Doing Archaeology in the Archive

Bench

Photograph of amphitheater ruins, 1979. From the Buildings and Grounds series in the University Archives Photography Collection, 1856-2015. UA 8.

For the past several weeks, Prof. Michelle Lelievre’s Anthropology 201 class—Lost Worlds and Archaeology—has been visiting the Special Collections Research Center to learn about the kind of work anthropologists and archaeologists do when not in the field. Students in this course have been using maps, blueprints, photographs, letters, documents, and old issues of the College’s Flat Hat newspaper to uncover information on a little-known structure on campus—an old amphitheater located near the present-day Matoaka Amphitheater. By digging in the archive, students must learn to glean what information they can from disparate documents in order to piece together a bigger historical picture.

blueprint

Site plan for Matoaka Park, 1935. Facilities Management Records. UA 29.

The course is intended to introduce students to concepts and methods used to reconstruct past societies from material remains. Lelievre’s students have been engaged in a semester-long assignment to conduct various types of research to learn more about the old amphitheater site that now sits in ruins amidst trees and brush. In addition to their visits to Special Collections, students have done field work at the site, and spent time working with both W&M’s Center for Geospatial Analysis and the Reeder Media Center.

Aerial photograph depicting campus and Lake Matoaka, 1969. From the Buildings and Grounds series in the University Archives Photography Collection, 1856-2015. UA 8.

Aerial photograph depicting campus and Lake Matoaka, 1969. From the Buildings and Grounds series in the University Archives Photography Collection, 1856-2015. UA 8.

Special Collections has been very excited to take part in this innovative class project with Prof. Lelievre.

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