Tweens Can Learn About and Perform Archaeological Digs This Summer

Archaeologists look at stuff†: all the junk people make, modify, use, and discard, like tools,

buildings, ships, monuments, roads, clothing, or even the landscape itself. They try to find out a

little bit more about how people lived, whether in faraway lands or right here in our backyard.

Sounds an awful lot like your 13 year old, doesn’t it?

That’s why the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society (GWBHS) and the Detroit Center for

Public Archaeology (DCPA) have come together to offer tweens the opportunity to get their

hands dirty and learn about the history of their community, inspiring them to think about the stuff

they use and play with on a regular basis.

“GWBHS is excited to bring archaeology learning opportunities to the community with classes

based at the Orchard Lake Museum,” explained Gina Gregory, President of GWBHS. “American

Indian artifacts have been found in this area and learning about archaeology in a handson

setting in our own backyard is rewarding.”

Our community’s shared history doesn’t belong to one person or even to a group of people; it

belongs to all human beings. These classes are meant to teach tweens the importance of

preservation and the fun that can be had by exploring our history.

“We use handson

activities to explore not only archaeology, but the life ways of the earlier

people archaeologists study,” explained Liam Collins of Detroit Center for Public Archaeology.

“What makes us different is we focus on archaeology that is literally happening in YOUR


Studying archaeology in school is important to having a career, but archaeologists don’t have to

have a lot of fancy degrees to do what they do; anyone can be an archaeologist! This class

gives tweens a taste of this interesting world.

“All you have to have is some basic training in the correct way to explore the hidden past and a

desire to share that past with everyone,” Collins said. “We get your tweens onsite of some

actual archaeology going on in your community.”

Archeologists have to know a little bit about a lot of fields. It’s the perfect opportunity for

someone who likes: biology, medicine, architecture, chemistry, engineering, geology, physics,

art, history, philosophy, linguistics, astronomy, logic, math, botany, zoology, or conservation.

Preserving Local History: A Community Affair

Preserving archaeological and architectural history in the midst of budget constraints and fast

construction deadlines is not an easy feat, but it is an important one. It takes activism and

dedication to ensure our community’s history continues to thrive for generations to come.

The campus of The Orchard Lake Schools, which includes St. Mary’s Preparatory, SS. Cyril &

Methodius Seminary, and The Polish Mission, is located along Orchard Lake, at a site that, from

1877 1908,

was the location of the Michigan Military Academy. Orchard Lake Schools is on the

U.S. National Register of Historic Places and one of the buildings of historic significance on the

campus is called the Galeria. Once the dining hall of the Michigan Military Academy, today, the

Galeria is the central chapel on campus and houses a permanent art collection.

As The Polish Mission has a need for more building space, a project to expand the historic

Galeria is planned. Community organizations, Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society

(GWBHS), and Detroit Center for Public Archaeology (DCPA) have come together with The

Polish Mission to preserve the archaeological history in advance of the new construction.

“We applaud The Polish Mission as it works to expand its programming and building space

while honoring the traditions and architecture of the past,” explained Gina Gregory, President of

GWBHS. “We look forward to seeing the Galeria building expansion project unfold.”

In this particular project, it was identified that The Polish Mission’s need for Galeria grounds

expansion was important, but before construction begins, GWBHS and DCPA are coming

together to perform archaeological research on the east side of the building to document and

preserve any historically significant finds.

This sort of preservation is becoming an important trend. “During my time on the Board of

Preservation Detroit, it became very clear that the historic preservation tax credits for residential

and commercial properties brought increased revenue into communities and greatly enhanced

resident’s lives,” said Liam Collins of Detroit Center for Public Archaeology. “Archaeologists

were a major part in helping research and establish the eligibility of properties for preservation

development, just like with The Polish Mission project.”

In addition to the importance of sharing community history by preserving architecture, public

archaeology is another aspect that allows the public to get involved and discover the lost history

of their families and communities. Teaching the public the importance and fun of archaeology,

and getting them involved in their own digs, is why GWBHS and DCPA have put together a

series of workshops for tweens and adults.

“We don’t own the past; we are merely stewards of what remains for those who will come after

us,” Collins said. “During these ‘taste of archaeology’ classes, we use handson

activities to

explore not only archaeology, but the life ways of the earlier people archaeologists study. What

makes us different is we focus on archaeology that is literally happening in YOUR backyard.”

Return to Apple Island


Photo credit: GWBHS
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From July 1 through the 16th Dr. LouAnn Wurst of Western Michigan University, Mark Hoock a doctoral student from American University in Washington D.C., Aaron Howe a graduate assistant Western Michigan University, and a team of nine field school students returned to Apple Island to continue the archaeological investigation of the Campbell occupation. As part of our project goals, we excavated around the Campbell and Harvey houses, ultimately broadening our understanding of how these families, who were important to the construction of Detroit, made use of their vacation island.

While it was a short field season, it was especially productive. We spent two busy weeks on Apple Island collecting an impressive 6545 artifacts. From porcelain tableware to rusted nails, the patterns that emerged from these artifacts are already helping us piece together the vacation experience of the Campbells. A Rockingham ware pitcher with a hunting scene decoration, bullets, fishing hooks, fish and small mammal bones all speak to an interest in sport hunting and competitive activities. A blue transfer print plate with a priory pattern and two molded gothic paneled plates, taken in light of the 32 communion glasses found during the 2013 field season further support the Campbell family’s strong religious influence. Even Native American pottery found amongst the 19th century artifacts coupled with historical narratives, which discussed Forrest Campbell orchestrating the performance of a Native American ritual makes for an interesting consideration of the Campbell’s curiosity and perhaps admiration for Early Americans. We also found 65 smoking pipe fragments including 19 individual pipes, indicating a striking amount of smoking.

The information the 2014 field season yielded combined with the data collected in 2013 supports Apple Island’s eligibility as a state recognized historic property. Dr. Wurst and Skylar Bauer of WMU are sending the completed questionnaire for evaluation by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (MISHPO). Furthermore, Skylar is continuing to collect the necessary documentation and writing up the official National Register of Historic Places Registration Form in order to successfully place Apple Island on the National Register.

Additionally, the data collected furthers the scope of Mark Hoock’s dissertation project, which focuses on the Campbell’s social position, maintained through social relations and performances on Apple Island.

We would also very much like to thank the West Bloomfield Historic Society for their support of the Apple Island Archaeological Project.