Archaeology in the school system: The Archaeological Resource Centre (Karolyn Smardz)

I recently read an article by Karolyn Smardz Frost entitled Archaeology in the school system: The Archaeological Resource Centre. To be more precise, the article was written when the author’s name was Karolyn Smardz. The article offers a great overview of what can be done with archaeology in schools as occurred in the Toronto Board of Education in the 1980s. The board was subsequently amalgamated into the Toronto District School Board.

Smardz describes public archaeology in which people become involved in archaeological research under close supervision of archaeologists. Her overview of the Toronto board’s archaeology program is detailed and inspiring. She mentions that one of the staff members involved in the Toronto program was an experienced public relations officer in addition to having archaeological training. “The work of this individual,” she notes, “has been invaluable in bringing archaeology to the public eye, and has to a great extent been responsible for the success of [the Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC)].”

Her account notes that ARC’s research design focused on Toronto’s nineteenth-century heritage including domestic, commercial,and light industrial sites occupied by immigrants to nineteenth-century Toronto. “Prior to the founding of the Centre, ” Smardz notes, “the brief archaeological history of Toronto had included the excavation of upper-income domestic sites, public institutions, and the military establishments of Fort Rouille (French, founded 1751) and Fort York (British, founded 1790s).”

Smardz also notes in her article, which appears to date from the 1980s, that archaeological sites are often located on schoolyards in the city centre, which is significant from a research point of view: “Schools were usually built in areas of high population density, and on land that was relatively inexpensive to purchase. Thus, domestic, commercial, and small industrial sites found on schoolyards are admirably suited to furthering the stated research goals of the Centre…. Such sites are also often well preserved because of the presence of an asphalt cap on the playground overlaying the remains of demolished structures.”

An good online introduction to these concepts by the same author is available.


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