A Day of Rest at Montpelier

For this Day of Archaeology, The Montpelier Archaeology Department is taking the day off. Or at least, we gave our staff the day off. Why? Because they work their tails off every day, and have had a particularly long stretch of excavations for the past few months, and have even more coming up. And because we appreciate their hard work and dedication to our mission. Days of archaeology at Montpelier aren’t long because of the archaeology: we have an amazing site, we’re in Phase III for the next three years. What can make it exhausting, mentally and emotionally, is the amount of public archaeology we do, and our staff are the point people for this interaction and teaching.

At Montpelier, we run two archaeological field schools from May through July. We had incredible turnout this year: 51 applicants for 30 slots. The programs were both filled to the brim, and our staff helped guide them through the excavation of almost 60 units during that time. As everyone who has worked with a field school knows, these groups can be challenging since you never know what you’re going to get. They require constant supervision, since so many of them are new to the discipline. They require time to teach, indulge, cajole, and motivate. Our staff did an incredible job with them, both in encouraging the strong students to improve themselves, working with the weaker ones to make them proficient, and to make sure the students in the middle made progress.

Next week, we start the summer season of our Expedition Program. Once again, the staff are the front line in these week-long public programs. Members of the public visit Montpelier for an entire week, live on the property, and work in excavation units with our staff members and interns. We have 12 people coming next week, 15 the week after that, and around 10 the third week (still slots available! Email us at dig@montpelier.org!!). These programs are incredibly rewarding, but also hard work. Once again, you are teaching, coaching, motivating, and building relationships.

In all, a day off is always something to consider when you know people have worked their tails off. Archaeology is a tough discipline: it is hot. It is physical. When you work on sites of slavery like we are, it can be emotional. It can also be grueling when you are in front of the public every day, putting on your smiling, cheery face and doing the good work of public archaeology. Teaching is challenging. Ensuring the site is excavated properly (we don’t stage our excavations for the public, this is the real deal) requires total attention from our staff. Even for the most extroverted, that can require time to relax. So, for this Day of Archaeology, the Montpelier staff is taking a breather, so that on Monday we can show up enthusiastic and fresh for the Expeditioners who will be waiting for us!