Saturday, June 29, 2013

Remote Sensing

Today Kendal McDonald will finish a magnetometer survey of the World War I Spruce Mill site east of the reconstructed fort. On Wednesday, Kendal conducted a workshop with the students on the main parade ground and then collected data from a 20 X 20 m square on the suspected site of the original US Army flag pole. Kendal's magnetometer is a Geometrics G-858 dual sensor cesium magnetometer configured as a gradiometer. She records the magnetic signature of the sediments she walks over and contrasts it with the magnetic "noise" of overhead power lines, solar radiation, and other intrusive magnetic disturbance. The resulting magnetic gradient between the two is used to look for changes in the sediment magnetic signature tied to metal objects, old pits, hearths, and foundations. 
Besides the flag pole location, we hope to find foundations, rail lines and other remains of the spruce mill. The mill cut spruce logged from the coast range into pieces suitable for making aircraft during the Great War.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Upon us all a little rain must fall

Today we started our second week in the field at the Fort Vancouver Village. It rained quite a bit over our Sunday-Monday "weekend" and continued off and on with showers today. While there was never a steady rain, there were lots of drips off the shelters and students got to try out their rain gear.
The iPads held up nicely in moist conditions and we verified that it is possible to use them inside a clear sealable plastic bag. On Monday I updated the form templates to correct a glitch in the other materials observed but not collected category. I also developed a simple photo log form to collect the information we need for each iPads photo images.
The crew on Block L (Little Prouxl's House) started removing 5 cm of the house floor. They are finding some Hudson's Bay Company artifacts and some larger animal bones tied to the house. Some remnants of the gray clay floor remain from last year and the students are removing these patches. 
In the morning we had a visit from some Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) campers who are learning about the science of archaeology for 1/2 a week and then heading out to John Day fossil beds for 1/2 a week.
The campers helped screen and the students helped to explain some of the common field tasks like excavation and plan mapping. The students also showed the use of the iPads in field recording.

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Day in the Field

Excavation Starts at the William Kaulehelehe House Site (Block K) with
the Reconstructed Village Houses and Silver Star Mountain in the background.
 Today we started excavation in the Village at the William Kaulehelehe House site and started removing fill from the Little Prouxl House.  After setting up a 1 x 5 m trench, near a 1980s test unit excavated by Bryn Thomas and Chuck Hibbs, we began using the iPads as a means to enter data.  So far the data entry seems very easy and mimics the success that Matthew Betts had at the E'se'get Archaeology Project in Nova Scotia, Canada. The forms follow the paper forms quite well and while we have not yet used them in the rain or dry dusty conditions, the four completed level forms and two in-progress forms for today were entered with minimal issues.  This evening, the level record forms for the two iPads that were used today were downloaded via lightning connection and backed up very quickly. We will undoubtedly have more iPads in operation tomorrow once the fill from Block L is entirely removed..  The weather outlook suggests that we will likely have some rain next week to test wetter and more muddy conditions.  Tomorrow however, we should have nice weather again.

Some of the students are learning to excavate shovel tests (50 x 50 cm tests) along the southern border of the South Barracks portion of the Village.   These tests are using paper and pencil forms. So far we have barely penetrated some fill deposits from the 1980s.

We plan to have the students visit Pearson Air Museum tomorrow to help celebrate the 76th anniversary memorial program of the Chkalov landing in Vancouver.  This is an event we visited with the field school last year that was quite touching for the students.  Participation in a "history program" will help demonstrate the significance of historical sites tied to events (or Criterion A of the National Register of Historic Places significance criteria) and how place-based history is tied to significant archaeological sites through the United States National Register. I hope to show that the significance of archaeological sites must also address other criteria of significance than Criterion D (transcending their ability to serve primarily as scientific data stores), but can embody remains tied to important events, people, and other aspects tied to National Register eligibility.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 3

Today we conducted interpretive and cultural sensitivity training.  We were joined by a number of the park rangers and conducted a number of exercises that challenged our understanding of race and racism in the United States.  This program helps to sensitize the students to other cultures and makes sure that the Rangers and students are on the same page in terms of interpreting the multicultural community and other aspects of cultures to the public.  While some of the exercises are difficult and there is always a variety of opinions and perspectives, it is good to build a culture of understanding and courtesy to address the needs of visitors that come from different countries, different ethnic and  economic backgrounds, and to try to connect with the visitors.  Our goal is that everyone coming to the Village and Fort this summer will feel welcome and have the best chance to understand and appreciate the amazing history of this national park.  Perhaps the best message is that the national park belongs to all Americans and should be enjoyed by all Americans in perpetuity.  This sensitivity training helps us to do that very difficult job.
Public Archaeology Field School, Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee members,
and National Park Service Rangers at the Chkalov Monument at Pearson Air Museum.

We also had the unique opportunity to visit the Chkalov Monument just on the outside of Pearson Air Museum where we will have our lectures.  Jess Frost, of the Valery Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee provided some valuable information on the historical significance of the Chkalov flight, the first transpolar flight that left from Moscow on June 18 and arrived in Vancouver, Washington at the Army Air Corp field (Pearson Field) on June 20, 1937. The Russian aviators were met by Gen. George C. Marshall, who was in command of the post then and ran the local Civilian Conservation Corps (a depression era program that put young men to work in the 1930s and early 1940s).  Mr. Frost explained how Chkalov had compared the United States and Russia to the two great Rivers, the Volga and the Columbia River and how both flowed into the same waters of the seas of the world.  A brief history by Frost is at the Committees web site.

The monument dates to the time of D├ętente in 1974 when there was a thaw in the cold war.  It has been at Pearson Air Museum on National Park Service property since the 1990s. On Saturday, students will attend a bilingual presentation (Russian and English) on the significance of the Chkalov flight.  Today, some of the students joined Committee members and National Park Service Rangers in laying flowers on the monument in honor of the 76th anniversary of the flight.
Members of the Chkalov Cultural Exchange Committee,
National Park Service Rangers, and field school students laid
flowers at the Chkalov Monument.

Preparations for Fieldwork Day 2

Classroom work on the use of the iPads for collecting Excavation
and Feature Level Record data
Yesterday, we introduced the Field School students to the use of the iPads for the collection of data.  This year, in addition to the Vancouver Old City Cemetery monument recording forms, we are using the iPads to collect data from general Excavation Level Record and Feature Record forms.  The students had a presentation where they were introduced to the use of the iPads and the way in which the forms were set up.  This closely followed our training schedule in the past, with the exception that we are using the iPads instead of paper forms.

Some of the benefits of using the iPads include the ability to add the research design and field school manual as files to the iPads so they are readily accessible. We also provided these to the students in hard copy and we will track whether the hard copy versions are used for convenience or if the students make more use of the digital reference versions.  We also instructed the students in the use of the digital photo capabilities of the iPad and have developed a digital photo log sheet to track images for each iPad.  Each iPad is given a unique identifier and files will be tracked for each iPad.  Each iPad will be assigned to a set of excavation units and they will stay with the excavation blocks to assist in coordination and tracking of the equipment and forms.

Dr. Bob Cromwell talks about ceramics identification in the Classroom.
We also conducted basic artifact identification work to ensure that the students are familiarized with the types of material culture found at the site and the way in which we segregate artifacts in the field, including labeling, tracking, and recording.  Dr. Bob Cromwell gave another excellent introduction to ceramics covering many of the important attributes of ceramics identification, amusing anecdotes, and the most common types of Chinese and Staffordshire ceramics commonly found at Fort Vancouver. At the end of the day we conducted a sediment identification workshop and ended up at the blacksmith shop.
Volunteer Lee Pisarek demonstrates the manufacturing steps in making a
wrought nail in the blacksmith shop at Fort Vancouver.
One of the benefits of having a living history museum at Fort Vancouver is the ability to have students observe the traditional technology associated with blacksmithing.  Because there is a very active volunteer trades guild that operates the blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, bakehouse, and kitchen, there is the potential for students of material culture to see living history and museum exhibits tied to the manufacture and use of a variety of the types of material culture that are found in Hudson's Bay Company contexts.  We are very fortunate to have a number of blacksmiths who have mastered many of the skills of 19th century blacksmithing and that can show some of the complete ferrous metal artifacts that sometimes we find only in fragments.  Mr. Lee Pisarek, one of our highly skilled blacksmith volunteers, was able to describe and demonstrate the art of wrought nail making, a very humble artifact, but one that is commonly found at Fort Vancouver.  Meris Mullaley's M.A. Thesis explored the distributions of fasteners, like wrought nails, and window glass, among other things to explore the architecture of the Village.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Public Archaeology Field School Starts!

Students were first oriented at the Visitor Center at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Students began their 3-day orientation to the site and excavation techniques today with a variety of introductions, presentations, volunteer applications, tours, and classroom work. While there will be some rain showers over the next few days, we will be mostly indoors. 

Last week the crew leaders and instructors set up the iPads with the digital excavation and feature record forms. We have decided to create a bag catalog entirely from the digital forms. This will lose one level of redundancy but will streamline the recording. Students will still need to enter data on the level or feature forms and on the bags. Bag catalogs will be generated on the project computer from the digital forms.
Meagan Huff shows the students artifacts from the Museum Collection.  Jacqueline Cheung works on a collection in the foreground. 

We taught old school recording for the 50x50-cm shovel tests on paper forms with pencils and the basics of field notes. Tomorrow we will introduce the students to the iPads.

At the end of the day we walked the site on an archaeology focused walking your of the Fort and Village. We also visited the Museum where Meagan Huff showed off the artifacts and explained museum public outreach. The public can access this space on one of our museum open house tours:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Safety First

As part of our training for the Crew Leaders of the field school, we usually conduct CPR and first aid training with the other NPS staff. We typically use the Red Cross. This is very useful to put the emphasis on safety and to help the staff (and me) to remember all of the potential sources of injury in the field. It is also a great way to start building a team.

This first day helps to guide our training of the students and ensure a safe working and learning environment for all of us. Also given the large numbers of visitors we have, first aid and CPR/AED in case of a visitor mishap is only prudent. Over the 12 years of the field school, the worst case has been exposure to poison oak. We are prepared though!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

IPads for Fieldwork at Fort Vancouver

Last week we purchased 10 iPads with Retina displays, 16 gb with wifi for use by the students this summer. As we will have over 20 students this year, we will have to work in teams. This is typical of archaeological excavation where teams of two often conduct excavation. Usually one person excavates and conducts paperwork while one or more screeners collect artifacts and fill out bags. We have enough iPads for excavation of a test trench at the William Kaulehelehe house and the continuing excavations at the Little Prouxl house. Teams will also use iPads at the Old City Cemetery site where we will continue recording in the northwest quadrant (the Masonic quarter by fate). Other testing work using 30-cm round shovel probes (for subsurface survey) and 50x50-cm shovel tests (subsurface survey/testing) will use old fashioned paper forms. We will also have the students take old-fashioned field notes with paper and pencil. Photographs will include those taken by students with the iPads and "old fashioned" Nikon digital single-lens reflex cameras which will be used for feature and profile recording. I am perhaps the last person to give up black and white film but no BW film this year. We will just have to deal with digital archiving for the long term (see among others,  Kintigh and Altschul 2010).

For cases we are trying Griffin Technology military grade Survivor cases in a variety of colors (colors more a case of availability)
and Otterbox Defender series cases 

The weather is currently wet, typical of this time of year in the Pacific Northwest and we are expecting some moist conditions next week when we start. Should be a good way to test use under more muddy conditions. Later it will become dry and dusty.

We are also tweaking and testing the pdf forms. We will have the crew leaders test them on Thursday before finally loading them onto the iPads. Forms are a level form, feature form, and bag catalog. Lab Director Elaine Dorset is editing the level form mockup I made and translating them into the other forms. We have gone from a traditional 2 page form to a 4 page form with a more error proof sediment description form. The elevations will be less error prone too. I am putting together instructional materials for the students to go with the field manual that can live on the iPads. Being able to have access to digital instruction manuals and reference materials in the field should be quite novel. I wonder that it may be overwhelming given the nature of fieldwork although access to critical information in the field may improve decision-making during fieldwork. We will see.