Public dig returns to MOI

STELLARTON – Nova Scotian archaeologists and staff at the Museum of Industry are counting on the same energy and enthusiasm for an upcoming public dig there that was also held there a year ago.

Laura DeBoers is among the archaeologists attending the morning and afternoon digs that have been scheduled for Saturday and Sunday on grounds around the museum. She shares the anticipation she expects from those who take part in the project this weekend because of what items that have already been found.

“This is one of the best sites I’ve ever worked on for public archaeology,” she said. “It’s incredibly artifact-rich.”

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The museum is located near a pump house beside Highway 104 and on top of one coal mine that dates from 1827 and the famous Foord pit that opened in 1866.

• Dates: September 9 & 10

• 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. No digging from 12 to 1 p.m.

A maximum of 40 will be able to participate in each of the four sessions.

Drop-bys are allowed but there is no guarantee of being able to dig.

Call 902-755-5425 or email museumofindustry@novascotia.ca to pre-register

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The foundry site, dating from 1827 was part of the complex of activities that supported Nova Scotia’s earliest industrial-sized coal mines. The foundry made iron items for use on mine engines and equipment and for the homes of miners. Previous digs in that area have uncovered a wall of the foundry, nails and other items made at the foundry, pieces of tools, shards of pottery and clay pipes used by the workers.

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Professional archaeologists will be on hand to provide instruction; participants will learn about the history, will learn how to excavate using trowels, how to sift the soil unearthed, as they are on hands-and-knees digging in the dirt to possibly uncover items from the 1800s. Previous digs have unearthed many small objects and fragments.

There will be other activities on the site that day (weather permitting) as well as in the museum.

The Nova Scotia Archaeology Society and Industrial Heritage Nova Scotia (IHNS) sponsored an event last spring that gave people the opportunity to clean artifacts made of iron and other materials that were uncovered last year.

Digging groups will be divided so that junior teams with children up to 15 years old can be in certain groups, as well as first-timers. Other groups will feature seniors or those with the patience and who have done this before.

Each morning and afternoon group has room for up to 40 people.

The emphasis this year is on digging around the walls of foundries that were located on the museum site and were part of the growing industrial economy in the area. Items will be categorized and divided by types into groups, such as iron castings.

“We’ll be getting closer to the walls of the foundries,” DeBoers said.

She said about a half dozen archaeologists will be on site this weekend.

“It will be six or seven of us, which is a pretty hefty number considering there are 35 of us in the province,” she said. “We love to share our love of the discipline with the public. We love the pubic to join in.”


Participants in last year’s dig enjoy getting their hands dirty. (Photos by Tony Decoste)

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Steve Goodwin
Steve Goodwin was born in Amherst, N.S. and has been a journalist for more than 40 years. He has been a resident of Pictou County for nearly 40 years.