In The News

New Philadelphia project highlighted at Baltimore conference

This article originally appeared in the Quincy Herald-Whig.

By Deborah Gertz Husar

Barry, IL.– The New Philadelphia archaeology project has gotten more national attention — this time at the Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology in Baltimore.

The work at New Philadelphia was the topic of one of the conference’s symposia, with several presentations highlighting different facets of the project and what it’s found about the community, the first in the United States formally established by an African American, Free Frank McWorter.

Participants from across the country excavate what would have been the cellar of Free Frank McWhorter’s home Monday at the New Philadelphia site near Barry. (H-W File Photo)

“Many of our archaeology colleagues from around the country are curious to learn about our latest findings, and the symposium at the national conference is a really good means of publicizing our accomplishments among the professional archaeology community,” said Terry Martin, curator and chairman of anthropology at the Illinois State Museum and a New Philadelphia consultant. “Furthermore, it is important to maintain a high profile as we will be preparing another grant application this summer to help us continue to do more research at the site.”

Grants from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program have brought 85 students to the site for six seasons of excavation and hands-on research. Additional support came from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois Humanities Council.

Kathryn Fay, now a doctoral candidate in the anthropology department at the University of Illinois, was in the first group of undergraduate students who came to New Philadelphia in 2004. She organized and chaired the symposium, “Knowledge Woven of Many Threads: Interdisciplinary Investigations at the National Historic Landmark Site of New Philadelphia, Illinois.”

Presenters highlighted different kinds of research still ongoing at the site, including historical documentary research, oral history interviews, archaeological excavations, geophysical surveys and cultural landscape analyses.

Specific presentations targeted:

º Early schooling at New Philadelphia where Free Frank made attending school a priority for his family, years before state law guaranteed public education for nonwhite children. Locating the first schoolhouse has been a focus of recent archaeological and documentary investigation.

º How religious and social networks at New Philadelphia created and shaped community life over time.

º A study of animal remains from Block 13 at the site and what they indicate about dietary patterns.

º Use of multiple analytic methods at the site including ground-based geophysics, aerial thermal surveys and light detection and ranging, or LiDAR.

º Studying soil to reconstruct the history of land-use activities on the site.

º The significance of New Philadelphia’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.

“We are also contemplating editing the various presentations into another publication on archaeological and historical research on the site,” Martin said.

Approximately 1,300 people registered for 100 symposia, forums, panels and poster sessions at the conference sponsored by the Society for Historical Archaeology.

Presentations on New Philadelphia also will be included in a Black History month program slated for Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Eells House in Quincy, and the New Philadelphia Association also plans to sponsor another weekly lecture series in June.