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Look Back: Underwater Archaeology in Ontario

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.

Underwater Archaeology in Ontario: An Overview

April 1982 Vol 4. No. 2 Author: Scarlett Janusas (ed note: Ms. Janusas was an intern at the museum at the time).

Image of submerged ship Underwater Archaeology in Ontario

Underwater archaeologists share a common goal with treasure hunters and salvagers. Each wants to bring to the surface that which the sea and other bodies of water have claimed. In all other respects, the similarities between these groups disappear.

Treasure hunters, as the label implies, occupy themselves with the removal of items for which monetary gains may be made. Occasionally, they may complete maps denoting positions of artifacts and other items of worth, but these maps at best, are just sketches employed for relocating the site for the sole purpose of continuing the pillage. Salvagers are even less concerned with recording and mapping. Their purpose is to haul up items which can later be sold for scrap metal. There is a time and profit incentive for both the treasure hunter and the salvager. Greater profits can be realized by spending less actual time on the site. Read more

Field School Experience – Jeff

Editor’s note: We’ll be sharing the Field School Experiences over the next weeks from students in the program. This week, meet Jeff Hardy.

Image of Jeff Hardy excavating in a pit during the field school
Hi, my name is Jeff and this is me at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology here in London,Ontario, when I got to participate as a student in the recent “Un-field-school” carried out by Dr. Ferris at the Lawson site. As the son of a curio-collector, I was instilled with a strong interest in archaeology from an early age. However, it was not until my first field school experience at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology that I began to truly appreciate the complex processes, methods, and perspectives involved in defining and doing this thing known as archaeology.

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Meet Dr. Rhonda Bathurst

Editor: We’re releasing the news of our new Executive Director, meet Dr. Rhonda Bathurst.

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Dr. Rhonda Bathurst has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. Her position will commence on September 26, 2016.

Meet Dr Rhonda Bathurst, MOA's new ED

Rhonda received her PhD in Anthropology from McMaster University in 2005, and has worked in archaeology around the world; including Belize, Iceland, California, the Pacific Northwest Coast and here at home in Ontario. With seven years of experience managing Sustainable Archaeology: Western, just next door, Rhonda is already well acquainted with the Museum, its core values and its staff. Read more

Field School Experience – Arlyn

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Western University summer field school experience of 2016, conducted by Dr. Neal Ferris, and I was looking forward to it. This course is not a typical archaeological field school. Dubbed the “Unfield School“, it is an opportunity for us to learn how to map, record, and the remediation past archaeology conducted on the Lawson site. As a crew we were going to start the very long process of caring for and repairing the site for the future.

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Museum Curators Secrets

We asked our Curator Nicole Aszalos to comment on this Guardian Article and share her Museum Curators secrets.

Image of Nicole holding an artifact from the collection
Nicole and a Birdstone

The Secrets of the Museum Curators from The Guardian is a well written article, with some of England’s top flight curators sharing thoughts on their careers. Although the article is not an in-depth discussion of the curatorial field, it does provide some effective and honest career insights for the aspiring curator. In the short article the curator’s also try to solve some misconceptions commonly associated with the profession.

Often when I say I am a curator, responses run along the lines of ‘Oh that’s interesting.. What is that?” Now when we compound that on the fact that I am a curator at an archaeology museum, it can make for some interesting conversations due to the uniqueness of the position. The most common misconception about a curator’s role, is that the majority of your time is spent doing exhibit design and selecting objects to make a gallery look pretty. Realistically, that is maybe 25 percent of the job. Curators are the keepers of the museum’s collection.  This means we research, catalogue, preserve, conserve, and house museum objects for current and future generations. We maintain the gallery AND collection space and coordinate interns and volunteers. In actuality, it is a lot more behind the scenes than many people realise (editor’s note: imagine an iceberg. What the public gets to see in a museum, is only the tip, above the water). Read more

Lawson Field School Update

The Lawson Site Un-Field School Was a Success!

By: Dr. Neal Ferris, Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology, Western University.

Students and volunteers at work

It has been a few weeks since the end of our first “Un Field School” here at the Lawson site, with students and instructors since moving on. But, for me, I finally have a moment now to reflect on the field school and what we discovered during those three weeks. Below is an update and brief summary of what we managed to achieve.

This Lawson field school had several aims: First, it needed to be instructive and a good learning experience for the Western anthropology students who took the course. Second, it had to serve the needs of the Museum’s Lawson Site Management Plan and provide insight on how we can best manage this site long term. Third, it had to be a successful experience for the volunteers and visitors who joined us. Our goal was to make archaeology accessible to non-archaeologists and to underscore to the class the bigger context within which we do archaeology today. Finally, I was hoping to learn just a little bit more about the Lawson site. Not just to care for it as the Lawson Chair, but also to have a better sense of the importance of this place.  It has been both an ancient home and village and is one of the oldest continuously excavated sites in Canada. Really, when you think of it, the entire history of Canadian archaeology has happened on this site! Read more

Thank You from Joan Kanigan

Joan Kanigan headshot
MOA ED Joan Kanigan

Four Years at MOA, by Joan Kanigan

It is with a combined sense of anticipation and regret that I prepare my final blog for the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.  I am proud of what the museum has been able to accomplish over the past 4 years and my decision to leave was difficult.  As I write this blog, our Summer Camp program is completely full, the roof and HVAC systems are being replaced, and we are in the process of adding movable shelving in the collection storage room.  So much has changed over the past four years that I wanted to take this opportunity to review and celebrate what has been accomplished as the museum prepares to develop exciting new exhibits, increase community partnerships, and improve the management of the Lawson Site. Read more

Archaeology Field Kit

MOAs resident archaeologist Ontario Doug and his tools

Have you ever wondered what tools archaeologists use and why they are important?  Ontario Doug is helping answer those questions by sharing the contents of the professional archaeologist’s tool kit.

The most iconic tool in an archaeologist’s field kit is the trowel.  Trowels allow archaeologists to carefully clear thin layers of soil making it easier to reveal features in the ground.  At the Lawson Site, a common feature archaeologist’s find are post moulds which look like dark circular stains in the ground.  An archaeologist needs to have a good eye to catch the changes in soil colour when excavating. Read more

The Thornton Abbey Project

The Thornton Abbey Project – One Curators Journey in Archaeology

By Nicole Aszalos, Musuem of Ontario Archaeology Curator

For the month of June, I spent most of my days out of the office and in the trenches at Thornton Abbey in North Lincolnshire England. Since this was my first time in England, I wanted to experience as much as I possibly could. To do this, I left a few days early to travel York and Leeds to gain an understanding and appreciation of history I was hoping to unearth. And being the Harry Potter fan that I am, I just had to venture on a day touring The Shambles, an opportunity that the nerdiness in me fully appreciated.

Nicole at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Also had the opportunity to shoot a crossbow here which was a cool experience.
Nicole at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. “I also had the opportunity to shoot a crossbow here which was a cool experience.”

My goal in York and Leeds was to gain an understanding of the museums and their presentation of history since this is something I am passionate about.  I spent my days touring museums and historic sites such as York Minister, York Castle Museum, and the Royal Armouries in Leeds just to name a few. It was exciting to see how interactive these museums were with engaging the visitor in history.  The museums I visited created immersive experiences by combining both historic objects and modern technology in their displays. One of the most immersive and unsettling experiences happened while exploring the dungeons of York Castle Museum where projections of actors representing some of the most notorious people hung at the gallows played in each cell.  Being the active person I am I also spent a couple hours hiking historic paths including what remains of the Roman Wall in York. Read more