The weather is turning colder, but a Lowell student has warm memories of a program she attended during the summer in Colonial Williamsburg.
Elizabeth Plank was one of just ten students selected nationwide to be part of a summer program held in Colonial Williamsburg by the Public Archeology Institute. Participants worked alongside professional archeologists to gain field experience as well as learn more about various artifact types and how to document and interpret them.
“I’ve always been interested in colonial-era history and archeology,” says Elizabeth, who is in 10th grade at Lowell High School. When her mom – Lisa Plank, executive director of the Lowell Area Historical Museum – learned about the Williamsburg program, the teen knew she wanted to apply.
The application process included drafting an essay, and Elizabeth was chosen as part of the first group of students to participate in the program this past June. Over the course of five days, she was able to contribute to the excavation of Eastern State Hospital’s Thompson Building while also making memories to last a lifetime.
Helping Unearth a Piece of History
As the daughter of a historian and a geologist, archeology may run in Elizabeth’s veins. She has fond memories of searching for fossils with her father, and while she wasn’t looking for those in Williamsburg, it was similar, hands-on work.
Participants in the program weren’t bystanders, simply observing the professionals. “You jumped right in.” Elizabeth says. “It felt like we were part of the Williamsburg archeology team.”
The teens worked closely with three archaeologists to uncover what had been an addition to the Eastern State Hospital, a psychiatric institution. That section of the building was constructed in the 1880s and demolished in 1968.
“Our goal was to find the foundation,” Elizabeth explains. Along the way, they found a jet button that dates back to the 1900s and that was the “most cool find,” according to the Lowell teen. A door hinge and a piece of a bottle were also unearthed from the site.
While the hands-on experience with archeology was the best part of the program for Elizabeth, she also enjoyed meeting the other teens who came from various backgrounds. She notes that the group clicked and worked well with each other.
Will there be more experiences like this in the future for Elizabeth? She hopes so, saying: “I’d like to continue working with colonial archeology.”