About Archaeology on the Fugitive Slave Chapel site
Archaeology was underway in May 2013 at the site of the Fugitive Slave Chapel. Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants Inc. conducted the archaeology assessment with the help of public archaeology volunteers. TMHC has a passion for, and experience in early black history archaeology in Ontario and were considered a good fit for this local project.
Much of the material found on the site were from the 19th century, ranging from buttons and nails to animal bones, bottles, and ceramics.
Learn more about the initial phases of the Chapel Site project and the working relationships among the archaeologists as they conducted the archaeology assessment and recovered thousands of artifacts in the interview with Darryl Dann, amember of London Advisory Committee and volunteer assistant field director with Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants. Read more
The attached videos feature Rebecca who is working on the “in between” step to help the cataloguer. She is using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the items found in the field bags. If any interesting items are found or notes need to be made associated with the unit items being cleaned, they are documented. This will help the cataloguer and make it easy to access certain artifacts when all items are put into storage.
Artifacts are also sorted into smaller bags within the larger field bag. For example, ceramic patterns are sorted and matched if possible and bones might be put together.
Some of the coolest things that have been found are bottles with embossed writing. A lot of information can be gained from these bottles. One item was found to be from a quack doctor’s “miracle medicine” concoction. Read more
In 1986, the London Public Library installed a plaque to recognize the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a “priority one” heritage property in the City. It is the site of the first church of the Black community in London.
In the 1800s, Canada abolished slavery and subsequently, it became a refuge for slaves fleeing from the U.S. The 1840s saw a significant gathering of slave refugees in the area. In 1847, land was bought for the African Methodist Episcopal Church (also referred to as the Fugitive Slave Chapel). In 1869, the congregation moved to Beth Emmanuel church at 430 Grey Street which still stands today with a congregation as strong as ever.
Despite its prominence, the site isn’t designated by the government and is therefore not protected under the Ontario Heritage Act. Funding is being raised to move the Fugitive Slave Chapel beside Beth Emmanuel Church and preserve and share its history. In its new location, the hopes are that “the chapel will be used to preserve its history and facilitate research and education about the underground rail road and related subjects. The centre will also include a Black history library and a small showroom or museum for Black historical artefacts” (FSCPP). Read more
Small groups of 6-8 people work to help wash artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel site. In the summer, 1 meter square units were excavated on the site and any materials found in that space were documented and kept together in “field bags” with attached provenience information: site number, unit coordinates, level, date, and excavator’s initials. Each bag is given a separate number for the site. Artifacts from the completed units are taken to a lab for processing.
At the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, volunteers are taking items out of the field bags to wash. Read more
Darryl Dann is a licensed archaeologist and volunteer with the archaeology at the Fugitive Slave Chapel project in London (275 Thames Street). He is currently helping organize and supervise the washing of artifacts excavated at the site this past summer. Volunteers have been washing the artifacts at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology for the month of January 2014.
Volunteers have been working on two jobs: washing artifacts and documenting the items to help cataloguers enter the artifact information into a database for storage, ease of access, and future research.
An amazing group of over 35 volunteers have taken part in this public archaeology excavation and post-excavation process. It has been a great opportunity to learn about artifacts, history, and the archaeology process.
Watch this video about the Fugitive Slave Chapel project to learn more!
I am in the Public History MA program, at Western University, and I am currently carrying out my research assistantship at the museum. I started last September, and was thrown into a very busy fall, with a different school group visiting, roughly every Monday and Wednesday that I was at the museum. I help with providing tours, conducting First Nations craft sessions, preparing curriculum based programming, and outreach programming. My favourite part of the position is getting to interact with the children, seeing their faces light up as they step back in time and learn about the First Nations people in Southern Ontario. Particularly with Museum School, which is an excellent program, as it allows for me and the others working in education to get to know the children, and see their knowledge of First Nations history and culture develop, as they spend their week at the museum.
Coming from Penetanguishene, and having previous experience at Huronia Museum, in Midland, I was expecting the museum to have the typical archaeological artifacts in rows of glass cases, but the gallery space is visually pleasing; with historical wall paintings, a hanging canoe, and longhouse, along with being interactive; as one can step into Wilfred Jury’s office or dig in an archaeological site. One of the great aspects of the school tours, is that children can physically handle artifacts, while learn about their purpose, to gain an overall idea of how these early people lived.
To those who are interested in volunteering at the museum in education, if you enjoy learning and sharing history and like a busy energetic environment, the education department can always use the extra hand, as the visiting group size increase all the time. Although, it is a lot of information at first, with time and practice, you will be able to increase your First Nations knowledge, communication skills, and time management ability, while having fun.
To follow my journey through the Public History program at Western University, check out my blog lwalter23.wordpress.com
Hello! I’m Jennifer, the (newly titled) Experience Coordinator at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. I’ve been working at MOA for 2.5 years. I work on Public Relations and social media, manage the Quillbox Gift Shop, and am the Receptionist. I am lucky to be the one who gets to greet visitors and talk with everyone! 🙂
Sheko:li, my name is Dakota Ireland. My spirit name means She Gathers; I come from the Bear Clan within the Oneida Nation of the Thames. I have recently joined the staff here at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. I am an Education Assistant Intern, so I help out with tours, workshops, activities, crafts, and other various areas of the museum, if needed. Before I got this job, my main background was in customer service and retail.
I wanted a change from my usual jobs, and I got started with Southwest Regional Healing Lodge, located in Muncey, as a Childcare Worker. I really enjoy working with children, so it was a step in the right direction. The job was not reliable though, so I continued searching. I wanted to work in a women’s shelter, but there were not any openings. Read more
Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the museum
Not a creature was stirring, it was an artifact mausoleum
Moccasins were arranged in the Gift Shop with care,
In hopes that last minute shoppers soon would be there. Read more