We are blogging as we dig into the archaeological records archived at Independence National Historical Park (INDE) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. These records were created over the past 50 years as archaeologists researched sites within the park's boundaries. The Independence Park Archives is currently creating a Guide for this vast collection of documents. This blog serves toward that end. It functions as a platform where archaeologists, archivists, and the interested public can share ideas about how to make these materials more widely available and more useful to the user.
Read more about this project blog...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reporting On This Research...

Discoveries found while digging in the Independence Park Archives are to be the subject of an upcoming talk at the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology Chapter 21 meeting:

Ultra Sonic Inventions, a Cold War Landscape, and Reclaimed Wetlands: New Archaeological Discoveries From the Independence National Historical Park Archives. Presented by Patrice L. Jeppson, Ph.D.

When: Wednesday June 1st
at 7:00 pm
Where: Joanna Furnace (Directions)

This talk will report on some of the discoveries emerging in the archaeological records management project chronicled in this blog. The 50+ years worth of archaeological field notes, administrative reporting, assorted correspondence, and contracts provides important insights into the development of American Historical Archaeology and the history of American memory-making in one National Park. The talk will highlight several of these new findings discovered to date including some 'Firsts' in archaeological lab and field methods, a possible contribution to the National Register of Cold War Archaeological sites, and an Independence Mall 'doppelganger' site along the Susquehanna.

The Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology "
was organized in 1929 to promote the study of the prehistoric and historic archaeological resources of Pennsylvania and neighboring states; to encourage scientific research and discourage exploration which is unscientific or irresponsible in intent or practice; to promote the conservation of archaeological sites, artifacts, and information; to encourage the establishment and maintenance of sources of archaeological information such as museums, societies, and educational programs; to promote the dissemination of archaeological knowledge by means of publications and forums; and to foster the exchange of information between the professional and the avocational archaeologists".

SPA 21 is an active group of professional and avocational archaeologists operating in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Chapter #21, the John Shrader Chapter, meets on the 1st Wedensday each month at 7:00/7:30 p.m., at the Joanna Furnace, Berks County, PA. For information, contact Chapter Representative (and PDOT archaeologist) Cathy Spohn: (610) 678-1274 or email: cspohn@state.pa.us . You can follow the groups many exciting doings on their Facebook page.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

INHP 1950’s Mall Debris → Fill for reclaiming wetlands?

Add Image

Chickies Rock and
a Pennsylvania Railroad Low Grade (rail siding) located northwest of Columbia, PA, along the Susquehanna River. Oral history and brief preliminary research suggest that demolition debris created during the construction of Independence Mall in the 1950's may have been used to fill in a lake located adjacent to this segment of rail line.

Has new oral history given us insight into a new Independence NHP-related archaeology site? Possibly so!

A possible important archaeological and archival insight emerged out of the blue this week when the chief of the History branch at INHP (Jed Levin) traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to serve as keynote speaker for the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County's 44th annual meeting.

The delivered talk was about the Independence Mall re-development project (in specific, the President's House site) --but the urban archaeology and mall-based focus of the presentation led to new oral history information about a possible new Independence Park-related historical archaeology site.

After the speech, four different members of the event's audience spoke to us (myself and Jed Levin) about how rubble from the original Independence Mall development, circa 1950's, was sent by railroad car from Philadelphia to be used as land fill in Lancaster County.

According to these oral history informants, demolition debris from the (original) Mall development was taken to a location along the Sesquahanna River between the towns of "Columbia and Marietta". There it was used "to fill Kerbaugh's Lake" which was "located between Chiques/Chickies Rock" hill and "Point Rock" (also known by one informant as "Spinning Wheel Rock"). In that spot the railroad line runs in a straight line along the river's edge and a lake formed on the other side of the tracks (between the rail line and the hillside) when the river overflowed. The informants remember the debris from the Mall development being used to fill up the lake.

Demolition Debris as an Artifact
In creating Independence Park several hundred 18th and 19th century buildings were demolished leaving the open green spaces seen today. At the time, the building rubble was routinely pushed into the pre-existing subterranean (below ground) basement spaces with the fill contents leveled off at the ground surface. Any remaining debris was carted away. (Note: Current procedures deal differently with construction debris that is created or encountered in the park.) Photographs taken at the time also show earth moving equipment digging below ground grade while creating the Mall. This image (adjacent), posted at the ushistory.org web page, is a 1951 photograph taken by the Evening Bulletin newspaper (Urban Archives, Temple University). It shows the demolition of 524-530 Market Street, including deep earth moving activity in the location of the President's House ruins.

Demolition debris deposits dating to the park's creation have regularly been encountered during archaeological work in the park, most recently at the Mall sites of the National Constitution Center (constructed 2000-2003), the Liberty Bell Pavillion (constructed 1999-2001), and the President's House site commemoration (excavated in 2007). The debris is composed of building elements (for example, wood, stone, mortar, brick, plaster, and cement structural remains) along with material culture evidence (namely domestic and small industry-related artifacts).

These artifacts were generally items long ago deposited in brick lined shafts (privies, and wells), root cellars, and or trash pits, or were materials broadcast onto backyard ground surfaces. These material remains relate to the life experience of the city's resident's from the 18th through the mid-20th century and reflect the development of a major urban and industrial city. These 'time capsules' of history were eventually (often times) impacted by construction of later 19the and 20th century development of the city, including development of the Mall at Independence.

In recent years it has become clear that Native American life experience in the area that become the city of Philadelphia can survive, in-situ, the ravages of city development. Indeed, a fantastic on-line exhibit about this at the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum's web page includes Native American archaeological remains discovered during the recent Mall re-development (at the site of the National Constitution Center). However, this means, in turn, that Native American material culture evidence from the shores of the Delaware River could also be part of the relocated Independence Mall construction debris now buried along the Susquehanna.

It is generally difficult for us to imagine demolition debris-- urban fill--as cultural evidence but this product of human actions is, technically, a cultural artifact. At Independence Park it forms part of a constructed landscape (an urban park space created in the making of a commemoration to the birth of the nation, and before that an urban metropolis, and it contains material culture residues (artifact evidence) that can inform us about American and Philadelphia history. Consider that in the Near East such urban debris deposits -- known as tels-- are a fundamental resource exploited in archaeology.

But was the evidence of Philadelphia (and American) history relocated and buried in Lancaster County? And if so, what does it mean for Independence Park archival science and for historical archaeology?

Some Quick Research
A brief look at a Pennsylvania Railroad Technology and History webpage dedicated to the Atglen & Susquehana Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad (Keystone Crossings, edited by F. Abendshein) suggests a location for Kerbaugh Lake and some supporting evidence for its being filled. An annotation recorded for Lake Siding located at Mile Post 40 (likely 4.0) says the following:
Lake siding ended here at the base of spectacular Chickies Rock, a sheer cliff whose base was beside the A&S. Lake got its name from Kerbaugh Lake which the contractor formed while having the A&S cut off part of the Susquehanna by running straight rather than following the curve of the hills as the Columbia Branch did. In the 1963 flood the Susquehanna cut through both ends of the fill turning part of the A&S into an island. After World War II the PRR filled the lake in and it is now part of a Lancaster county park.
Likewise, the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society web page holds some promising information. A 2002 program for an event celebrating the centennial of the Rockville Bridge (The Rockville Limited) includes the following statement: "MP [Mile Post] 40.0 Lake R-"Cola". Named for down-river Kerbaugh Lake (now filled in), named for an A&S contractor for this section."

Columbia, Marietta, and Wrightsville, a book by F.H. Abendschein (Arcadia Publishing, 2009) reports similar information and includes images of the area under flood and during filling (see adjacent image)

Possibly helpf
ul in pinning down the location for this 'possible site' is information found in an archived chat board thread about Pennsylvania railroad tunnels (Sat. Oct. 5, 2002, Webcircle.com):
....in an 1866 act incorporating Columbia Bourough the Pennsylvania General Assembly defined the Bourough's borders. In the definition section the Act refers to "Point Rock Tunnel." If you're familiar with the area now that seems like a strange name. However in the 1800s this was a very logical name. Originally the canal followed the base of the hills between Marietta and Columbia. Point Rock stuck out in the Susquehanna and the canal simply swung out around it. When workers build the railroad between the canal and the hills there was enough room to do so except at Point Rock. There they choose to drill a tunnel rather than cut through the hill.

When the PRR built the Low Grade it took a straight line between the base of Chiques Hill (near Marietta) and Point Rock. This formed Kerbaugh Lake, named after one o
f the contractors, to the east of the low grade.....After WW2 th PRR filled in Kerbaugh Lake and ultimately tied in the the Columbia Branch to the Low Grade at the Columbia Yar. The railroad then pulled the tracks out from the base of the hills and the tunnel. .........here is Point Rock Tunnel [Microsoft Research Maps]....If you scroll NW you'll see filled-in Kerbaugh Lake and the original railroad's alignment, which is now a service road....
Current 'Site' Condition
A brief internet search also indicates that this potential site is possibly also somewhat protected (archaeologically-speaking as it is under the jurisdiction of a governmental agency--Chickies Rock County Park. The park's web page indicates that "A trail runs through the area of "Kerbaugh Lake", a reclaimed woodland and natural meadow between Chickies Hill and the river. The masthead image appears to depict the area in question (the lowland in the forefront of the picture, below the rock peak):

An Archival Coincidence!

When I reported Wednesday night's conversation to the Independence Park archivist it was karma! She picked up a piece of paper from her desk to show me that she is currently attempting to locate the documents related to the original mall construction. She told me she recently spoke to the archivist at the State Archives about whether the documents might be filed there. The project's records fell at the time under State jurisdiction as the Mall property was then managed by the Commonwealth.

This new information about a possible location for the Independence Mall development demolition fill-- material residues from within the park but no longer part of Independence Park--has now been documented in the archivist's Mall construction 'records search' file. This information will also be entered as a record in the INHP Archive's Archaeological Records Collection. This blog posting will in turn be forwarded to the sources named above, including the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation and the State Archives. This 'might' also help if someday, in the far distant future, someone recovers 17th-19th century-dating artifacts at this spot on the banks of the Susquehanna River: The site wouldn't be misidentified as a settlement that once existed, and then vanished, circa 1950.

Relocated but Still Relevant

Assuming all this above is correct (and it would require more than the aforementioned quick and dirty internet search to verify), this newly discovered 'possible site' is interesting and important archaeologically as it remains potentially relevant for study at a 'gross level scale of analysis'. It is true that the 'fill' material remains would not be in their primary context (not in their original place of deposition and use) and therefore would not be useful for site specific level study. However, the materials would remain a viable information source for a study at a higher level of scale of 'research context': They can be useful for a study comparing, for example, a North American 18th and 19th century cultural expression with a similar dating cultural expression located elsewhere (e.g., Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom).

'Global historical archaeology' has included and postulated research at higher levels of scale of analysis comparing and contrasting material cultural residues not at the level of the site but at the level of, for example, global colonial frontiers. Occasionally these efforts have included trash dumps and or fill sites where the artifacts are not found in a 'primary use' context but rather as part of a secondary deposit.

Of course, as mentioned before -- a 'fill' dump is akin, in essence, to the tel sites excavated in the Near East and someday this lake fill could comprise a valuable site for examining the birth of the US and the modern industrializing world. (Assuming this oral history is as suggested.)

Lastly, it should be remembered that urban archaeology is not just archaeology 'in' the city but archaeology 'about the city' -- the material past of the urban environment including the processes of building and rebuilding and depositing and redepositing fills. Therefore, while the (possible) 'site' is close to 100 miles away from Philadelphia, the relocated debris fill would remain an urban archaeology artifact reflecting and related to mid-20th century American notions about the city, urban debris, debris removal, and 'wetlands reclamation' all enacted within a modern economic system supported by an integrated transportation network.

Read more about sliding levels of scale of analysis in historical archaeology...

Deetz, James (1991) Archaeological Evidence of Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Encounters. In Historical Archaeology in Global Perspectives, edited by Lisa Falk, pp. 1-9. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Social Media and Archaeology Outreach

The Independence Park Archivist is attending the Society for American Archivist's (SAA) annual conference this month. We anticipate getting some new ideas that will be useful for accomplishing this Archeological Records Management Project -- as well as this blog's purpose and intent.* This month also saw the National Park Service Archeology Program release a Guide/Handbook for NPS Archeology Outreach outlining best practices, policies, and tools. This should likewise be useful to this Archives project and its blog. (See the Guide cover image above, arrow added).

This new Guide summarizes NPS requirements for Civic Engagement and public involvement in regards to archeology, referencing Director's Order #28A and the National Strategy for Federal Archeology both of which deal with, among many important concerns, facilitating use of archeological databases by managers and researchers, interpreting and sharing the results of archeological investigations, establishing programs of outreach as a regular agency function, and engaging the public in archeology through volunteer programs. (As mentioned before, this blog is generated by an NPS Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program participant).

Excitingly, the Guide draws upon Independence Park archeology outreach for one of its four case studies (the James Dexter Site). But more directly pertinent to the needs of this blog, it provides guidance for the implementation of NPS outreach via social media:

Social media provides the NPS with another way to promote outreach activities and create networks of interest groups. Opportunities include Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, butother platforms are available. Social media is both outreach and a way to spread news and information quickly about archeological outreach projects to a broad constituency. Outreach through social media keeps the NPS in the public's mind. Uses for social media range from announcements about special events to cancellations or closings to reminders about things to do, to building communities of people with shared concerns for NPS resources.... (Emphasis added to reflect the orientation of this project.)

NPS Archeology Guide table of contents. Part 5 deals with public involvement and Part 7 with Social Media.

The Guide draws on the 2007 NPS Brief (#19), Archeological Collections and the Public: Using Resources for Public Benefit which has been relied upon to date in the development of this project. This Brief outlines some the benefits for the public of archaeological collections (including archeological records collections) as seen by the managers of collections repositories across the nation. The case studies referenced show not just "the many ways that curators find archaeological collections to benefit audiences with different interests and needs" but also states that "outreach benefits the repositories themselves by offering opportunities to demonstrate the significance of the holdings, reinforce the importance of proper management, provide a valuable public service, fulfill institutional goals of outreach and research, and most of all, activate the potential of archaeology to benefit the public".

Just as Social Media as a platform for archaeological outreach forms a rapidly evolving sphere, so the study of archaeological records collections is evolving. For instance, an international, interdisciplinary, research initiative was recently launched to study archaeology's past practice. It is called the Histories of Archaeology Research Network (HARN) and it aims to preserve and study the social context of archaeological practice so as to supplement the documentary materials that are created in the practice of archaeology and which are archived for posterity. This includes, for example, gathering oral history about how various thoughts and ideas put into practice emerged and were developed.

This blog project attempts to do something in this vein by drawing on 20th century history, the historiography of American History, the history of Independence Park and the National Park Service, and the history of urban archaeology to contextualize (make better sense of) the Independence Park archaeological records (see for example, the posting Oral History!). These past months spent helping process the Central Files has been critical to this aim. These documents contain information relevant to the archaeological developments in Independence Park but the information is often not otherwise noted in the Archaeological Records Collection.

*We hope to report on this Archeological Records Management project and this blog to the Archival science community next year --as our plan this year did not come to pass. As mentioned in the last posting, we are reporting to the archaeological community in January.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sharing the Good Results

We will be presenting on the INHP Archaeological Records Collection and this Digging in the Archives Blog next January in Austin, Texas. By 'We' I mean Karen Stevens --the Independence Park Archivist --and me --Patrice L. Jeppson, Historical Archaeologist and National Park Service Volunteer-In-Parks Program participant.

We will be taking part in a Society for Historical Archaeology conference symposium dedicated to collaborative outreach methods and techniques. We have titled our contribution "Blogging on An Archaeological Records Collection: Archive Outreach and Creating a User-Friendly Access Plan". Other outreach mediums that will be presented in the symposium include print publication, Film, the public lab, the archaeology classroom, Performance Art, mobile technologies, and 3D visualizations.

Here is what we proposed to talk about:
"Digging in the Archives" is an Internet blog associated with an archaeological records collection management project underway at the Archives in Independence National Historical Park. This archived documentation includes 50+ years worth of field notes, artifact logs, photographs, and site reports related to the research, preservation, and interpretation of historical archaeology sites. The Blog created for this project features interesting finds "excavated" from the files and presents musings about the Park's archaeological history and historiography. However, this blog contributes substantively in another way: The interactive nature of the Web 2.0 platform provides a productive working space where archaeologists, archivists, and the interested public can share ideas about how to make this collection more widely available and more useful to the user. This presentation will introduce the collection and demonstrate how this archaeological records-based blog is contributing toward the development of a more user-friendly Archives Access Plan. (Key Words: Blogging, Archives Collections Management, Collaboration)

Sure to be mentioned in the presentation will be an interesting document recently processed in the Archives that connects the blog project with the SHA conference. This document was written by the Archeologist John Cotter. The year was 1976, and Independence National Historical Park was a sponsor of the Society for Historical Archaeology meeting that was taking place in Philadelphia that year. The archived documentation also indicates that this conference of archaeologists who studied American History was the first event scheduled for the city on the official Bicentennial-year calendar. Cotter helped to bring the SHA conference to Philadelphia and then he brought the conference attendees to the Park to see its historical archaeology sites (the schedule of activities for that tour is also housed in the archives).

John Cotter was an National Park Service Regional Archeologist for many years and hundreds of papers, images, and other materials related to his work in Independence Park are stored in the Archaeological Records Collection in the Independence Park Archives. Cotter taught the first class in American Historical Archaeology ever taught in an American university (the University of Pennsylvania) and he was the first elected President of the Society for Historical Archaeology. Today, his contributions to the field are recognized by the Society for Historical Archaeology's John L. Cotter Award established in 1998, and in NPS by the John Cotter Excellence in National Park Service Archeology Award.

Dr. Cotter was a strong advocate of education and outreach in archaeology. I think that he would like the idea of this blog as a way to share archaeology information and as a way to engage with those interested in using archaeological information. He would likely be pleased as well that the blog is being presented on at the Society for Historical Archaeology's annual meeting.

Learn more:

The Society for Historical Archaeology

Witness to the Past: The Life and Works of John L. Cotter
Edited by Daniel G. Roberts and David G. Orr
Society for American Archaeology/Society for Historical Archaeology Press

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What is old is new again!

Several memo's, photographs, and reports created during the earliest years of Independence Park's development have become lost to institutional memory due both to the passage of time and because the reporting route 'up the chain of command' in earlier years directed some archaeological materials to the Central Files (as opposed to the Archaeological Records Collection).

Processing the archived documentation in the Central Files today is bringing this information forward for the Park's current cultural resource management needs. This rediscovered archaeological documentation is now being indexed for cross-filing and or refiling as part of the archaeological documents collection.

One case in point is a 1957 report detailing a short exploratory archaeological excavation conducted in the basement of the John Wagner Building that once stood at 233 Dock Street. (Left image above). This early archaeological excavation involved testing at the bottom of the basement steps of the building after it was vacated, prior to its demolition as part of the making of the Park. In this space, the first Independence Visitors Center was built in 1976 (see the 2009 photo, above right, of the southeast wing of the building).

Thirty years later, after the new Visitors Center was built at 5th and Market, the old building came to serve as the Independence Living History Center housing the Public Archeology Lab and the Independence Park Institute's educational classrooms. Over the past five years, tens of thousands of people have visited the Lab to see how history is learned from the Park's archaeological artifacts.

Now this piece of land containing the old Visitors Center is being decommissioned from the National Park Service in a land-swap with the American Revolution Center. The early 1957 report is newly relevant because the Programmatic Agreement and Notice of Realty Action associated with this land transfer requires an archaeological study to assess the potential for cultural resources. The 1957 report was called upon in preparing this assessment. (See the cover image of the report above.) This early archaeological study took place on a property lot directly adjacent to the land now being swapped.

At the time of its creation in 1957, the archeological report concluded that little of significance was found and, given the mission of the Park and the interpretive themes of the day, this was true. Today, with the maturation of historical archaeology as a disciplinary study and the evolution of American History understanding in general, this report's minor findings have new importance. While information about notable personages was not forthcoming (an early research focus), there was evidence of a basement from a previously dating structure still found surviving two feet under the floor of the (later) 19th century, Wagner Building's basement. There was also information relevant to the course of Dock Creek and the artifact assemblage included numerous cow horn pieces indicative of the types of trades (slaughter houses, soap makers and tanners) known to have bordered the waterway during the early decades of the city.

This information was less important for the Park needs as they existed almost 40 years ago but these early findings today are useful for assessing what evidence might possibly survive the ravages of time as the property developed. Today we look back at this and other reports and see that it was clear from early on that 19th century cellars did not obliterate all earlier 18th century evidence. We also see evidence related to everyday life of 'We the People' at the time of the birth of the nation.

Importantly, we also have insight into how restricted in scope some early Park archaeological studies sometimes were. In the case of the Wagner Building excavation, the testing was done at the foot of the basement stairs where natural light remained available --because there was no longer any electricity in the building. This limitation is important to take into account today as archaeologists use earlier research findings to assess cultural resource sensitivity in park planning. Knowing what conditioned those 'peeks into the ground' is therefore critical.

Wagner & Sons:
First established in 1847, the specialty foods firm of John Wagner and Sons long operated at 233 Dock Street. They sold Cuban cigars, fine Spanish and French wines, and spices and tea from the East which came into the docks of Philadelphia and which the firm then often delivered to hinterland customers via pony express (Wagner Gourmet Foods, Inc. 1997).

In 1950, in preparation for building Independence Park, the National Park Service took photographs of the interior of the Wagner building prior to the buildings acquisition and demolition. These photos of the John Wagner & Sons salesroom and humidor are on file in the Independence Park Archive's Photographic Study Collection.

Learn More....

ExplorePAHistory.com provides details about the Wagner Museum in Ivyland, PA which is dedicated to the history of the John Wagner & Sons firm.

B. Bruce Powell
1957 Exploratory Excavation in the Basement of the John Wagner Building. On file, Independence Park Archives.

John Milner Associates, Inc.,
2010 Independence National Historical Park, Archeological Sensitivity Study (Phase I Archeological Assessment), Independence Living History Center, North Lot. (Soon to be likewise posted at the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum web page under 'local reports'.

Wagner Gourmet Foods, Inc.
1997 News Release, Wagner Gourmet Foods, Inc. Celebrates 150-year Anniversary. Prepared for 43rd Annual International Fancy Food and Confection Show, NY, NY.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Known at last!

A long missing piece of the Franklin house rediscovery story was finally found this past week. While processing a folder in the Central Files a letter was discovered that lists the names of the four men who assisted NPS Archaeologist Paul J.F. Schumacher in locating and identifying the Franklin mansion ruins....Willie Ransom, Odell Sample, George David, and Wilson Bachus!

(Above) Photographs depicting members of the field crew that located Franklin's house ruins are glued into Schumacher's report (1956:8) entitled "Preliminary Exploration of Franklin Court Archeological Project No. 4, May-Sept. 1953.
Abstracted portion of a 1953 letter (Schumacher to Noonan, May 19, 1953) listing the names of the field crew.

Identifying these individuals has been a concern of mine since 2003, when I learned of their participation in the excavation during research conducted for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Consortium (Jeppson 2005). The very first day of that project turned up eight black and white photographs (archaeological site record shots) glued into a preliminary site report written by Schumacher in 1956. These photographs revealed that the field crew who relocated the Franklin house ruins were African American -- something not commonly known today.

The role these men played in the excavation was explained by a contract typed on onion skin paper found in the files alongside the 1956 report. Entitled, "Estimate for Excavation of Benjamin Franklin's Court to locate and record all walls which may give us clues as to the location of Benjamin Franklin's home" (Schumacher 1953a), this document also provided the pay scale for an Archaeologist (GS-9 at $422 per month) and "6 laborers...if at union wages...$1.75 per hour" --along with a recommendation for employing workers from Local 57, the Laborer's International Union which is a construction and industry or building trades union (Schumacher 1953a:1). Schumacher's field notes (1953b), also stored in the Archives, report on the first day of excavation (in May 1953) that four laborers were hired from the union at this pay.

(Top) Schumacher's 1953 typed field notes, page 1. (Middle) The field notes for this date document that when APS funding ran out, the union workers were hired by NPS. (Bottom) Schumacher's field notes are presumably typed up from his handwritten draft after the fact, as attested to by this summary of hours on the last page of the notes.

Secondary research on the history of Franklin Court's discovery undertaken in 2005 provided some context for this labor history finding that the archaeological labor wage paid to Ransom and the others was $1 higher than the then current minimum wage (Jeppson 2007). (The National Average Wage Index for 1953 was $3140, the Median Wage Index for a family was $4100, and the minimum wage was .75 cents an hour.) Wage data for the period also reveals that Black households in the Northern states have two-times the income of those in the South (US Census Bureau Historical Income Table P-53 2004; Full time employee annual wage 1953). Union membership among Blacks in Philadelphia is presumably partly responsible for the higher Northern incomes.

But while the materials in the archaeological documents collection included photographs of, and employment details about, these men, their names remained unidentified --until now. The only hints came from a field note entry dated May 26, 1953, but the notation wasn't clear as to whether monikers or surnames were being referenced: "It poured...two men showed up (Ransom and Sample)".

So now the names of the co-rediscoverers of Franklin's mansion are known! The letter found this week in the Central Files was written May 19, 1953 and is from Schumacher to the Assistant Secretary of the American Philosophical Society (Schumacher 1956c). It summarizes the wages for the field crew -- and in doing so, identifies them by name!

INHP Archives materials referenced in this posting:
Schumacher, Paul J. F.
1953 a. Estimate for Excavation of Benjamin Franklin's Court [Archaeological Project No. 30, renumbered as "4"]. Schumacher, Acc. No. 59, Series 1: Reports, Box 10, Folders 1-3.

1953b. Archaeological Field Notes: Franklin Court Archeology - East Side-- Archeological Project No. 4. Schumacher, Acc. No. 59. Series 1: Reports, Box 10, Folders 1-3.

1953c. Letter (copy) to Julia Noonan (APS) May 19, 1953. Central Files, Box 34: Arch. Structures Franklin Court--Master Plan, 1953.

1956. Preliminary Exploration of Franklin Court Archeological Project No. 4, May-Sept. 1953. Acc. No. 117. Series 1: Reports Box 10, Folder 12.

Other References cited...
Jeppson, Patrice L.
2007. Civil Religion and Civically Engaged Archaeology: Researching Benjamin Franklin and the Pragmatic Spirit. In B. Little and P. Schackel edited, Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement. Pages 173-202. Lanham Maryland: Alta Mira Press.

2005. Historical Fact, Historical Memory: An Assessment of the Archaeology Evidence Related to Benjamin Franklin. Historical Archaeology research undertaken for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Consortium. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On file: INHP.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cold War Archaeology?

Mosler Safe Company vault, post a detonation at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s Nevada Test site, ca, 1957. (Press Release photo filed with related correspondence, Central Files, INHP).

Recent discoveries in the Archives at Independence National Historical Park include evidence related to an important period in American history – the almost five decades of military tension and economic and political hostilities (later 1940s-early 1990s) waged between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and their affiliated allies and satellite states that is known as 'the Cold War'. Among its many impacts, this period of history left an important cultural landscape in the United States, including, it appears, a possible Cold War archaeology component at Independence National Historical Park.

Letters, reports, and photographs in the Central Files record the government’s concern for protecting the nation’s cultural icons in the event of an atomic or nuclear bomb attack. These archived documents include calls for action as well as background studies generated for possible implementation. Anything made or modified within Independence Park in response to such measures that in turn left an archaeological trace might now comprise a cultural resource. Such archaeological evidence might also be relevant for evaluation for the National Register of Historic Places’ inventory of Cold War Resources, 1945-1989 . If so, this would mean that this archival project has identified possible new archaeological sites heretofore unknown (archaeologically) and now relevant ‘due to the passage of time’. At a minimum, this archives project has assisted the park in its archaeological management objectives.

Some brief background on Cold War Archaeology:
While a relatively new topic of focus within historical archaeology, this is a fascinating and active area of research. Teams of researchers have been recording a vast range of Cold War related sites, monuments, and installations. This work has been undertaken mostly in the US and the UK, but examples from other areas exist as well (for example, a Swedish-Cuban research project at a base in the Cuban countryside). The artifacts and cultural landscape modifications left from this recent past include monitoring posts, radar sites, missile testing grounds, airfields, communication networks, command bunkers, test ranges, space objects, as well as the protest camps created by those opposed to the era’s military developments. All these reflect an unprecedented spending on defense, a worldview characterized by fear (including the threat of nuclear annihilation)—and a range of responses designed to neutralize that fear.

In the US, much of this archaeology has been part of the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program and the findings are the result of cultural inventory studies. In the UK this research has been primarily university-based academic research.

Independence Park and the Cold War
Among the materials related to this topic that are stored in the Independence Park Archives are the contents in the Central Files filed under Archeological and Historic Structures. Included are newspaper clippings, letters, proposals, and photographs – all cultural artifacts of the Park’s Cold War experience. Here below is one example -- a 1956 Philadelphia Inquirer article reporting that the Philadelphia Civil Defense Council’s Executive Director called for a vault to protect the Liberty Bell from an H-Bomb.

The files in the Archives reveal that various options for a vault were considered but not followed through on -- although a brief conversation with INHP historian Anne Coxie TooGood indicates that an initial effort was undertaken for at least one of these options. This information suggests that, at the very least, there could be some archaeological evidence in-situ, namely soil stains produced from bore corings that tested the ground down to 30 feet below the surface.

The processing work that comprises this archival project identifies those materials needing conservation and other attention --such as the the fifty three year-old page above bearing a taped newspaper article, or the above photograph which has now been tagged for relocation to a photo storage area. The processing is also identifying archaeologically relevant materials not regularly catalogued as part of the archaeological records collection. In this case, the project has identified evidence related to the cultural landscape of the recent past, and identified information relevant to archaeology's contribution to understanding and preserving resources related to the Cold War.

Learn More about Cold War Archaeology:
Johnson, William Gray
2002. “Archaeological Examination of Cold War Architecture: A cultural response to the threat of nuclear war", in John Schofield, William Gray Johnson & Colleen M. Beck (eds), Matériel Culture. The Archaeology of Twentieth-Century Conflict, One World Archaeology 44, London & New York, pp. 227-235.

Space: The Final [Archaeological] Frontier. By P.J. Capelotti. Archaeology Magazine Volume 57 Number 6, Nov/Dec 2004

Schofield, John and Wayne Cocroft (ed.)
2007. A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse Legacies of the Cold War (One World Archaeology). University College London Institute of Archaeology Publications. Walnut Creek, USA, Berg; Left Coast Press, 336pp.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roots That Time Has Redefined

Field Report photograph, 1953 excavation of Franklin Mansion (Schumacher 1956:8).

Before there was an Independence National Historical Park there was archaeological research undertaken for what was to become the park. The first work (depicted above in an archived report) was conducted just over fifty years ago at the site of Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia mansion by the American Philosophical Society (APS) and the National Park Service (NPS).

At that time, APS undertook the excavation both as a memorial tribute to their founder (Franklin) on the 250th anniversary of his birth and as a research endeavor not unlike the expeditions APS sponsored, a half century earlier, that fostered Americanist Archaeology in its incipient period. NPS interest in the house site served the needs of the Master Plan for a national shrine to democracy (the soon to be Independence National Historical Park) which would include a park unit dedicated to local Philadelphia history and, in particular, to Franklin.

Franklin Court as the site became known (and interpreted) in Independence Park is a seminal urban archaeology site – and, until recently, the historical archaeology understandings that emerged in its early excavations have continued to shape the trajectory of Independence Park archaeology --and hence the understandings of early American history.

One of these very early dating assumptions about the Independence Park archaeological record has now been overturned. It involves the preservation of the archaeological evidence below ground in those areas with susequent building construction. The Independence Park Archive Archeological Records Collection reveals how this - an early understanding about the area's archaeological resource base --emerges and then transitions into a set principle determining the development and maintenance of archaeology in the park over time.

This past month I have been processing early archaeology-related administrative files in the Park Archives. In this collection I have come across what is likely the first time a recommendation is made regarding the state of the archaeological evidence buried below the city streets. It is a recommendation in a report detailing the results of the first episode of work at Franklin Court. It is written by Paul Schumacher, the archaeologist in charge of the 1953 and 1955 excavations at the site of Franklin’s mansion:
It may well be that any future archeology of Old Philadelphia would give the best results by merely excavating underneath sidewalks and smaller streets or alleys. The properties where modern structures have been razed are very poor for archeology because of the deep basements these buildings usually had….”

I was already familiar with this report from earlier research on
Franklin-related archaeology that I conducted for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Consortium (work commissioned as part of the federal celebrations to honor Franklin on the 300th anniversary of his birth in 2006). But coming across Schumacher’s report again in the Central Files –where they are evidence of park administrative history related to archaeology --made me see the report’s recommendations with a slightly different set of eyes.
I undoubtedly also saw this documentation differently today because of the recent understandings about urban historical archaeology gleaned from the excavation of the President’s House site in 2007. That recent park research revealed that the basements of nineteenth century buildings do not necessarily entirely obliterate the evidence of the colonial period landscape. This surprise finding in the case of the President’s House site has led to a rethinking about Independence Park's archaeological resources --namely, that the archaeological evidence can survive the ravages of time more than archaeologists thought it could.
But why was this survivability ever in doubt? The documents in the Central Files reveal that this (now often erroneous) assumption appears in the earliest days of the park’s creation when, in 1956, archaeologist Schumacher reports up the administrative chain-of-command with recommendations for future excavation in Old Philadelphia. Schumacher posits a logical conclusion at the time given the circumstances (the earliest excavation) but his recommendation reflected only limited exposure to the archaeological record in-situ (as it appears in the ground).

Schumacher was excavating an unusual example for colonial Philadelphia archaeology. The Franklin house was located in the middle of a city block. Deep basements are usually on the outside edges of the block along the streets but, in this case, a small street bisecting the block was built over top of the (razed) Franklin house remains. Nearly all of the foundation walls for Franklin’s house remained unimpacted by the street construction and by the two rows of homes that lined this street. Schumacher did explore parts of the adjacent house lots and one can only surmise that he is hypothesizing what might remain under the 19th century structures as he and the excavation team were not tasked with finding anything other than the Franklin ruins and were involved in following out the foundation walls that were encountered (leaving other areas largely unexcavated). The most relevant sought after discoveries at the time happened to be found under the street and sidewalks where their survival rate was very high.
In a future post I will report on other documents in the archive that show how this early recommendation transforms into a baseline assumption that holds for 50 years of Park development and management --until 2007 and the President’s House findings.

One note: It was likewise long assumed that archaeological evidence of the Native American experience was obliterated by the development of the city. In past decades, when archaeological artifacts were encountered during excavations they were considered to be 'out of context' (removed from their original place and time of deposit/use by subsequent city buildings). It is now understood, in part from the National Constitution Center excavations in Independence Park, that evidence related to the Native American past can be found in intact archaeological deposits in the city. For more on this change in thinking see the brilliant, online presentation, Native American Sites in the City of Philadelphia: Elusive but not gone. This web offering was created by archaeologist Doug Mooney and it is archived at the web site of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum.

INHP Archive materials used in the preparation of this posting:

Jeppson, P.L. Historical Fact, Historical Memory: An Assessment of the Archaeology Evidence Related to Benjamin Franklin: Historical Archaeology research undertaken for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Consortium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2005)

Letter, Anderson to INHP Regional Director, Region One (Cox or Lisle), Feb. 20, 1953, [D18 FRCW as quoted in Grieff 1985:374]

Philadelphia National Shrines Report to the United States Congress (1947)

Schumacher, Paul. Franklin Court, Preliminary Exploration of Franklin Court Archeology Project No. 4, May-Sept. (1956)

See also:

Fowler, Don D. and David R. Wilcox. Philadelphia and the Development of Americanist Archaeology. University of Alabama Press (2003)

Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. http://www.phillyarchaeology.org/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sharing and Learning

A possible exciting opportunity has arisen. The Archivist Assistant for the National Register of Historic Places/NPS contacted us about participating in an archaeology, archives, and blogging-themed workshop being proposed for a conference next summer. The workshop, entitled After the Dig: How Federal and State Institutions Manage Archaeological Collections will bring a range of individuals together to discuss the archival challenges facing state and federally-funded institutions, the need for archival best practices, and the use of blogs as a tool to create a dialogue between archivists, archaeologists, and the public.

If accepted, the workshop will be presented at the 2010 Joint Meeting of the Council of State Archivists, National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and Society of American Archivists in Washington, DC.

My part of our contribution to the proposed workshop includes a presentation entitled, Blogging Toward an Archaeological Records Collection Guide: A Case Study on Using Web 2.0 Technology to Build a More User-Sensitive, Management-Enriched, Archival Tool. A summary statement provided to the session organizer follows below.

“Digging In the Archives” is an internet blog associated with an archival management project underway at Independence National Historical Park. This federal repository houses 50 years worth of field notes, maps, artifact logs, photographs, and reports generated during the development and continuing management of the national park. These record the development of ideas related to the preservation, presentation, and interpretation of both American history and American historical memory, and they document the evolution of urban and historical archaeology within the federal government and within the discipline of US anthropological archaeology more generally. This collection is routinely drawn upon for NPS needs (e.g., compliance measures, interpretation and education, cultural resources planning) and is accessed more widely by outside scholars and interested members of various publics (including historic preservation and material culture specialists). This blog extends access to this archived collection while the interactive nature of its Web 2.0 platform allows for a collaborative relationship between the Archives and its users. Input from diverse audiences is helping us to craft a Guide that will improve ease of the collection’s use while also assisting in the Archive’s continuing management.

Cross your fingers that the workshop is accepted for the conference. This would be an invaluable opportunity to learn new strategies from others working with archaeological records collections and we in turn could share what has been learned in processing the INDE Archeological Records collection and from this associated blog project.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Methods -- and forthcoming Records!...

Mended bowl (left), 3D digital scan of same vessel (right).
Computer-assisted vessel reconstruction technology is in the works!
INDE ceramic artifacts are the data set for this research and technological development. Once operational, this new technology will have significant implications for archeological artifact mending, collections management, and site interpretation.Records from this research and development project will be archived as part of the INDE Archaeological Records Collection.

Beyond discovering, preserving, and interpreting American history, Independence Park's archaeologists and archaeological sites have helped to shape the discipline of archaeology. Records in the Park's Archives document the creation and testing of various field and lab methods that have gone on to become a standard part of archaeological practice. This includes the ultrasonic cleaning of artifacts, early application of electrolysis to conserve metals, and various geophysical surveying methods including metal detecting and proton magnetometer prospecting.

As the field of archaeology continues to grow and change the archaeology at INDE continues to contribute new methods. All such developments of course generate a trail of documentation that become part of the archived archaeological records collection.

I blogged previously about the cutting-edge, geospatial survey techniques used at the President's House site in 2007. In that development, Erdman Anthony undertook a 3D laser scanning survey that produced a highly detailed and accurate map of the excavation. By shooting 4,000 laser points a second, the laser technology also created enhanced visuals of the discovered ruins that are useful for interpreting the site.

Now a new project is underway at INDE that will have significant implications for archeological artifact mending, collections management, and site interpretation. It involves the development of computer-assisted vessel reconstructions. Once operational, this technology will allow for more efficient laboratory work and will produce a significant time and money savings. Computers (not just people) will be able to match up the decorative markings on, and the shapes of, ceramic fragments so as to 'piece back together' broken vessels. Such vessel reconstruction is a vital first step in the laboratory processing of artifacts. Speeding up this phase means faster advancement to the analysis phase of study (as artifact identification precedes site analysis). Computer-assisted vessel reconstructions will furthermore allow for remote research capabilities as a collection of ceramics will be able to be studied off-site via digital proxies. Moreover, the digital images created during the reconstruction process will be a useful resource for virtual history presentations.

This particular research and development is part of a three-year effort by researchers from Drexel University. The work is supported by a grant from the Information Integration and Informatics division of the National Science Foundation [NSF no. o803670] entitled, “The 3D Colonial Philadelphia Project—Digital Restoration of Thin-Shell Objects for Historical Archaeological Research and Interpretation”. Principle Investigator Dr. Fernand Cohen (computer vision; Electrical and Computer Engineering) and co-PI's Dr. Ko Nishino and Dr. Ali Shokoufandeh (computer vision; Computer Science), Dr. Patrice Jeppson (archaeologist, Visiting Researcher: Media Arts) and Dr. Glen J. Muschio (anthropologist and media art expert; Media Design) are working with NPS Archeologists Jed Levin, Willie Hoffman, and Deborah Miller.

The project is using the ceramic artifact collection recovered from the National Constitution Center site as a data set. Several Drexel University graduate and undergraduate students are assisting with the research by making 3D scans of mended --and then unmended -- ceramic vessels in the Independence Living History Center Archeology Lab while other students at Drexel are writing computational algorithms for developing the new technology.

Drexel Computer Engineering Graduate student Ezgi Taslidere and Undergraduate, STAR Scholar, student David Myers scan pieces of a pedestaled saucer.

Undergraduate, STAR Scholar Program, student Girish Balakrishnan and Dr. Glen Muschio (Program Director, Digital Media Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Drexel University) examine the 3D camera images.

Dr. Ali Shokoufandeh and graduate student Patrick Smith photograph decorated ceramic fragments in preparation for testing computational procedures for pattern matching.

Not just new methods but new methodologies....
In assisting the Drexel University grant project, Independence Park, through its archeology program is engaging with community partners. This and other civic engagement activities at INDE are some of the developments transforming archaeology's stewardship and interpretation methodologies. For example, the recent President's House site excavation was undertaken in response to local community group concerns and was conducted in partnership with the City of Philadelphia Office of the Mayor. Likewise the James Dexter site excavation was a project which emerged in consultation with descendant church leaders from the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Bethel). Both these INDE projects have been used as case studies exemplifying the NPS Directive on Civil Engagement and they are considered best examples of Public or Community Archaeology.

This blog project is one small step in developing archaeology's stewardship and interpretation methodologies. It aims to help the INDE Archives make the Archaeological Records Collection more accessible to researchers and the interested public.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oral History!

Great News! Jackson Ward "Smokey" Moore Jr., has emailed with some recollections about the early use of electrolysis and ultrasonic cleaning methods at INDE...
Smokey is an archaeologist whose work at Independence Park almost four decades ago was the focus of a previous posting. His rememberances clarify and deepen our understanding of the history of archaeological practice in Independence Park, in NPS (the federal agency), in the subdiscipline of historical archaeology, and in archaeology in general.

NPS Public Affairs photo of Jackson Ward 'Smokey' Moore Jr.
in the archeology lab in the Second Bank, circa 1960.

I couldn't be more pleased about this! I had high hopes that this blogging project would operate collaboratively. We have now had instructive commentary and invaluable suggestions from a museum curator, a Pennsylvania-based archaeologist, an archivist from the city, a tour guide specialist, and various members of the interested public -- each of whom has helped to inform this INDE Archives Finding Aid project. Now we are fortunate to hear from someone who helped create the materials that comprise the INDE Archeological Records Collection. He is a wonderful writer to boot!
Smokey has given his permission for this correspondence to be treated as oral history so it too will be preserved as part of the INDE archaeological records collection. The following are excerpts from his correspondence (edited to the topic of archeological lab methods).

Jackson Ward "Smokey" Moore writing to V-I-P Patrice L. Jeppson on Aug. 7th, 2009:

The letter about my magic machine from San Francisco was probably from Paul J.F. Schumacher. He was referring to the electrolysis set up. I introduced it to INDE but it wasn't my idea. At Fort Fredericka NM Joel and I had a lab assistant named Bob Taylor. We had been cleaning iron artifacts by heating them in a pot-bellied stove, dunking them and pounding the crusts off, followed by brass and/or steel brushing. Then we would coat them oil to minimize rusting. After Joel left, I got down a copy of Plenderlieth's volume on museum object treatment. I saw a very complex arrangement of electrical equipment that Plenderlieth used for metal objects. Shaking my head I showed it to Bob. Bob was an island man, part of Cap'n Taylor's clan [deleted bio data] whose background was shrimpboating. After about 15 minutes he turned me and exclaimed "Hell, Cap'n, that ain't nothin but a gussied up batt'ry charger!". He also believed that sodium hydroxide was "plain ole lye." I got the stuff and we used a small aquarium tank to clamp the anodes to. It worked beautifully! I sent one of those [NPS] forms to credit Bob. I think Stan South was fielding those then. A downside-- I'm not sure I didn't uffer some detriment from the gas that the process gave off. [sic ;) ? ]

The Ultrasonic Cleaner was Bruce's [B.B. Powell] introduction. It was great for encrusted button and ceramics and other materials. It worked on small metallic objects too. We had to pare down our expectations for many metal objects though: the transducers sometimes broke! It's hard to recapture exact scenes so I don't remember how well we coped with continuing to use process. Maybe Bruce remembers.

NPS Archeologist Paul Schumacher, circa 1955 (top), NPS Archeologist B. Bruce Powell, circa middle 1960's (bottom).

On August 13th, Smokey added:
...My discussion of the ultrasonic device [in the last email communication excerpted above] was in terms of the circumstances that then prevailed. Our appliance was quite small; I would guess about 8"x11" at most. (Bruce may remember it differently). I haven't kept up those babies. I have seen the ones jewelers use to clean diamond rings, and my Braun 7800 electric razor's head cleaner is a mini ultrason. When I saw the illustration in your blog of the ultrasons used today, I realized that the puny tasks we required then would be pieces of cake. now.