The Office of the Bicentennial produces several media series featuring a variety of topics from IU’s history, as well as videos that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at Bicentennial projects.
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Description of the video:
[Words appear: In summer 2018, Indiana University's Glenn A. Black Laboratory, IU Libraries' Wylie House Museum, and Office of the Bicentennial hosted a historic site archeology project.]
[Polaroid photos of teams working on the dig appear.]
[Words appear: Uncovering the Past at IU's Wylie House]
Carey Beam speaks: So, the Wylie House Museum is the 1835 home of the first president of IU, Andrew Wylie. He and his wife Margaret and ten of their twelve children moved into this house after they had it built and when they moved in this was about 20 acres of farm land.
Elizabeth Watts Malouchos speaks: Theophilus Wylie, who was Andrew Wylie’s cousin – younger cousin – and his wife Rebecca moved in, uh, after, uh, Andrew and Margaret Wylie passed away; so they moved in in about 1859, and sometime after that they built the greenhouses to overwinter flowers. And so you can see the transition from Andrew Wylie and his family, uh, running this twenty-plus acre farm, uh, you know, to feed their family and make food, to Theophilus Wylie, the farm shrinks, and there’s a really big focus on floriculture and gardening. So we’ve always been interested in that time period and working with Wylie House to do some systematic excavations here.
Carey Beam speaks: We have archival materials related to the family, thousands of letters. And a lot of those letters refer to flower gardening and the “pits” or the greenhouses where they stored their flowers.
Elizabeth Watts Malouchos speaks: And so that’s why we specifically picked the subterranean greenhouse feature that we did.
Carey Beam speaks: Since I first came here as the director I have known and worked with the director of the Glenn Black Laboratory for Archaeology here at IU, and she and I have sort of dreamed and brainstormed about what would be possible and what would be really exciting here, and one of those projects would be to look for some of those outbuildings or structures. So it was a project that we had hoped at some point we could do. And then the Bicentennial came along, and there was an opportunity.
Elizabeth Watts Malouchos speaks: So, we are specifically looking for the sunken cold frame hothouses, as they called it. Or the family really called them “the pits.” These are actually drawn on the 1954 Memory Map that Theophilus Wylie III, the grandson of Theophilus and Rebecca Wylie, drew. And he actually drew two greenhouses and then another granddaughter wrote a letter and she indicated that there were two greenhouses – two pits. We have found one of them. But essentially it’s just a rectangular-shaped piece of the ground that is differently colored than the surrounding subsoil. So it doesn’t look fairly remarkable in any way at this point, but we will excavate that down and see how it was filled in, and what it was filled in with. We’re hoping that some of the original materials that were in the greenhouse, like planters, pots, things like that, might still be in place and were left in place when the pit was filled in. Based on the results of the ground-penetrating radar, we placed two meter by two meter excavation units. Once we start digging those we basically dig them in ten centimeter arbitrary levels, or controlled levels, so we dig out ten centimeters at a time. We found a lot of things that are ubiquitous at historic sites for this time period. Like transferware pottery, pieces of brick, mortar, nails, things that you would sort of expect to find. Uh, but we’ve definitely found some interesting artifacts that we didn’t anticipate. We found a piece of a metal toy horse. We found a piece of a radio insulator – a ceramic radio insulator. And really one of the – I don’t want to say cutest – but one of the most exciting finds that we’ve been finding repeatedly are buttons. Again that’s not unexpected at a historic site, but there was one of our excavation units where we’ve had almost ten buttons come out, and it’s actually right under a tree root that’s still sort of disturbing where we’re digging and so the students have made a narrative that it’s the button tree, and we’re writing a children’s book now, based on the button tree.
[Words appear: 11 students enrolled in the four-week Bicentennial Archeaology Field School to receive hands-on experience and course credit.]
Elizabeth Watts Malouchos speaks: So every year a new batch of field school students, they learn these methods and techniques in lecture halls and in laboratory sections but they’ve never gotten to implement them outside and get their hands dirty. But really it’s my favorite part about teaching students, is even though we’re looking at 1860s layers, looking for an 1860s feature at this historic site in the middle of Bloomington, Indiana they can take all of the skills that they’ve learned here and the different methods and they can go anywhere in the world, or work in any time period, and apply those.
Scout Landin speaks: It’s different from any college classes I’ve ever taken. Um, I think one of the biggest things I’ve taken out of it is just like all the processes and, um, just like all the terms you have to learn and, um, making sure you measure something right, all those, like, little tactical things.
Lauren Schumacher speaks: My favorite part has been finding stuff. Um, it was kind of basic but just hearing, um, other people with their field experiences saying oh you know we set out looking for this feature and then we never found it, um it’s pretty exciting to see that we actually found what we were looking for and, it’s always fun to find like the cool ceramics stuff that we’re pulling out. I found a really neat metal toy horse. That was really fun to find. So it’s just cool digging stuff up.
Carey Beam speaks: The students not only get to learn everything that goes into a field school, right, and all the basics of that and the logistics of that, but they’re also learning how to communicate about the project because we’re such a public facing unit of campus. They are getting a lot of visitors.
[Words appear: In addition to students, volunteer days have enlisted the help of community members.]
Elizabeth Watts Malouchos speaks: One of the most important things you can do in archaeology is involve the public or disseminate your results in your projects to the public, because the public is interested in what we do. But it’s also one of our duties as archaeologists, is to educate and inform the community. Uh, and what that does is that creates archaeological advocates in the community that are aware of cultural resources and the heritage that we need to manage collectively. Not only is this just uh sort of campus cultural heritage, I mean this is Bloomington cultural heritage and part of our deeper Hoosier heritage.
Voice over: Indiana University Bicentennial