Learning to Dig Archeology

A Discovery World program teaches students while excavating history in Bay View.

By - Jun 5th, 2013 02:27 pm
Learning to Dig Archeology at Discovery World. Photo by Monique Collins.

Learning to Dig Archeology at Discovery World. Photo by Monique Collins.

Back in the 1870s, Bay View was a prime location for immigrant workers. Beulah Brinton, a neighborhood resident, welcomed these immigrants into her home, offering them lessons in English and sewing, medical assistance and a place to live.

Brinton’s life is just one of the stories about Bay View that were documented through a semester of research and archeological excavation for Discovery World’s “Art & Archeology of Me” program. Through a partnership with Bay View High School and Bradley Tech High School, the program helps students learn the methods of archeology and combine those with public education, media production, design and visual art.

On May 25, program interns took part in an excavation at Bay View’s South Shore Park. The three-hour dig uncovered artifacts from that time period – including ceramics, window glass, nails and stoneware used for jugs and crock pots. Ryan Kresse, the program’s co-developer, says these artifacts provide evidence that houses once stood where the park is now located.

Heidi Heistad, the program’s lead developer, says people often think Milwaukee and its surrounding areas have little historical significance: “We usually think innovative things happen somewhere else, but in reality, there are lots of things happening in Milwaukee.”

For instance, according to a patent filed in 1880, Elijah Bowen, one of Bay View’s famed innovators, improved the rolling mill, used in the primary industry which then employed the area’s immigrant and local workers. As for the work of Beulah Brinton, more continues to be discovered about her work. The Beulah Brinton House, located at 2590 S. Superior Street, serves as the headquarters for the Bay View Historical Society, holding its numerous archives and artifacts from the late 1800s.

Kresse says the Art & Archeology of Me program teaches Milwaukee’s youth about the city’s history and role in science and technology. “They become connected to their city in a whole new way,” he says. “They’re able to take ownership of the city.”

Heistad says urban archeology can be used as a tool to teach students about a wide range of subjects. “It’s an incredible doorway into design, science and communication; students can use this to find their own passion,” she says.

Learning to Dig Archeology at Discovery World. Photo by Monique Collins.

Learning to Dig Archeology at Discovery World. Photo by Monique Collins.

While most of the students in the program live outside Bay View, Heistad says they gain a new appreciation of it through their work: “They become public ambassadors for these areas. They have all this new knowledge they can share with others.”

Vanessa Flores, a senior at Bay View High School, has been with the program since her freshman year. Before joining the program, she had always wanted to get out of Milwaukee. “Since this experience, it has opened my eyes to the new Milwaukee,” she says. “I’ve taken this place for granted.”

The past work of interns is displayed at the Bay View Historical Society and Bradley Tech High School. Flores feels the program breaks down negative stereotypes placed on the two high schools. “If anyone tries to downgrade Bay View or Bradley Tech, we can tell them they’re wrong,” she says. “There are so many opportunities available through these two high schools.”

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