7 Archaeological Things to See and Do in Washington D.C.

Reminder: June 30th is the last day to submit your #SHA2016 conference abstract!

Last week, we started posting about Things to Do in Washington, D.C., so that you may begin planning for your #SHA2016 trip!  This week’s blog post provides another list of various, exhibits and research centers.  Whether you wish to play tourist or conduct research, we suggest you check out our list, below!

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

If you are interested in learning more about the urban development of Washington D.C., a visit to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is a must. The Carnegie Library, located in Mt. Vernon Square, offers a variety of exhibits exploring the history of the city and the history of the city’s inhabitants.  The “Window to Washington” exhibit depicts the city’s transformation from rural landscape into a modern metropolis. Additionally, the library and collections offer ample resources for researchers to study the “city’s physical landscape as well as the families, organizations, businesses, neighborhoods, religious institutions and other communities that comprise Washington, D.C.”

Free of Charge

Check it out: http://www.dchistory.org/


Sewall-Belmont House

Just a block northeast of the U.S. Capitol is a museum dedicated to history of the fight for women’s rights. The Sewall-Belmont House museum is owned by the National Woman’s Party, and displays their extensive collection of objects that document the story of the women’s suffrage movement. The collection features thousands of books, scrapbooks, political cartoons, textiles, photographs, organizational records and other artifacts “produced by women, about women.” This offers another wonderful resource for historical archaeologists.


$8 for a Guided Tour

Check it out: http://www.sewallbelmont.org/


The Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

Located on the National Mall, the beautiful mid-nineteenth century Gothic-Revival Smithsonian Institution Building now houses the Smithsonian’s administrative headquarters, but the ‘Castle’ also contains several exhibits celebrating the institution itself, funded by James Smithson. These exhibits look at the history of the Institution, and visitors can see selected objects from all of the Institution’s museums.

Free of Charge

Check it out:  http://www.si.edu/Museums/smithsonian-institution-building


Fords Theater

The fateful night of April 14th, 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Fords Theatre, is commemorated at Ford’s Theatre Museum. Visitors may take a self-guided tour around exhibits that explore Lincoln’s presidency, up until the night of his death.  The collection features textiles, documents, and artifacts of Lincoln’s, and, at the Center for Education and Leadership, an exhibit examines the aftermath and impact of Lincoln’s assassination, on the United States.

$2.50 for a self-guided tour

Check it out: http://m.fords.org/planning-to-visit


Clara Barton Missing Soldier’s Office Museum

Only recently rediscovered, the Clara Barton Missing Soldier’s Office Museum is the former residence and office of Clara Barton during and following the Civil War. Located on 7th Street in NW, the CBMSOM offers a stark and realistic history of the aftermath of the Civil War, through the efforts of Barton to find and identify missing soldiers.

Check it out: http://www.civilwarmed.org/clara-barton-museum/


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Owned and operated by the National Park Service, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is the last home of Frederick Douglass.  Douglass lived in Cedar Hill, SE from 1878 to 1895, when he passed away.  The house museum does well to present and interpret Douglass’ impressive and impassioned political career, in our nation’s capital. The house museum offers an extensive and intriguing collection detailing Douglass’ vision, mission, and lifestyle during the latter 19th century.

Check it out: http://www.nps.gov/frdo/index.htm


Last but most certainly not least! 

Before coming to #SHA2016, be sure to take the virtual archaeology tour of Washington, D.C.!

Check it out: http://www.heritage.umd.edu/CHRSWeb/DC%20Archaeology/DC%20Archaeology%20Tour/Archaeology%20Tour.htm.


Meet a Member: Michelle Pigott

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

Michelle Pigott is a graduate student at the University of West Florida. Her master’s thesis discusses culture change in two Apalachee Indian communities during the 18th century using detailed ceramic analyses.

What’s the most interesting artifact you’ve ever found?

This summer the field school I was running as a graduate student field director discovered a partially complete miniature Apalachee brushed ceramic jar, nestled in the backfill of a historic post hole. This fall UWF’s Virtebra Lab run by Dr. Kristina Killgrove and fellow grad student Mariana Zechini, was able to 3D scan and print it: http://virtebra.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/42/

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)?

The first site I worked on was a month-long field school through California State University, Dominguez Hills, at a late historic Chumash Indian village in the Los Padres National Forest in 2009. The most recent site I’ve worked on (field work ended in August, lab work is ongoing) is a mid-18th century Apalachee Indian Mission, San Joseph de Escambe, located north of Pensacola. It has been the main source of my material for my master’s thesis research and also has a great blog run by our PI, Dr. John Worth: http://pensacolacolonialfrontiers.blogspot.com/

What are you currently reading?

Well my “for fun” book right now is Cibola Burn by James A. Corey, the fourth of a series of excellent hard sci-fi novels. Archaeologically speaking, I am reading The Native American World Beyond Apalachee: West Florida and the Chattahoochee Valley (John H. Hann, 2006) and French Colonial Archaeology in the Southeast and Caribbean (Kenneth G. Kelly and Meredith D. Hardy, editors, 2011), both of which are providing excellent background information for my master’s thesis research.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

In my elementary school years I was fairly certain I would grow up to be a paleontologist, however, discovering a cache of old Egyptology coffee table books at eight years old left me obsessed with archaeology (I had pyramids painted on my bedrooms walls well into high school), and while my interests have shifted continents and time periods, I’ve never looked back!

Why are you a member of SHA?

As a graduate student, being in SHA opens up so many opportunities to be in tune with current international research, as well as great networking. Plus it’s an awesome excuse to go and visit new cities for the annual meetings!

At what point in your career did you first join SHA?

When I was in my second year of graduate school.

How many years have you been a member (approximately)?

Two years (and planning on many more!)

Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you?

Well right now, as part of my thesis work, I’ve been reading up a lot on the theory of “creolization” and how it’s best used to discuss culture change in North American Native Indian communities. I’ve found three articles, “From Colonist to Creole: Archaeological Patterns of Spanish Colonization in the New World” by Charles Ewan (2000, 34(3):36-45), “The Intersections of Colonial Policy and Colonial Practice: Creolization on the Eighteenth-Century Louisiana/Texas Frontier” by Diana DiPaolo Loren (2000, 34(3):85-98), and “Creolization in Southwest Florida: Cuban Fishermen and “Spanish Indians,” ca. 1766-1841” by John Worth (2012, 46(1):142-160), to be especially helpful on this diverse topic.

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

It’s definitely a tie between access to all the journal articles (online!) and being able to attend the annual meetings. A conference full of presentations just on historical archaeology? Yes please!



New HA Thematic Issue: The Archaeology of Chinese Railroad Workers in North America

This post was prepared by Rebecca Allen, SHA Associate Editor, ESA Cultural Resources Director

The first issue of Historical Archaeology, 2015, Vol. 49, No. 1, will soon hit your mailboxes, if it is not already in your hands. Dr. Barbara Voss (Stanford University) is the thematic issue’s guest editor for ‘The Archaeology of Chinese Railroad Workers in North America.’ This issue was born out of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University. It is part of an effort to recognize the workers’ contributions in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the first transcontinental railroad, constructed from 1865 to 1869, that stretched from California to Iowa across some of the country’s most challenging terrain. To put this topic in perspective, I invite you to view a series of videos on the subject.

Display at Sacramento Railroad Museum, workers at Donner Summit (photo by R. Allen)

Dr. Gordon Chang (Professor of History, Stanford University) talks about his research, his perspective as an Asian American, and the creation of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project. Dr. Chang states that the railroad workers are underrepresented in the documentary record. Although they appear in railroad payroll records, and are occasionally noted in newspaper accounts, no extant first-hand accounts from Chinese railroad workers have been found. Working with Drs. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fisken, Barb Voss helped to organize the Archaeology Network that stems from this initiative. Dr. Voss gathered together a roster of archaeologists who have worked on these or similar labor camps, and challenged archaeologists to offer a fuller picture of the Chinese railroad worker experience.

Chinese Railroad Workers Project Introduction Video from Chinese Railroad Workers on Vimeo.

The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project goals are further discussed in this introductory video featuring co-directors Gordon Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin. While focused on the history and archaeology of 19th century railroad workers, the Project touches on important themes in the present-day globalized economy. As Fishkin notes, “China and the U.S. have been intertwined for over 150 years. Right now, especially when a lot of goods are being created through work on both sides of the Pacific, and migrant labor is a factor in shaping the products that we use both in China and the U.S., understanding how this first massive force of migrant laborers shaped both of our countries…holds lessons which are relevant to us today.

The Society for Historical Archaeology established the Overseas Chinese Research Group at their annual meeting in 1969, and published the first thematic issue devoted to Overseas Chinese archaeology in 2008 (HA, Vol. 42, No. 3, find it on our Publications Explorer). Researchers have learned and continue to learn the importance of working with the migrants’ descendants, regional and national heritage groups, and engaging historical and historian’s perspectives. This integration of approaches expands and explores the study of marginalized populations. The contribution of Chinese railroad workers is starting to be recognized – they were recently inducted into the U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Fame – as seen in the above video. Historical archaeology has the unique opportunity to bring dimension and depth to the railroad workers’ history, to explore topics of daily life and economic networks, and to create studies that trace workers’ experiences as they encountered and adapted to new environments and landscapes. Historical archaeology adds depth and nuance to topics of labor, economic, and social histories of the American West, made possible by the completion of this first transcontinental railroad in 1869.

Historical Archaeology, 2015, Vol. 49, No. 1 represents the contribution of more than two dozen authors and researchers. It highlights several archaeological sites directly related to the transcontinental railroad (Donner Summit, California and Promontory Summit, Utah, as well as the contribution of workers after the first transcontinental railroad was completed, with articles on Virginia & Truckee Railroad camps and Mono Mills in California, Carlin, Nevada, and Montana. Topics of bioarchaeology, health practices, habitation, zooarchaeology, and the materiality of everyday life expand the view of workers’ experience. The volume ends with commentary and a call to embrace the new direction of multidisciplinary approach and multi-ethnic considerations. I encourage you to pick up this thematic issue, and read it soon.

Volume contents

Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Fragments of the Past: Archaeology, History, and the Chinese Railroad Workers of North America

Barbara L. Voss, The Historical Experience of Labor: Archaeological Contributions to Interdisciplinary Research on Chinese Railroad Workers

Paul G. Chace, Introductory Note to Chace and Evans’ 1969 Presentation, and reprint of 1969 SHA presentation, Celestial Sojourners in the High Sierras: The Ethno-Archaeology of Chinese Railroad Workers (1865−1868)

R. Scott Baxter and Rebecca Allen, The View from Summit Camp

John Molenda, Moral Discourse and Personhood in Overseas Chinese Contexts

Michael R. Polk, Interpreting Chinese Worker Camps on the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah

Lynn Furnis and Mary L. Maniery, An Archaeological Strategy for Chinese Workers’ Camps in the West: Method and Case Study

Charlotte K. Sunseri, Alliance Strategies in the Racialized Railroad Economies of the American West

Timothy Urbaniak and Kelly J. Dixon, Inscribed in Stone: Historic Inscriptions and the Cultural Heritage of Railroad Workers

Marjorie Akin, James C. Bard, and Gary J. Weisz, Asian Coins Recovered from Chinese Railroad Labor Camps: Evidence of Cultural Practices and Transnational Exchange

J. Ryan Kennedy, Zooarchaeology, Localization, and Chinese Railroad Workers in North America

Sarah Christine Heffner, Exploring Health Care Practices of Chinese Railroad Workers in North America

Ryan P. Harrod and John J. Crandall, Rails Built of the Ancestors’ Bones: The Bioarchaeology of the Overseas Chinese Experience

Mary Praetzellis and Adrian Praetzellis, Commentary on the Archaeology of Chinese Railroad Workers in North America: Where Do We Go from Here?

Sue Fawn Chung, Forgotten Chinese Railroad Workers Remembered: Closing Commentary by a Historian