Robert Baldwin

Day of Archaeology at Ontario Heritage Trust 2015

Last week marked the completion of the 2015 archaeology day camp called Adventures in Archaeology at the Spadina Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust’s archaeology staff. Archaeology began in the 1980s at the Spadina Museum and this is the 13th public archaeology camp taken place on this site as of 2015. The continuous public archaeology program conducted by the Ontario Heritage Trust and the City of Toronto at Spadina received the Peggi Armstrong Public Archaeology Award from the Ontario Archaeological Society in 2004 for providing opportunities for public participation in archaeology.

Adventure in Archaeology campers digging at the Spadina Museum 2015
Adventure in Archaeology campers digging at the Spadina Museum 2015

The Spadina Museum is a site rich in history and archaeology. It was originally built by Dr. William Warren Baldwin in 1818, who named it “Spadina” originated from the aboriginal word ‘Ishaspadeena’ meaning “a hill or sudden rise in the Land”. This original house was destroyed by a fire in 1835 and a second house was constructed on the site on the original foundations. Spadina was owned by the Baldwins for three generations.

Upon Dr. William Warren Baldwin’s death, Robert Baldwin took over Spadina in 1844. Then it was inherited by his son William Willcocks Baldwin in 1858, who sold the property to James Austin in 1865. James Austin demolished the house and rebuilt it on its original foundations. Spadina was then passed down to Albert Austin in 1897 where further work was done to the building such as the two storey extension on the northern side. The third storey addition and numerous renovations were constructed in the early 20th century.

Various archaeological excavations were done to further our understanding of Spadina. Most of the initial excavations occurred in the basement, across the property and near the house. Recent archaeology camp excavations yielded memorable artifacts such as a sleeve cufflink inlaid with turquoise, lapis lazuli, and mother of pearl found in the year 2010, a pre-contact Nettling projectile point uncovered during the 2011 excavation, and this year a Union Jack pin was recovered during camp. The recent focus of the study has shifted to locating the surrounding outbuildings originally present around the first Spadina house built during the Baldwin occupation.

Union Jack pin found at Spadina site in 2015

Union Jack pin found at Spadina site in 2015

Adventures in Archaeology is a summer camp giving children between the ages 10 to 14 a chance to learn and experience archaeology for two weeks. The children were not only taught how to dig, identify, and wash artifacts, but they were given the opportunity to understand what being an archaeologist is all about and how to learn from an archaeological site.

Campers participating in an artifact analysis workshop

Campers participating in an artifact analysis workshop

Though the Adventures in Archaeology summer camp came to a close for this year, archaeology does not end at Spadina. Any unfinished units dug by the children at the Spadina camp have to be excavated and completed according to the standards and guidelines established by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport. These were completed by Trusts staff late last week.

Staff completing the excavation
Staff completing the excavation

Any of the excavated artifacts left unprocessed from the camp are currently being washed and sorted by the archaeology staff at the Trust’s archaeology lab in downtown Toronto. Washing entails the removal of soil from the artifacts to prevent further destructive effects of the natural acids within the soil. This ensures that the artifacts can be kept in the optimal condition to be preserved for research and future generations.

Staff washing artefacts

Staff washing artefacts

Staff reviewing field records

Staff reviewing field records

On this 2015 Day of Archaeology, archaeology staff is completing the washing, sorting, labelling and re-housing of the artifacts recovered this year as well as reviewing the field records in order to begin writing the report. In August, cataloguing these artifacts will further our understanding of Spadina through time and link our finds this year to the archaeology done in the past field seasons.