activity teaching them how we use the material objects that previous humans have left behind in order to determine what these peoples’ lives were like or what activities they participated in.

A biological anthropologist showing different kinds of bones
            When asked the question “what is an archaeologist?” we are used to the occasional response of “oh, well you find dinosaur bones”. Many archaeologists may chuckle or grimace at this response, but we, as students ourselves, take this as an enormous teaching opportunity. Teaching children about the function of archaeology in everyday life and expanding their views of archaeology as a future career is a key component of getting support in this amazing field. We planted a seed in hundreds of middle school minds to get them thinking about themselves as future archaeologists. Getting the youth excited about archaeology is so rewarding. Many had no idea that archaeology happened around the United States let alone right around their community with the FSJ project. These events are a huge focus of ours when it comes to creating support for the project and for the Anthropology department at Western. Make sure to tell the middle school students in your life about the amazing opportunities that the FSJAP offers with our Summer Camps. For more information on the summer camps be sure to check out our flyer at: https://wmich.edu/fortstjoseph/docs/2016CamperFlyer.pdf
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           - Genna

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fort St. Joseph at the SHAs

The Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) annual conference in Washington D.C. was a great way to start the New Year. This was my first conference which I attended and it was a great experience. I got to see several great presentations that really caught my interest and I got to present my project that I had been working on for the past six months. I got to work with the other students from Western Michigan University to prepare for my speech and I gained a lot of new knowledge on how to present and what a good paper looks like.
Austin George presenting at the SHA

Presenting at such a young age really opened my eyes as to what I need to do next. While I was at the conference I learned a lot about all the different types of archaeology and projects that were going on around the world that I could research more about. I enjoyed hearing presentations that related to events and activities that took place at Fort St. Joseph. Erika Loveland said, “Attending and presenting at the SHA’s was great! I was able to go to talks on a variety of topics that I am interested in as well as receive feedback and ideas on my own research.” We all learned a little bit more and got a lot of good feedback on our presentations which will help us in future times to come. As John Cardinal stated, “The first time going to the SHA's annual conference was an enjoyable and exciting opportunity where I was able to discover new projects, presented a poster focusing on the 2015 field season, and won a number of awards in the ACUA's photo contest. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience.”

Fort St. Joseph alumni in Washington D.C.
Getting the opportunity to attend and present at the SHA’s was such a rewarding opportunity for me. It was neat to see the past generations that have worked at the fort and get to hear stories about events that happened during their field season. The really neat part was when they told us about their jobs and where they were going in their lives. I really enjoyed the conference and cannot wait for next year.
-Austin George

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hello again everyone! 

After coming home from field school this past July, I knew that I wanted to stay involved with the project as much as possible, so I decided to take on an independent study under Dr. Nassaney along with a few other students from this past season. One of the tasks I’ve been focusing on for my independent study is working on a voice over recording for a video geared towards our week-long middle school camp held annually each summer. 

Liz showing the video to a fellow student 

Previously in the season, Stephen Ketner came out to film some of our middle school campers. Steve used some of this footage to piece together a promotional video called “Get Dirty!” The project is planning on distributing the video to the Niles area schools to get middle school students interested in our summer camp. This video highlights some of the best parts of our summer camp program, including how to identify, care for, and preserver artifacts. I spent about an hour in the studio with Steve recording the script that myself, Becca, Gary, and James worked on this summer. A few months ago, I was able to view the finished product of the video and it looks great! Keep an eye out for this video and make sure to contact the Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles to find out how you can register your middle school student for our summer camp. 

You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFSPMLdgSPM 

Get ready to get dirty!
-Elizabeth Mantyck

Monday, January 11, 2016

Laboratory Work Continues

Despite the summer being over, work for the Project hasn’t ended. This past semester, four students from this summer’s field school along with the staff have been working on things in the lab back at WMU. We have cataloged our artifacts from this past summer, entering them into a digital database, as well as updated the Project’s fliers, brochures and public outreach opportunities.  We also have had several opportunities to attend public outreach events.
Rebecca Stoddard works with Michael Nassaney in the lab.
Starting in September, Dr. Nassaney worked with students to catalog new artifacts. We learned more about the characteristics of our artifacts, helping us to identify each one. Once the artifacts are initially cataloged we then entered them into an online database, called PastPerfect.  This program allows us to look back and easily locate each of our artifacts, rather than digging through a box to find them. Along with working with the artifacts we have updated the Project’s summer camp and teacher fliers. The Project was present at multiple public events this fall. In October a group of us went to Michigan Archaeology Day in Lansing, as well as MHAC in Minneapolis. These were great opportunities to engage with the public and promote the Project. In January we are also sending a group to attend the SHA conference Washington D.C.

As we wrap up our projects for this semester and start thinking of our projects for next semester we will be working more towards public outreach. We will be doing this so that we can hopefully get the word out to more people and a younger group of people on what archaeology is and what the Fort St. Joseph project is. One of the projects will be a teaching program which we will be visiting different middle school and elementary school locations in Kalamazoo county to spend the day sharing information about archaeology with students and teachers. The project is still in its draft stages but we hope to include details on how archaeologists conduct their field work and to include information about the coming 2016 Fort St. Joseph Archaeological field season.

Monday, November 16, 2015

MHAC 2015

The Mill City Museum could not have been a more apropos setting for this year’s Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference (MHAC) which was held on October 10-11, 2015. The conference was first held in 2005, envisioned by the senior editor of Le Journal, and has been hosted annually throughout the Midwest region ever since. With approximately 50 people in attendance, this year’s meeting was a resounding success for all those who attended.
Many of the themes for this year’s presiding; war and conflict, industry, immigration, and exploitation, were visible both in the museum’s content, and in the keynote address presented Friday night by Dr. Paul Shackle. His focus centered on the excavations and community involved with the site of the Lattimer Massacre. The Lattimer coal mine near Hazleton Pennsylvania was the site of a peaceful protest that turned tragic when 19 strikers were shot by the local sheriff and his posse.

Photo credit: Jeremy Nienow
Saturday Morning began with two rounds of “Ignite” style presentations (see appendix E for a full list of presentations and authors); each speaker was provided five minutes to discuss his or her topic. The themes for these talks expanded upon what was started by Paul Shackle the night before. Warfare and conflict was the topic of the first set of presentations, the focus being primarily on Fort Snelling and the Dakota Conflict. Industry, immigration, and exploitation were the concentrations for the second round of talks. After the presentations, a period of time was allocated so that attendees could tour the museum and surrounding area. After lunch the conference resumed with a session entitled “Knowledge Caf├ęs” which coincided with specific time set for poster displays. This portion divided those attending into groups of approximately six per table, and the speakers from the morning sessions sat one to a table. After a brief period of time, the speakers rotated which facilitated further conversation about the topics presented; the commitment to intimate discussion is a hallmark of this conference. The conference concluded with a few words from Dr. Michael Nassaney hailing the success of this conference and calling for volunteers to host next year’s gathering.