Spadina Museum

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.

A Day of Archaeology at Ontario Heritage Trust

During the past week, the Trust’s archaeology crew has been running an archaeology day camp called “Adventures in Archaeology” at the Spadina Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The archaeology at this site has been ongoing since the early 1980s, and is in its thirteenth year of a public archaeology camp program.  In 2004, The Ontario Heritage Trust and the City of Toronto were awarded the Peggi Armstrong Public Archaeology Award for providing opportunities for community involvement at the Spadina Museum by the Ontario Archaeological Society.

Spadina House (Built 1866)

Spadina House (Built 1866)

The Spadina Museum is a site that is ripe for archaeological investigation. The first house on this property was built by Dr. William Warren Baldwin in 1818. Baldwin named his new home “Spadina” after the aboriginal term “Ishaspadeena”, which means “a hill or sudden rise in the land.  This first house burnt down in 1835 for reasons unknown and was rebuilt on the foundations of the first Spadina. The Baldwins held Spadina for three generations, being passed to Robert Baldwin in 1844, then to his son, William Willcocks Baldwin in 1858. In 1865, however, William Willcocks Baldwin decided to sell Spadina to James Austin, who in turn tore down and rebuilt Spadina  using the existing foundations for his new house. Spadina was inherited by Albert Austin in 1897, and it was that year that a two-storey addition added to the rear of Spadina. The early twentieth century saw additional construction projects by the Austins including the addition of a third storey.

Earlier archaeological projects at Spadina Museum were performed within the basement and around the existing structure. Recently, the archaeology conducted at this site has been focused around locating the outbuildings and structures which surrounded Spadina during the Baldwin family’s occupation. Some of the more memorable finds include silver inlaid cufflinks made with turquoise, lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl found in 2010, as well as a pre-contact Nettling point found during the 2011 season.

The kids enrolled in this camp are aged 10-14 years old. They are given instruction on how to dig carefully, analyze, and record in an archaeological fashion.

 

Spadina Archaeology camper digging in the field

Spadina Archaeology camper digging in the field

The day begins by greeting the kids in the morning. The children are separated into two groups who rotate being on the field and in the lab. The names of the groups they are separated into have to do with the occupational history of the site – as one team are the “Baldwins,” the founders of the property and original occupants of the site. The second team are referred to as the “Austins,” after the builder and occupants of the structure which still stands today.

Two Spadina Archaeology campers working in their unit

Two Spadina Archaeology campers working in their unit

The children participate in digging in one by one units with a partner. They are thrilled at every find, and it is not uncommon to have more rocks than real artifacts bagged on site. When they are not digging they are actively involved in artifact processing- learning how to wash, sort, and organize artifacts that they themselves found. Earlier in the camp, the children additionally learnt how to record and map in the field: their agility with the tape-measure and Munsell over time has much improved! The assistant archaeologists who supervise them have been taking detailed notes to supplement anything the children may have missed or failed to record.

Spadina Archaeology campers washing artifacts in lab

Spadina Archaeology campers washing artifacts in lab

 

Camp participant measuring or determining Munsell soil color

Camp participant measuring or determining Munsell soil color

Field notes

Field notes

The children also participate in archaeological activities and workshops. Today on Archaeology Day, the children leave an artifact assemblage for future archaeologists by making a time capsule that will be buried at the end of the dig. Of course, the children have dug up quite the appetite by this point in the camp and are rewarded with dirt (Chocolate) and Gummy worm cupcakes as their final reward at the end of the dig.

Spadina Archaeology campers participating in artifact reconstruction workshop

Spadina Archaeology campers participating in artifact reconstruction workshop

This was the final day of the “Adventures in Archaeology,” camp in 2014. What the kids couldn’t finish, the field crew will finish next week.