Student (and Volunteer) Blog Entries: Brandon and Meghan

Back from Seattle (the conference went very well-my presentation was well received) and ready to start posting again. the excavation posts will begin again tonight or tomorrow morning.

Until then, here are a couple more student/volunteer experiences:

From a volunteer:

My name is Brandon Sexton, a recent graduate from Tech’s MS in Industrial Archaeology program. While my thesis was on the Masonic Lodge 271 in Calumet I have been volunteering at the Cliff Mine on my days off. Over the past week I have helped with the mapping and sketching of the excavations and troweling my way into the past. To think this site is where commercially viable copper mining started; we are uncovering planks and beams that were set in place over one hundred and fifty years ago! If you get a chance to explore the site while the dig is in progress, every day the students and myself piece together a better understanding of the mill.

From a student:

Hello to all Cliff Mine enthusiasts and blog readers!  My name is Meghan Marsicek.  I’m a Yooper who grew up in the southern Upper Peninsula, graduating from Carney-Nadeau Public School in 2006.  My need for an adventure and love for the Blue Ridge Mountains brought me to North Carolina where I earned my B.A. in History from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2010.  I returned to the U.P. after graduation to work at Fayette Historic State Park as a seasonal interpreter and aide to the site historian, Brenda Laakso.  Fayette is a piece of the U.P.’s industrial history, as it was a top smelting and pig iron exporting town while the furnaces were in operation. I had the privilege of sharing its story with folks from all over the world, as well as doing projects like painting a room in the historic preservation exhibit with milk-based paint in its original color scheme.  So if you ever visit the park (which I highly recommend you do, it’s awesome) you might think of me when you see that room!

Meghan's plan of 100.T2 that got her over the frustration of measured drawing.

I will begin my first year as a graduate student in Michigan Tech’s Industrial Archaeology program this Fall.  I’ve always had an interest in getting hands-on with history, and what better way than archaeology?  One of the things that drew me to Michigan Tech’s  program was that it incorporates several interests of mine, such as industrialization, anthropology, architecture, and historic preservation into study.  I am not sure what direction my focus is going to take, but I am excited to get started!

Cliff is my first field school and dig experience, and initially it was not what I expected. Archaeology is not just the fun of digging all the time, or doing cool Indiana Jones-style stuff.  There is a lot of planning to be done before you can even think about getting out your trowel.  Part of the planning includes figuring out what part of the working area you’re actually going to dig (which is trickier than it sounds), measuring and laying out the trench, taking photographs, and what was for a while my arch nemesis: drawings.  Drawings are detailed and done to scale.  While one or two other people measure, the recorder plots points on 2 millimeter paper. Then it is just a matter of connecting the dots.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, it was not so simple for me at first.  I was not seeing it!  I got extremely frustrated with myself and crabby.  Thankfully I had people reassuring me that drawings take time to figure out at first, and require a spatial awareness and visualization that I was not used to.  Still, I was not completely convinced I would catch on, and you can imagine my dismay when I learned that there is not one kind of drawing, but two that we would be doing.  Plan drawings give an overview of the trench and profile drawings show each of the four walls of the trench.  Did I already mention that these things have to be very detailed?  Sometimes they would have to be done several times within one trench, depending on what you found while digging.  Yuck!

However, my disdain for drawings changed for the better on May 27th.  I had been working with Kim in unit 100-T2 and we decided we had come to a stopping point with our digging due to a change in levels.  This meant that we had to do a plan drawing of our stopping point, Level 2.  I knew I had to be the recorder, how else will I learn?  That day I did not feel rushed, I was able to take my time, my measurers Kim and Brandon were patient with me, and I pulled together what I would like to think of as a pretty good plan drawing!  While I would much rather have a trowel in my hand instead of a ruler and pencil, I no longer consider drawings my nemesis.


About Sean Gohman

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

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