Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Laura's Summer 2015 Internship

Hello All!

My name is Laura Williams and I’m a second year graduate student in the Public History program at Southeast Missouri State University. This summer I completed an internship at the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. I worked under the supervision of the District Archaeologist (and distinguished SEMO HP graduate), Heather Carey. Mrs. Carey’s job duties, as one of only two cultural resource specialists on the SNF, proved to be extremely diverse, providing me with a dynamic experience in the public realm of public history.

I worked a variety of properties including both the built environment and archaeological sites. For example, as part of the regular monitoring of significant properties on FS land, we visited 10 remote Native American sites to check for any kind of illegal activity or destruction. On the above ground side, My major project was to document the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, a historic church located on FS property. I performed background research using land and tax records from Pope County, Illinois and from the FS archives. My research culminated in a complete Evaluation and Determination of Eligibility, which was subsequently submitted to and accepted by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office.

I was also able to gain some experience in heritage education working with kids. A group of Native American youth from the Absentee Shawnee Tribe in Oklahoma visited the Forest for a week to learn about their ancestor’s migration through Southern Illinois. We took them on a tour of some of the major Native American Sites in the forest, including Millstone Bluff. I also helped Heather and some of her FS colleges teach at a youth day camp through the University of Illinois Extension Office in Anna, IL. We focused on the Trail of Tears, which passes through the region. I gave a short lesson on the basic principals of archaeological stratigraphy. The students layered ingredients from a buffet of sugary treats to create a tasty visual aid.

My favorite part of the internship was monitoring (checking up on) a collection of historic homesteads that make up what was once an antebellum community of free slaves called Miller Grove. Although what is left of Miller Grove today is mostly stone foundations and chimney falls, archaeological research has yielded valuable information and interesting insights into what life was like in this rare town. I also really liked that no day was the same as the one before, and the only thing I could absolutely count on, was that the next day would be different too.

Reflecting on my woodsey adventure now, I truly wouldn’t change anything. I feel incredibly grateful that I was able to work one on one with such a successful cultural resource specialist in such a beautiful natural environment.

Thanks for Reading!

Laura Williams

Kids eating their stratigraphy

Site monitoring

Sometimes we got to play with toys!

Survey in the wilderness

Touring Mill Stone Bluff with the Absentee Shawnee

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