Monday, June 22, 2015

Open House Welcome

Dear Visitors, Guests, and Friends,
Let me invite you to the 2015 Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project’s Open House. This year’s theme is “Seeking Shelter from the Storm: Architecture in Eighteenth Century New France.” This is an appropriate theme because we have recovered significant architectural evidence from our site investigations including fireplaces, foundation walls, wooden posts, and hardware like hinges, pintles, and ubiquitous nails.
All human societies made and used architecture. Differences in architecture provide clues about past cultural practices related to technology (methods of construction), social organization (group size), settlement mobility (building permanence), and belief systems (houses of prayer and ritual).  The study of shelters and other buildings is also an opportunity to reflect on the spaces that we construct, inhabit, and use today.
Strap hinge with a spear finial recovered from Fort St. Joseph (photo by John Lacko)

Imagine that you are living in the St. Joseph River valley 300 years ago. Native peoples welcomed French fur traders, soldiers, and priests to the area. In winter, it’s cold and snowy. In summer, it’s hot. No one has indoor plumbing, electricity, or air conditioning. There are no matches to make fires—no internet, cable, or cell phones. There is no Lowe’s®, Walmart®, Home Depot®, or a lumberyard nearby. If you lived in a Native village or at Fort St. Joseph in 1730:
*Where would you locate your house? What other buildings would you need?
*What would your house look like?
*How would you build it? What construction materials would you use?
*Who would you live with?
*What would you do on a daily basis inside and outside of your house?
*How would your life be different than it is today?

We welcome you to consider these questions and the importance of architecture in our lives as you:
*meet living history re-enactors who demonstrate daily life of the fur trade community that used the fort
*see architectural hardware and other artifacts on display from past and current excavations
*witness architectural evidence exposed in the ground in ongoing archaeological excavations of the fort
*listen to lectures, presentations, and demonstrations from experts in colonial life
*enjoy opportunities to interact with student archaeologists involved in bringing the eighteenth century to life
Artist's conception courtesy of the Archaeological Conservancy
Fort St. Joseph, one of the most important archaeological sites in the western Great Lakes, was first located on the ground and investigated by Western Michigan University archaeologists in 1998. Since then, a partnership was created between the City of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum, Support the Fort, Inc., and other community groups to investigate and interpret the site. Thousands of artifacts, including architectural evidence and remains of daily life, have been recovered that provide insight into the military, commercial, residential and religious activities of the colonial period when the French and British interacted with local Native American groups.
The Open House is an opportunity to learn about the men, women, and children of the Fort St. Joseph fur trade community who inhabited this region over 250 years ago! Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at this community event and be sure to tell us what you think in the survey waiting for you. We look forward to your comments and the chance to continue sharing our findings as part of our education and outreach program in public archaeology.

Michael Nassaney, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project

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