A Learning Experience

The Cliff Mine's stamp mill complex circa 1857. (Image courtesy Michigan Tech Archives)

One of the field school students asked if she could write an entry for the blog about her experiences during the first couple weeks of the project. Tasked with creating a plan drawing of the Cliff’s stamp mill complex, Jessica’s discovered how difficult measured drawing can be while at the same time gaining an appreciation for exacting documentation work.

I’ll let Jessica take it from here.

My name is Jessica Posega, I am originally from a small town in the Lower Peninsula but have lived in the Keweenaw for over three years. I chose Michigan Technological University because the anthropology program is unique, and small, which means you get to know the faculty, and get a variety of different academic experiences. Being thrilled when I heard there was to be a field school in the Keweenaw, I have not been disappointed in my experience!

The field school at the Cliff Mine has been a true learning experience. In only a few short weeks not only have I begun to learn new skills, but I have learned new things about myself. Admittedly, I have not always been keen on working in groups. For me, more people has always meant more conflict and a higher likelihood of error. While this is true, I have learned that a group of people also means more points of view, encouragement, and it helps one to understand oneself more clearly. Seeing how others react to your thoughts and opinions day in and day out can help you to be more open and creative in solutions to problems.

View of the west side of the stamp mill today.

We have only been working in the field for a few weeks but I have gained skills and learned from these experiences. The excitement of the first few days in the field has yet to wane, and perhaps it never will, though it has been tempered by frustration. Plan drawing is not a skill I even thought to acquire but now that I have begun to I am glad that this is the setting in which I am doing so. When we first began to make our plan drawings of the stamp mill complex at the Cliff mine site, it seemed to be going swimmingly, especially considering the lack of experience of nearly all involved, save for our instructors of course. While conflicts arose on how to go about the taking of measurements and nearly everything else involved in the procedures, we eventually began to work cohesively. The numerous charts and numbers we obtained looked nothing like a plan drawing, but I could see its potential! Sawyer and I, having started to make the plan drawings of the stamp mill complex with much anticipation of our great achievement, were soon disheartened after early success. The first few points on our drawings were perfect, but then we ran into trouble as things weren’t lining up properly. After much re-measuring, immense frustration and fixing of errors, we hoped that the next part of the complex would go more smoothly considering we had both measurements for triangulation and bearing with which to make our plan drawing. Bearing lines and arc’s made from measurements eventually started to align and our drawing began to look like the building. With one drawing to go we were yet again hopeful that it would turn out well, and in the end it looked just as we had hoped.

View of the floor in one of the stamp mill complexes buildings.

My first experience with plan drawings may have been frustrating but it was also rewarding and I have learned from errors made in the accumulation of data stage, as well as ones others ran into along the way. I feel confident that I will do better next time. Learning by doing may be tough, but I think that I have gained an understanding, which I would not have been able to without this firsthand exposure.

Most important, with ups and downs, good and bad, I truly enjoy what we are doing.

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About Sean Gohman

Currently a PhD Degree seeking student in the Michigan Tech University's Industrial Heritage and Archaeology program.

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