Time Traveling in Delaware State Parks

About a year and a half ago, at the end of my first week as the new Cultural Preservation Specialist at Delaware State Parks,  my new boss said to me, “Er, John, did I tell you about Time Travelers?”  Warily, I replied, “No, Jim, what’s that?”  “It’s the volunteer program we used to have. You’ll need to revive it.” “Oh,” I said, “I think you neglected to mention that during the interview.”

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I was initially daunted by the thought of having to run a volunteer program. I had been a volunteer myself early in my career and had worked with volunteers in some of my positions since then.  I had considerable respect for volunteers. However, I also had a certain disdain for the idea that archaeology was something my agency could think that they did not have to pay to have performed on its behalf. After all, Parks did not engage “volunteer” engineers to design new restrooms or parking lots. 

While I saw a role for the interested public, under professional supervision, to assist with some of the small scale compliance projects that my office engages in, from the outset I considered Time Travelers to be a program of enrichment, not of free labor.   Volunteer labor is never completely free.  Volunteers need training, supervision, and the knowledge that their contributions of time and energy are recognized and valued.  The volunteer should get as much out of the experience as the agency gets in labor value.


I eventually found some documentation for the Time Traveler program as it had existed from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s.  It was billed as a “hands-on heritage experience for the public.”  There was a hierarchy of Recruits, Apprentices, Regular Time Travelers, Warrant Officers, Mission Leaders, and Mission Specialists, and I thought, “Ack! They expect me to recreate Star Fleet!”

What I came up with was a two-pronged approach.  While Time Travelers would be reestablished as a volunteer program for hands-on archaeology and other cultural heritage-related activities, it would also be a branding effort for cultural heritage-themed programs and events in the parks. This would give cultural heritage programs a unified identity and connect those programs to hands-on, participatory opportunities. 

I was also lucky that the Archaeological Society of Delaware (ASD) had on-going archaeological research projects and a bevy of experienced volunteers that I could cross-recruit to be Time Traveler volunteers. In our first field projects ASD members made up the bulk of the teams, but not exclusively so. Experienced veterans guided those with little to no experience. Fieldwork entailed detailed briefings of goals, objectives, methods, and anticipated results of these small (four- to six-person) teams that I closely supervised. Field days are kept short and even mildly adverse weather postpones the work.

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I also developed a Basic Archaeology Class for Time Travelers. The class covers preservation ethics, key archaeological concepts and terms, and a review of the methods we use and why we use them.  Those who survive about three hours of  my lectures and who then demonstrate the ability to excavate a shovel test were awarded a newly designed embroidered Time Traveler logo patch and a certificate signed by both myself and the Director of State Parks.   The class has been offered twice now and the cadre of Time Travelers has grown to nearly 50 and includes high school students to retired seniors. 

While Time Travelers do some compliance-related work, the bulk of the activity is research-oriented and often non-destructive, such as a recent metal-detector survey of the late 19th-century Quarantine Station at Cape Henlopen State Park where “hits” were flagged, ground-truthing was limited, and nothing was collected.  The major result was confirmation that the facilities had not been burned or bull-dozed when abandoned, but apparently carefully salvaged since the debris signatures were very faint.

Time Traveler volunteers have so far assisted with over a dozen small projects and three larger on-going projects. 

As the program matures, opportunities for specialized training will be developed, such as historic and prehistoric artifact identification, artifact processing and laboratory practices, and geophysical remote sensing.  And I have so many ideas for research projects that the public will find exciting to be a part of.

New Thematic Issue of Historical Archaeology: Current Research into the Archaeology of American Landscapes


Landscapes surround and interact with us; they constrain and inspire our actions. Delving into the study of past landscapes provides one of the most exciting and dynamic avenues for archaeological research. The forthcoming thematic issue of Historical Archaeology, edited by Eric Proebsting and Jack Gary, includes a collection of 12 articles that are dedicated to exploring “Current Research into the Archaeology of American Landscapes.” These contributions share a common desire to uncover how people, places, and environments have related with each other over time. In doing so, the authors carefully examine the historical and archaeological materials that have been left behind to build on previous scholarship and blaze new trails as they contribute to topics of lasting significance for our discipline.

The geographic scope of the collection ranges across urban and rural areas of North America. Articles touch on important research themes, including the African diaspora, the colonial encounters between Native Americans and Europeans, and the ecological changes associated with the growth of the modern world. Other areas of research include the landscapes of industrial labor; conflict and confinement; agricultural plantations; ornamental grounds; and historical myth and memory.

Following the introductory essay, “Contributing to the Archaeology of American Landscapes,” by Eric Proebsting and Jack Gary, articles in the forthcoming issue of Historical Archaeology 50(1) include:

  • “What Towne Belong You To?” Landscape, Colonialism, and Mobility in the Potomac River Valley—Julia A. King, Mary Kate Mansius, and Scott M. Strickland
  • Dynamic Landscapes: The Emergence of Formal Spaces in Colonial Virginia—Barbara J. Heath
  • “As It Was Originally Laid Out by the General”: George Washington and His Upper Garden—Esther C. White
  • The Multiple Landscapes of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest—Jack Gary and Eric Proebsting
  • Urbanization and Landscape Change in Early-Eighteenth-Century Boston: The Environmental Archaeology of Town Dock—David Landon, Heather Trigg, Allison Bain, and Edward Morin
  • Meeting at Market: The Intersection of African American Culture, Craft, and Economy and the Landscape of Charleston, South Carolina—J. W. Joseph
  • Plowing Prairies and Raising Stock: Historical Ecology and Community Life on the Cotton Frontier of Southwest Arkansas—Eric Proebsting
  • Intersecting Landscapes: A Palynological Study of Pueblo, Spanish, and Anglo-American Land Use in New Mexico—Kyle W. Edwards and Heather B. Trigg
  • The Archaeology of Underground Mining Landscapes—Paul J. White
  • Landscapes of Japanese American Internment—Stacey Lynn Camp
  • The Practice and Theory of New Heritage for Historical Archaeology—Edward González-Tennant and Diana González-Tennant


New Philadelphia as a Possible National Park Site

A Note from the SHA President: New Philadelphia as a Possible National Park Site

Historical archaeology has built part of its identity on the study of the disenfranchised, those who history didn’t bother to record. From early work by James Deetz at Parting Ways to the archaeology of Black Lucy’s Garden to Leland Ferguson’s recognition of the “Afro” in Colono-Indian Ware, archaeologists have led the effort to bring Africa and Africans into the lens of American history. That emphasis has resonated in cultural resource management, where consultants have realized that African sites are places that are little known and hence deserving of study, and as a result we have seen on a long lineage of African American CRM sites and studies ranging from Yaughan and Curiboo plantations to the African Burial Ground.

While we have done a good job of recognizing African American history and sites, we have been less successful in connecting those resources to their descendant communities, in serving and promoting public outreach. As a discipline engaged in digging the earth, we realize that all of our nation’s significant sites are not extant, were not built of brick and stone, and were not cherished by communities with the resources and legal position to protect and promote places of note. As a result, historic archaeological sites of the politically disconnected are too seldom celebrated and saved.

As archaeologists, we know these sites can speak since they have spoken to us. What we have forgotten is our responsibility to be storytellers and spokespersons.

Now we have a chance to have our voices heard. The National Park Service (NPS) is considering adding the New Philadelphia town as a unit and National Park.

New Philadelphia was formed by Frank McWorter, an African American who purchased his own freedom and that of at least fifteen family members, who moved to Illinois – a free state – where he was able to purchase land, and who then formed and registered the town of New Philadelphia in 1836. McWorter was the first African American to legally register a town in America; New Philadelphia was that town. It is an important place in American history, it is important to its community, and its story needs to be heard. It is a story that speaks to African America’s struggle with slavery and racism, as well as African Americans’ efforts to challenge social constructs by creating a racially diverse town.

New Philadelphia was discovered, uncovered, and explored by a team of historical archaeologists including Anna Agbe-Davies, Joy Beasley, Chris Fennell, Tom Gwaltney, Tommy Hailey, Bryan Haley, Michael Hargrave, Cheryl LaRoche, Terrance Martin, and Paul Shackel. It is a testament of the power of historical archaeology to connect descendant communities to a past that history forgot.

From now until June 11, the NPS is soliciting comments on the addition of New Philadelphia as a National Park unit. You can support the inclusion of New Philadelphia by commenting on the NPS site.

The NPS has already signified the historical significance of New Philadelphia by adding it the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, by designating it a National Historic Landmark in 2009, and by including it in the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program in 2013. However, only 6% of the NPS 410 units are directly associated with African American history. We have an opportunity to help right past wrongs, by including sites such as New Philadelphia among the places our nation celebrates and supports. Please join me in letting the NPS know that we believe New Philadelphia deserves to be added to the NPS as a park, which will protect its heritage and promote its legacy.

JW Joseph, PhD, RPA

Project Archaeology: Expanding Archaeology Education through the Leadership Academy

By Jeanne M. Moe, BLM Project Archaeology Lead


Launched in 1990, Project Archaeology is a growing national education program jointly sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Montana State University.  The program is distributed through a national network of 38 state and regional programs.  More than 15,000 educators have received Project Archaeology curricular materials and professional development. We estimate that these teachers reach almost 300,000 learners in both classroom and informal settings. The program grows each year, and in 2015 alone, we served almost 3,000 teachers.

Reading a building at the historic Tinsley House at the Museum of the Rockies

Experimental archaeology: making yucca fiber cordage










While we are proud of our past successes and steady annual growth, we would like to reach many more educators with archaeology education.  To extend our network, we began offering the annual Project Archaeology Leadership Academy in 2010 for classroom teachers.  A total of 94 new Project Archaeology Master Teachers have graduated from the Leadership Academy to date. These teachers are expected to offer at least one professional development event to their peers over the next four years after completing the Academy.  The 7th Annual Leadership Academy will be held June 27 – July 1, 2016 and we are currently accepting applications.

Our Master Teachers have broken the mold and gone above and beyond the call of duty to bring archaeology education to their peers and to learners of all ages.  Several Academy graduates have either revived existing Project Archaeology programs or started new statewide or regional programs.  For example, Sam Kirkley formed a partnership with Utah BLM and Southern Utah University to re-establish the Utah program.  Additionally, she formed a partnership with Girl Scouts of America to offer an archaeology merit badge. Dani Hoefer revived the Colorado program through a partnership with the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists, thus involving the archaeological profession in public education.  Mel Harvey, established a new state program in Arkansas.  Moriah Grooms-Garcia and Carol Ng He, both from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, established an Illinois state program, helped us finish Project Archaeology: Investigating Nutrition, and have offered several workshops and two online courses to distribute the new guide. In partnership with the local BLM office, Paulette LeBlanc, a retired teacher in Safford, Arizona, has been offering workshops for local teachers every year since 2010.  Freda Miller and Ryan Boettcher, teachers in Cowley, Wyoming, offer an archaeology-based summer school for middle school students and arranged for the students to volunteer at an archaeological excavation in Montana.  Nathan McAlistair, winner of the Gilda Lehrman Preserve America History Teacher of the Year Award, offers Project Archaeology professional development in Kansas whenever his busy schedule allows it.

Summer Solstice 2011   PALA participants at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Summer Solstice 2011 PALA participants at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park


While we designed the Leadership Academy for classroom teachers, many archaeologists and museum educators have used the training and materials to expand their knowledge of archaeology education and to establish new Project Archaeology programs.  Interested in expanding your public archaeology credentials?  Apply for the Leadership Academy today.    

An Undergrad in A World of Professional Conferences

by Megan Sirak, East Carolina University

In January 2016 Washington D.C. hosted the 49th Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology.  I was encouraged by one of my professors to attend as he thought it would benefit me.  He could not have been more correct.

While attending a professional conference as an undergraduate student may seem daunting, it is entirely worthwhile.  As an undergraduate you are not always expected to present a paper or poster as most graduate students and professionals do in this forum.  This allows younger students to sit back and observe conference proceedings.  If you as a student are anticipating attending graduate school you will be expected to present your research one day.  The best way to overcome the initial nerves and misgivings that come with professional presentations is to first observe them as a bystander.  We have all had to do presentations in our undergraduate careers, but the types of presentations and talks given at the professional level, such as at the SHA’s annual meeting, is a completely different animal.  Having the opportunity to observe numerous presentations not only gives undergraduate students an idea of what will be expected of them in the future, but it also opens their eyes to the broad spectrum of research being conducted in archaeology today.  I personally began studying anthropology and archaeology late in my undergraduate career.  Attending numerous symposiums on a number of topics at this conference educated me on how diverse archaeology is.  

Although observation is a luxury for many undergraduates, I do not believe younger conference attendees should be passive in their conference experience.  Attending professional conferences is a fantastic way to network, ask questions, and practice professionalism.  The workshops offered are an excellent way to expand your knowledge on a particular topic.  Volunteering at the conference is also a great way to make introductions.  By volunteering, you get the opportunity to meet other students in your field and you are given a ready-made excuse to interact with the professionals attending.  There are also a number of other great events for students to attend and be involved in such as the Ethics Bowl, the Past Presidents Reception, and the Student Subcommittee to the Academic and Professional Training Committee.

So yes, attending a professional conference with some of the biggest names in archaeology can be extremely daunting, but the benefits of attending should far outweigh any fears undergraduate students might have.  I would encourage all students to attend a professional conference, such as the Society for Historical Archaeology’s annual meeting, while they are still undergraduates.  Attending in 2016 was completely worth giving up a few days of my winter break to further my passion for historical archaeology and my career.  There is nothing more rewarding than being in a room of people who share your passion.  Having the opportunity to meet students of archaeology from across the country was equaling rewarding.  The students of today will be the professionals of tomorrow.  We should relish the opportunity to meet our future colleagues and interact with them.  So the next time a professor or fellow student suggests you should attend a conference, jump on it.  Conferences are occasions for learning, so as students we should seize every opportunity.

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