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Year in Review

2015/2016 Year in Review

As seems to be the case every year, this year in review highlights how much has been happening at MOA. The museum has continued to improve over the past year. Plans for much needed repairs to the building are well underway, such as the repairs to the roof and HVAC system.  We have also planned exciting new exhibits, community partnerships, and better management of the Lawson Site.

Oneida and Anishinaabe/Ojibwe Language Exhibit

The past year has seen tremendous growth in the museum’s reach through our social channels and community outreach. We’ve established a strong partnership with Huron College and First Nations studies at Western University that have resulted in major exhibits at the museum this past year. We’ve increased opportunities for students in various programs to complete internships and research projects at the museum. We’ve also begun building a partnership with the Huron-Wendat Nation and the Jesuits in English Canada to create a Community Memories exhibit about Ste. Marie II. This is an exciting partnership and the resulting on-line and physical exhibit will explore a story of struggle, sacrifice, and change during one of the most significant periods in early Canadian History. We have been able to more actively promote the work of Ontario Archaeological Society Chapters and look forward to working even more collaboratively with the OAS in the coming year.

Mary and Erin 2015
Mary and Erin working on reboxing artifacts



Year Ahead

With support from the City of London SPARKS grant and community partners, we are also creating new interpretive gardens outside of the Lawson Village that will explore indigenous plants and their traditional uses. This will enable us to make changes in the Lawson Village to improve how the site is interpreted and managed both from an archaeological and community perspective.

As we reach out into our communities through a variety of ways – social media, our web site, and programming – we will continue working to build exceptional experiences that excite an inspire people to become actively engaged in how we build appreciation and respect for Ontario’s diverse cultural heritage.

If you want to read more about everything that happened at MOA this past year, check out our 2016 Annual Report  where you can find details on the many programs and activities undertaken this past year and the successes we’ve had.

I am grateful to the museum’s staff and volunteers for all their hard work and dedication as nothing we’ve accomplished would have been possible without them. MOA is also fortunate to have a dedicated and supportive Board of Directors along with a supportive community. I would like to thank Western University, the City of London, London Heritage Council, the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture, and all our funders, sponsors, and most importantly donors for all your support this past year. – Joan

MOA Thank you

Southdale Site Longhouse

Long before the creation of this blog, and before the digital Palisade E-Post, the museum sent out paper newsletters. First published in February 1979 each Palisade Post issue is a snapshot of what was happening in Ontario archaeology during this time, and is the basis of our Look Back series.

The Southdale Site Longhouse

(1988 Volume 10, Number 1)

An intriguing page of the London area’s early history was unearthed in south London during July with the Museum’s salvage excavation of the Southdale site on Southdale Road.  Of particular interest to Museum archaeologists was the discovery of a 14th or 15th century Neutral longhouse that measured an incredible 53 metres (174 feet) in length.  While larger longhouses have been found in other parts of the province, the Southdale house becomes the largest prehistoric structure ever documented in the London area.  This unusual find has revealed a hitherto unknown aspect of prehistoric Neutral settlement patterns, yet as often happens in archaeology, we have come away with more questions than answers.

The Southdale site was discovered by the writer in 1982 during the Museum’s City of London Archaeological Survey.  It was visited and surface collected on two occasions that summer, resulting in the collection of one projectile point, four small pieces of pottery, four utilized flakes, a hammer-stone, and 25 chert flakes.  A small amount of historic debris, indicative of a 19th century occupation of the property, was also collected at this time.  The site was registered with the Ministry of Culture and Communications, Heritage Branch, and was closely monitored by Museum staff since it was located on prime development land.

In early 1988 staff of the Ministry of Culture and Communications reviewed a plan for the development of the Southdale sit property as a residential subdivision and requested a reassessment of the site prior to development.  The Museum was then contracted by PlanCan Associates Inc. of London to carry out a Stage II assessment of the site.  This work resulted in a detailed mapping of the artifacts on the surface of the site and led to the recommendation that both the prehistoric and historic components of the site be salvaged.

On July 4, 1988 we began a three week excavation on the site expecting to find the remains of a mid-19th century farmstead and perhaps a small Neutral cabin similar to those that the Museum has excavated in the vicinity of the Lawson site.

Initial topsoil stripping revealed the presence of a series of historic structures as expected.  These structures tell a tale of early pioneer life in Westminster Township, however, their story must be seen as a sequel to the prehistoric puzzle that was beginning to unfold.

On July 14 we uncovered the first remnants of the longhouse wall, barely visible as a faint line of staggered post moulds in the sun-baked clay.  Two days later London’s first rain in 17 days greatly improved conditions on the site as the house posts became more evident in the moist soil.  We continued to expose more postmoulds and the house continued to grow.  On July 19, after uncovering over 50 metres of house wall, we finally found the house end wall and the entire structure was exposed.  It then became a race to record and excavate the posts and features, a task that was completed on the last day of the project.

The resulting floor plan of the Southdale house (Figure 1) shows a double line of posts along both side walls and only a single line of posts along the ends.  Along the double wall the inner posts are much deeper than the outer posts.  Similar wall patterns have been observed on other Neutral longhouses indicating that this is a result of a particular construction technique rather than a product of rebuilding.  Within the house large support posts occur at regular intervals about two metres inside the walls.  Many of the posts were filled with charcoal suggesting that the house may have burned down.  However, the house interior was extremely clean, containing few artifacts and features.  This is not what one would expect if it had been quickly abandoned, however, it may have burned during a season when it was not in use.  Only five centrally alighned hearths and a single ash-filled pit were found.  The remains of a small refuse midden were evident at the north end of the structure.  Surprisingly few artifacts were found in either the midden or the features, indicating that the site may have been used fr a relatively short period.

Southdale site longhouse

The Southdale site adds a new twist to our present understanding of prehistoric Neutral settlement patterns.  In short, it simply does not fit with the documented pattern.  The Museum has excavated eight small Neutral cabin sites in the London area in recent years.  These sites are all associated with nearby villages and they all consist of a single small longhouse.  Like the Southdale house, these cabins contain few interior features and they usually have an associated refuse midden at one end.  However, the cabins have an average length of only 13.09 metres and an average width of 6.75 metres.  The Southdale house is four times this size.  Even at the Lawson village, the average house length is only 23.1 metres and the longest house exposed to date is only 36 metres n length.  The cabin sites have been interpreted as agricultural hamlets occupied by small groups of villagers during the summer months for the purpose of tending crops.  It is estimated that less than 20 people would have occupied such sites at any one time.  In contrast, the Southdale house was built to accommodate between 70 and 100 individuals, based on the estimated number of hearths present and the size of the living area.  These comparisons indicate that the Southdale house may have been built to serve a different purpose than the cabins we have documented.

It should be noted that most of the cabin sites are found in the northern part of the city in association with the Lawson village.  The Southdale site is probably associated with a village on the south side of the Thames River and we know very little about the settlement patterns of this community since no village sites have been extensively excavated.  Southdale provides tantalizing evidence suggesting that the villages on the south side of the city may be quite different from Lawson and may involve some very large structures.

A definitive interpretation of the Southdale site must await the collection of additional archaeological data from the south London area.  For now, the Southdale site provides archaeologists with another useful cautionary tale by demonstrating how a seemingly simple site (on the surface) can lead to a series of unanswered archaeological questions.



The Southdale excavation was generously funded by Drewlo Holdings Inc. of London.  The Museum would also like to thank the Heritage Branch of the Ministry of Culture and Communications (London office) for the loan of their summer filed crew for the final two weeks of the project.

Written by Peter Timmins, who is now Principal / Archaeologist / Heritage Planner at TMHC Archaeological and GIS Services




The Attawandaron Discoveries

by Marjorie Clark
(Part 3 of a 3 part series)

This article, part 3 of this history series, was previously published in the Puslinch Pioneer, 2015 and re-printed here with permission from the author, Marjorie Clark and PuslinchToday

The Huron First Nation called their southern neighbours “Attawandaron”, meaning “People of a slightly different language”. The French labelled those same people “Neutrals”, as they remained neutral between the Huron and Iroquois.

The Attawandaron or Neutrals inhabited dozens of villages in Southwestern Ontario stretching along the north shore of Lake Erie from the Niagara Peninsula to the Detroit River, perhaps as far north as Toronto in the east and Goderich in the west.

A semi-nomadic society, the Neutrals lived in villages, which would usually be abandoned after about twenty years. When the game, the soil and the wood in an area became depleted, the area would be left to regenerate and the village would relocate to a new spot. The largest Neutral village site in Wellington County and perhaps in Ontario, covering thirteen acres, was in the Badenoch section of Puslinch, on the east side of Morriston, lot 32, concession 8. The other one situated within the Badenoch area was on lot 28, rear of concession 8, the former McPhee farm.

In 1615-1623, some of Samuel de Champlain’s men travelled south from Midland to meet the Neutrals and in 1625-1626, Etienne Brulé spent the winter among them. A Récollet priest, Father Joseph de la Roche Daillon described them in a letter dated July 18, 1627. At the time, there were approximately 40,000 Neutrals.

In the autumn of 1650 & spring of 1651, the Iroquois tribes from the south, that is, the Mohawks, Onondaga and Seneca, armed with guns given them by the Dutch in New York State, nearly annihilated the Neutrals. Some were carried off as captives and were assimilated into the Seneca. Those who remained fell victim to diseases like smallpox and measles, which had been introduced by European emigrants or were assimilated by surrounding tribes. After that, this area was frequented by Mississauga on hunting parties. The Mississauga were still in the area after the arrival of the European settlers and our ancestors in Puslinch interacted with them.

Although they had lived in harmony with nature and did not significantly alter the landscape, the Neutral Nation left shreds of evidence of their civilization, which have and are still emerging from the earth. Throughout the years, farmers would pick up artefacts that surfaced in their fields, while ploughing. My uncle, John Clark (1908-2000), who was born and raised on a farm, adjacent to the McPhee site and who farmed across the road from it in adult life, collected arrowheads and skinning stones throughout his lifetime.

In 1982, Ken Oldridge, a teacher at John F. Ross Collegiate Institute in Guelph learned of John Clark’s collection from his student, Richard Ussher, who was John Clark’s grandson. At the time, Ken Oldridge was the Regional Vice-President of the Ontario Archaeological Society and Archaeological Conservation Representative for the Ministry of Citizenship & Culture. John showed the artefacts and the locations, where he found them, to Ken Oldridge. This created a flurry of activity and during the summers of 1983-85, digs on the sites were funded. The result was a significant enrichment of our society’s knowledge of the people, who preceded us on this land.

The 1st excavation took place on McPhee farm, owned by Raymond Reid at the time of the archaeological dig in summer 1983. A 500 year old village site, inhabited by about 1,000 people around 1500-1530 AD, was located. It covered 3½ to 4 acres. Ken Oldridge was project director and the site co-ordinator was Bill Fitzgerald, a PhD student at McGill. The dig was visited by archaeologists from the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph, some 50 members of the Ontario Archaeological Society, James Schroder, M.P. and Aberfoyle School Principal, Fred Dack and teachers. Ken Oldridge was guest speaker at one of the first meetings of the Puslinch Historical Society, held on April 2, 1984.

The Morriston or Elliot site was excavated in 1984-85. This village covered 13 acres, with 4,000 inhabitants. It existed for approximately 20 years, around 1450-1500. The village was constructed about 50 metres from a spring. The longhouses were 200 to 300 ft long, 2 ½ metres apart and appeared more structurally sound than those at the McPhee village. Bob Penrice (1906-1985), who farmed south of Morriston, had a collection, which contained a 7,000-year-old Stanley stem from the Morriston area. Ontario Hydro was forced to map a new route for its transmission towers, which had been slated to be erected through here, due to this discovery.

Andy Scott with his collection, June 8, 1984
Andy Scott with his collection, June 8, 1984

Three sites were identified in the vicinity of Crieff. Artefacts found on lot 20, rear of the Gore, the farm belonging to Donald A. Stewart (1903-1991), indicate the sites were used in 3,000 to 5,000 BC. Andy Scott’s collection from his farm, lot 26, rear of the Gore, was one of the best collections in Wellington County, with some items dating back as far as 8,000 years. The Crieff sites were within hunting and fishing area for the Attawandaron, which probably extended as far west as Puslinch Lake, where Winfield Brewster of Hespeler reported finds. Andy Scott (1901-1984) remarked that artefacts were to be found on his and every farm for three or four miles along the 1st concession road.

In January 1989, Catherine and Maurice Smith, on behalf of Margaret Starkey, donated a collection of 17 artefacts from 600 to 9,000 years old to the Wellington County School Board. These items were found by hired man, Willie Fraser (1870-1961), around 1900, on the farm owned by Richard and Jim Starkey of Arkell, part of lots 7, 8, and 9, con. 10,

Would you like to know more about the Attawandaron? “The Neutral Indians of South-Western Ontario” by Elsie McLeod Jury, is available to read in the archive of the Puslinch Historical Society, as well as information on the Puslinch sites.

PuslinchToday would like to thank Marjorie Clark for her contributions. This three part series of history articles has been extremely popular on the site and we look forward to all her future work.

This article, part 3 of this history series, was previously published in the Puslinch Pioneer, 2015 and re-printed here with permission from the author, Marjorie Clark and PuslinchToday

Monica Norris Internship

In the collections storage room cataloguing
Monica In the collections storage room cataloguing.

Meet Monica who is completing an internship at MOA

Hello!  I am Monica Norris, and I began my Collections internship with the MOA in May.  I am completing my final semester of the Museum Management and Curatorship post graduate program at Fleming College.  The reason I chose to study at Fleming College is because the program is intensive and very hands-on.  A lot of material is covered, not only from an academic approach, but I also had many opportunities to apply concepts in a practical manner.  This has given me a more realistic experience than other programs might offer.  The skills and tools I acquired through the MMC Fleming program have prepared me for real life situations, and given me the ability to perform a wide variety of tasks that are common practice in medium to small sized museums.

I will be working in collections management this summer, helping to create, maintain and enhance the archaeological records in the database PastPerfect.  This has involved cataloguing artifacts that have not been entered into the system yet, as well as providing condition reports.  Along the way I have been repacking artifacts into archival bags.  I will also conduct research to help gather information to be used in the collections records and in museum blogs.

I chose to intern at the MOA because I have had a deep curiosity about archaeology since I was a child. I have gone on digs in England, and more recently some in Ontario.  I will be honest, before my digs in Ontario I was quite naïve about how much archaeological evidence there is in Canada.  Now I am so excited to learn more at MOA, and have the opportunity to handle these artifacts!

Jim Keron showing Monica how to do a profile drawing at Davidson Site. 2008
Jim Keron showing Monica how to do a profile drawing at Davidson Site. 2008

It hasn’t even been a month yet, and I feel right at home.  The staff here are lovely.  They are friendly, hard-working, and enjoy their jobs.

In addition to cataloguing, my summer project will be to develop, create and install my own small exhibit in the main gallery.  I enjoy exhibit development as much as I enjoy collections management, so I look forward to what the summer has to bring at MOA!  Once I graduate I plan on pursuing a career in the heritage and museum sectors.  I love to research, and have an honours BA in English Rhetoric and Professional Writing.  My strongest interests are in curatorship, exhibition, and collections management, but I hope to explore any and every opportunity offered to me to!



Editor: Thanks for taking the time to meet Monica. If you missed the piece by our other Intern Desiree Barber, you can read it here. We feel fortunate to have these talented young women with us and look forward to their contributions. We hope to follow their careers when done with school. Welcome Monica and Desiree. Thanks for choosing MOA for your internship.

Sir William Flinders Petrie

Sir Flinders Petrie, 1903
Sir Flinders Petrie, 1903

Sir William Mathews Flinders Petrie is responsible for making archaeology the scientific discipline it is today.

Archaeology in popular media is frequently portrayed as a treasure hunt. Many popular characters perpetuate this image, perhaps most famously Indiana Jones, a professor of archaeology who travels the globe in search of precious artifacts, which he obtains by any means necessary, and at anyone’s expense, with little regard for context beyond the value of the object. Although this is a misleading image of archaeology today, in its early years the discipline really was more like treasure hunting than science. Sir William Mathews Flinders Petrie is the man responsible for taking the first steps towards making archaeology the scientific discipline it is today.

Flinders Petrie was an English Archaeologist, born in 1853, who is remembered for introducing a systematic approach to archaeology, and for his efforts towards the preservation of artifacts. Petrie’s archaeological career was focused on Egypt, where he was responsible for the discovery, preservation, documentation, and study of countless artifacts and sites. Despite his lack of formal education, he was awarded the Edwards Professor of Egypt Archaeology and Philology, a professorial chair at University College in London, to honour his contributions to the field of Archaeology. Like him, most archaeologists at the time had little formal training in archaeology. However, unlike Petrie, they often took part in it out of personal interest in treasure or grand finds, rather than as a scientific endeavor. From his university position he was able to train a new generation of archaeologists. One of his students was Howard Carter, who did a field season under Petrie’s supervision, and went on to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun.

During his first trip to Egypt in 1880, Petrie surveyed the Giza plateau, becoming the first archaeologist to measure the Great Pyramids, and conduct a proper study of their construction. Before this, no theories based on firsthand experience had been put forth about their construction. During this trip, Petrie noticed the lack of care with which historical artifacts were being treated, and was appalled by the rate at which these items of archaeological significance were being destroyed. In 1884, he began excavation at a site in Tanis, where he led a large crew without the use of foremen, who typically drove workers to uncover artifacts as quickly as possible, with little regard for the quality of their work. This became characteristic of all of Petrie’s excavations — by being in charge he could control both the quality of the excavation, and the rate at which it was carried out. The method he used to excavate involved digging the site one layer at a time, and documenting all the finds from each layer. This allowed him to uncover many of the smaller artifacts that would not have been found by using the coarser methods that were common in archaeology at the time. These excavation practices led to the discovery of many important artifacts, and also helped to build an understanding of different aspects of life in ancient Egypt. Petrie even developed seriation, a method of dating layers of dirt based on the types of pottery they contained.

Sir William Flinders Petrie at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, 1930
Flinders Petrie at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London, 1930

Petrie’s excavation methods and the concept of seriation have greatly influenced the way modern archaeology is practiced. They stand in stark contrast to the conduct of other archaeologists at the time, who, like Indiana Jones, were often no better than grave robbers. It is thanks to Sir Flinders Petrie that archaeology is practiced as a science that is focused not on treasure, but on what artifacts can tell us about past people’s lives.

Written by Sheeba Hasan  for Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology taught by Dr. Lisa Hodgetts, Western University.

Beadwork with Dakota Ireland

Dakota Ireland

Shekoli/Hello, my name is Dakota (Kalo:loks) Ireland.

I do a lot of different beadwork, but mostly jewelry such as rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces/medallions. The main beading style that I use is peyote stitch (also known as gourd stitch) and it is a particular style of weaving.

I come from the Oneida Nation of the Thames and my clan is Bear. I have been working with the Museum of Ontario Archaeology for two and a half years now. I was the curator for The Story of Our Grandfathers: Our Original Medicine exhibition from May-August 2014 and the assistant curator for the On^yota’a:ka: ukwehuwenekha’ khale’/miinwaa Anishinaabemowin language exhibition that is currently on display at the museum.

2 row set

The peyote stitch was originally used by the Kiowa and Comanche tribes from the South.  It is similar to the brick stitch where only one bead is used at a time. Each First Nation tribe has their own signature style of beadwork. I am not using the style of beadwork that comes from my people.  I learned the peyote style of beadwork because I like it.   Being able to share amongst each other is how traditions get passed on. It is important to acknowledge where the original style or craft comes from.

The Peyote stitch can be used for many different things – decorating pipes, drum sticks, whistles, and lighters.  It can also be made into jewelry like rings, bracelets, and earrings. Since using this style of beading can be time-consuming, it is best to start with rings, bracelets, or decorating around something small like a lighter. The video will show you the basic stitch of peyote style. Once you have the basic stitch down, then the possibilities are endless with what you can do with it!

It is during times of beading when we share stories, sing, or just be in tranquility. It is important to put good energies and love into your beaded project!

I find that beading is calming and therapeutic. It is a great way to relieve stress and calm the mind. I love beading!  I would like to share the joy of beading and will be planning a workshop at the museum in the future. Before the workshop, I will be offering a drop-in beading session on Sunday, June 5th. If you have any questions, want to see the style, or try it out before signing up for a workshop, feel free to drop by! If you are interested in taking part in a workshop, please CLICK HERE to let us know and we’ll be sure to let you know when the workshop is scheduled.

Yaw^’ko:/thank you!

thunderbird bracelet

Ice Patch Archaeology

Many portrayals of archaeology in popular culture include travelling to remote locations in order to recover artifacts regarded as “treasure”, usually under dramatic and somewhat harrowing circumstances. For Greg Hare, the Yukon Territory’s site assessment archaeologist, ice patches are the equivalent of the treasure filled tombs in an Indiana Jones film.

Figure 1. Archaeologists Survey the Friday Ice Patch, Yukon Territory Photo courtesy of Yukon Cultural Services Branch
Figure 1. Archaeologists Survey the Friday Ice Patch, Yukon Territory. Photo courtesy of Yukon Cultural Services Branch

Ice Patch Archaeology began in the late 1990s through the Yukon Ice Patch Project (Hare 2011: 2). Ice patches are accumulated snow and ice from previous winters that does not melt in the summer. They are found in alpine regions around the world, including the southern Yukon. Unlike glaciers, they do not flow downhill or move over time (except for seasonal melting along the perimeter). When the Yukon Ice Patch project began, changing temperatures were resulting in massive melting of these ice patches, which revealed many archaeological artifacts that had previously been encased in the ice. Due to the extremely dry and cold conditions, as well as the sedentary state of the ice, these artifacts are  remarkably well preserved and can include sinew, hide, and feathers on objects up to 9,000 years old (Hare 2011: 22).

It may seem odd that so many artifacts are recovered from these remote ice patches, but there is a simple explanation for these archaeological hotspots. Caribou herds travel to ice patches in the summer heat in order to cool down and escape from insects, providing an ideal hunting ground for ancient hunters (Figure 1). Not surprisingly, the artifacts recovered from ice patches are almost exclusively hunting tools such as projectile points and dart shafts (Hare 2011: 20). The large quantities of black material at the base of ice patches are further evidence that it was caribou that drew people to the ice patches. They were recognized by the man who first discovered an ice patch artifact in 1997 as “the largest concentration of caribou dung he had ever seen” (Hare 2011: 6).

Even today, Indigenous elders can recall oral histories of hunting caribou on these ice patches. The Yukon Ice Patch Project works closely with many different First Nations groups because these archaeological zones are located across traditional territories, and “the discoveries have become a source of pride for local First Nations people” (Hare 2011: 5). Many local Indigenous people are actively involved with and very enthusiastic about the project, even going so far as to join archaeologists on the ice patches to help look for emerging artifacts.

Flying to these remote ice patches via helicopter, archaeologists are tasked with surveying them and recording the degree of melt since the previous summer. Archaeological work on ice patches does not require excavation.  Instead, it involves walking along the edges of the patch and the surrounding area looking for artifacts with the naked eye — no digging required! This ensures that any artifacts that have melted out of the ice will be spotted and brought to the lab for preservation and analysis. Some of the more fragile organic artifacts must be kept refrigerated to replicate the environmental conditions of the ice patch (dry and cold). One example is a 1,400 year old caribou hide moccasin found in 2003, making it the oldest known moccasin in Canada (Figure 2). However, most of the artifacts recovered from ice patches such as throwing shafts and dart points can be stored at room temperature. They are placed on trays in cabinets to prevent breakage and allow for additional examination.

Figure 2. Caribou hide moccasin. Photo courtesy of Government of Yukon (Hare 2011).
Figure 2. Caribou hide moccasin. Photo courtesy of Government of Yukon (Hare 2011).

Ice patch archaeology:

is conducted only in a few areas in the world where ice patches are found. Currently, there are ongoing projects in the mountains of Alaska, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Colorado, Norway and elsewhere, in addition to the work in the Yukon. While Indiana Jones prefers to loot artifacts and destroy tombs, ice patch survey is an ecologically responsible and effective localized adaptation of archaeological practice, pioneered in Canada’s very own Yukon Territory.

Written by Nahanni Dynes  for Adventures in Pop Culture Archaeology taught by Dr. Lisa Hodgetts, Western University.

References Cited

Hare, Greg

2011    The Frozen Past: The Yukon Ice Patches. Government of Yukon. Retrieved from

Lawson Site Changes: Part 2

 The Lawson Site “Un” Field School

Picture of students learning about archaeology at the Lawson Site.
School group at the Lawson site in 2000.

As part of the long term management of the Lawson Village and partnership we have with the Department of Anthropology at Western University, the Museum’s Lawson Chair (Neal Ferris) will be running a field school on the site though the last half of May and early part of June. This course is not your typical field school because it’s not  focused on teaching students how to dig up a site. Instead, students will undertake field investigations that are designed to protect the heritage value of this important archaeological site while remaining consistent with our aim to preserve the site. In other words, students will be learning how not to dig up the Lawson site!

Picture of student using a transit to map the Lawson Site
Mapping at the Lawson Site

The Lawson Village is a nationally listed and provincially designated archaeological site dating to the 16th century AD, the majority of which is undisturbed within a woodlot.  The idea of the field school is to develop and implement measures to protect and care for the site over the long term. Students will undertake fieldwork that helps remediate open areas that had been previously excavated.  They will also undertake detailed mapping to tie in earlier fieldwork with current activities on the property, define no disturbance areas, and use remote sensing equipment such as ground penetrating radar to better understand the below ground archaeology of the site without having to dig it up to get that information.

An important dimension of the management plan for the Lawson site is public education and appreciation of this heritage. As such, students will also be trained in fieldwork that focuses less on research and more on being a public service.  Working with Museum staff, volunteers and the public, students will learn to both appreciate the role public archaeology plays in society, and understand how to talk to people about archaeology in ways that are important to them, and not always as important to archaeologists.

The immediate aim of the field school is to teach students a different way of thinking about and doing field archaeology. But more importantly, the field school gives us the chance to really implement the first steps in what will be an ongoing process of remediating and managing the archaeology of this important, centuries old site.  We want to ensure that the Lawson Village remains an important part of our heritage for the centuries ahead.

Lawson Site Provincial Heritage Sign

You are welcome to visit us between 10:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m. May 25th to May 27th and then again from June 1st to 3rd  to observe and to get a better sense of the “Un” part of this field school!  Come check out what we are doing!

Lawson Site Changes: Part 1

For the past number of years, visitors to the Lawson Site will have noted an ongoing state of deterioration.  Over the years, weather, animals, and time have not been kind to the interpretive signs, gardens, and buildings.  The process of remediating the site and developing an ongoing management plan are now underway and over the next few years, visitors will start to see ongoing improvements.

Small longhouse as it appeared in 2015.
Condition of small longhouse in 2015.

One of the first big changes at the Lawson Site was the removal of the small reconstructed longhouse adjacent to the forest.  Originally built in 2002, the small longhouse helped illustrated the variation in house sizes at the Lawson Site but was closed to the public about 5 years ago when it became unsafe.

In 2015, the decision was made to dismantle the small longhouse, and thanks to a group of staff and volunteers the longhouse was removed at the beginning of the summer.  The initial plan was to leave the main support posts to mark the original location of the longhouse but unfortunately, the posts were so badly deteriorated that they had to be completely removed.

Images of the small longhouse being dismantled and the final area after being cleaned up.
Dismantling the small longhouse and the final area cleaned up.

With the small longhouse removed we turned our attention to the gardens, especially the large Three-sisters garden located by the longhouse.  The Three-sisters garden is an important interpretive feature, but has always struggled to be successful because the deer and woodchucks have been particularly appreciative of the easily available and very tasty plants our volunteers have strived to grow.  From an interpretive perspective, having the gardens inside the village is also problematic since the Three-sisters were grown in vast fields surrounding the Lawson Village and not within the site itself.

During the winter, plans were developed to move the Three-sisters garden to a location outside the palisade walls and with support from the City of London’s SPARKS grant, the new garden will be built this summer.  Although the existing garden is being dismantled, we are taking care to ensure that two important perennials, the Sweet grass and Jerusalem artichoke are preserved.  The sweet grass will be planted throughout the current garden area to keep the weeds at bay and the Jerusalem artichoke will be moved to a safe location until the new garden is ready to be planted.

In addition to the changes in the garden, the old signs are being removed this summer and a general clean-up of the site is under way, including removing any trees in the forest which have become unsafe due to age and disease.

We are also very excited about the archaeological field school being offered by the Department of Anthropology at Western University this spring.  The course has been specifically designed to address the long term care of the Lawson Site.  The plans for the field school and the work being undertaken will detailed in Lawson Site Changes: Part 2.

We’re excited about the changes being made at the Lawson Site and grateful to the volunteers who are helping us make these significant improvements.  If you are interested in getting involved with this project, please check out the volunteer opportunities available or contact us at (

Museum Governance Matters


While you may be aware that MOA has a Board of Directors, have you ever considered what the Board does?  Or why museum governance matters?

By definition (Canadian Museums Association) museums are not-for-profit institutions created in the public interest.   While museums have operational functions that differ from other not-for-profit organizations, as institutions, they still operate within the same legal, ethical and business frameworks of any other not-for-profit organization.

Because museum are created in the public interest, they have two fundamental public trust responsibilities: stewardship and public service.   The Canadian Museums Association’s Ethical Guidelines defines stewardship and public service as follows:

  • The trust of stewardship requires museums to acquire, document and preserve collections in accordance with institutional policies, to be accountable for them, and to pass them on to future generations of the public in good condition.
  • The trust of public service requires museums to create and advance not only knowledge, but more importantly, understanding, by making the collections and accurate information about them, physically and intellectually available to all the communities served by the museum.

Stewardship and Public Service are the hallmarks of museums and the basis for the respected status that they have in their communities.  Not only keeping but growing the respect of their communities requires museums to be public focal points for learning, discussion and development, and to ensure equality of opportunity for access.

This is why museum governance is so important because it is with the governing authority that the responsibility for everything the museum does rests.  Simply put “governance” is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented.  Whether the governing authority is a Board of Directors (as with MOA) or a municipal council (as with many municipally operated museums), governance is the way in which authority, control and direction over the museum’s activities are enacted.

So What is the Board’s role in Museum Governance?

The Board is the highest level of decision-making and legal authority in a museum.  By law, it is ultimately accountable for, and has authority over, the museum’s resources and activities.  The Board articulates and communicates the museum’s vision and defines the parameters within which the museum carries out its work.

At MOA, the Board of Directors has chosen to operate under a policy governance model.  What that means is that the Board provides leadership through policy development and strategic direction and assigns the implementation of day to day activities to the museum’s staff.

Museum governance and how authority is delegated.

MOA is governed by a 13 member Board of Directors, each bringing unique skills and knowledge, as stewards of the museum now and into the future.  Currently, MOA is going through a period of transition which will result in the renewal of the facility, museum exhibits, and community relationships.  While this presents a great opportunity for the museum to re-establish itself as a hub for archaeology in Ontario, it will take significant effort and resources on the part of all involved to achieve this goal.

Serving on any Board of Directors requires commitment, energy, and enthusiasm for the museum’s mission and the service it bring to its community.  With this commitment also comes the excitement of working with others to champion a cause you care passionately about.  For more information about serving on MOA’s Board of Directors, check out our Board Recruitment Package.

Board Recruitment