The Neville Public Museum

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Public Archaeology at the Site of Fort Howard

Friday, May 27, 2016

On May 20th  and 21st I had the pleasure of leading a public archaeological survey at the site of the historic military site, Fort Howard, in downtown Green Bay. Thanks to special permission from Brent Weycker, owner of Titletown Brewery, we were allowed to set up a survey area behind the brewery along the railroad tracks.  Based on historic maps and previous research, this area is thought to be the location of the southeast section of the former fort.  

More than one hundred people came out both days to learn about the fort’s history and the technology being used to locate it.  Although we know the approximate location of the fort we do not know exactly where the stockade or any of the buildings stood.  The main technology used in the survey was the museums’ Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). 

GPR is a technology that uses radio waves to “look” into the earth without digging.  The radio waves bounce off of buried objects and are captured on a computer chip.  After the survey area is mapped the data can be sliced in layers using special computer software.  This can reveal patterns that might give clues to the size and shape of buried features and how deep these features are located.

Over the course of the 2 days, 3 survey grids were collected with a total area of 5,433 cubic feet.  The depth that the GPR was looking was just over 6 feet deep.  After processing the data, it was clear that there is large amount of disturbance in the first 2 feet or so, likely from the past hundred years of railroad activity. However below 2 feet things got interesting. 

GPR Maps showing anomalies at 1.2 meters below the surface.  Red and Green shaded areas indicate buried objects / features.

Around 3 feet below the surface, a series of anomalies appeared in all of the survey grids we collected.  Once the grids were stitched together at the same depth, a pattern emerged that strongly points to these anomalies as being human-made and possibly associated with the historic Fort Howard.   At this time we cannot confirm that what the GPR is showing us is the fort but if there was to be a controlled archaeological excavation, we can recommend an exact location to dig.  Known as “ground truthing,” an excavation would prove if what we’re seeing are the remains of wall foundations or something else.  Aerial view of the Fort Howard Military Post prior to its demolition, ca. 1867

In the meantime, we hope to continue surveying the area behind Titletown Brewery, and hopefully beyond, in order to piece together a much larger understanding of Fort Howard.  If the patterns in the data below one meter continue, then it will make for a compelling case that we have located the foundations of the fort that made Green Bay American.  

I will be presenting the findings of our GPR survey at a special Hardcore History event on August 9th at 6pm.  If you want to learn more about the history of the site and Fort Howard’s influence on Green Bay visit our current exhibit Life and Death at Fort Howard open through April 2017! 

Kevin Cullen

Deputy Director

Take a Deep Dive into the Past

Monday, October 05, 2015

Approximately 71% of Earth’s surface is covered with water and yet only about 5% of it has been documented by humans.   Water is vital to life as we know it, yet, we know so very little about what exists in our oceans, seas, or lakes.  Similarly, we know little about how these water systems behave, effect climate, or what secrets they harbor.  Fortunately, over the past century scientists and explorers have begun to access the mysterious depths of our oceans and Great Lakes thanks to advances in technology. 

At the Neville Public Museum, we are revealing these mysterious worlds through exhibits and public programs.   Whether it is shipwrecks, submarines, or sea creatures that interest you, we invite your whole family to come and participate in this exciting adventure taking place in downtown Green Bay. The following exhibits and programs are being offered at the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibits:

Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss 

September 19, 2015 – January 6, 2016

Come face-to-face with the last frontier - the deep sea.  Meet Alvin, JASON and Remus, state-of-the-art robotic explorers that will take you on extreme deep adventures.  There you’ll discover bizarre fish and tour sunken ships. 

Shipwrecks of the Fox River

September 19, 2015 – January 6, 2016

This exhibit displays through photographs the removal of nine tugboats, barges and dredges that were extracted from the Fox River between 2013 and 2014. For more than three-quarters of a century, these workhorses of Green Bay’s early shipping days lay sunken in the Fox River Shipwreck Graveyard.  

Navigating our Waterways

September 19, 2015 – January 6, 2016

This series of photographs and historic shipping ledgers illustrates the variety of vessels that worked Green Bay’s waters in pursuit of commerce and recreation.  Whether they were schooners, tug boats, barges, or freighters, they all played a role in the development of this city’s landscape. 

 

Events:

Extreme Deep Adventures

Saturday, October 17, 2015 11 am - 3 pm

All Hands on Deck for Hands-on Fun! Science activities, crafts, demonstrations, and games will be available at the museum for all ages.  Learn about Scuba Diving and Wisconsin’s shipwrecks, Listen to pirate-themed stories and meet Pirate Pete for photo opportunities. Regular admission rates apply.

Extreme Deep Lecture Series

This series evening lectures brings some of the leading experts in their fields of Great Lakes research to the Neville Public Museum.  These lectures are free and begin at 6pm.

October 6: Deep Water Archeology by Tamara Thomsen, underwater archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society

October 13: The Great Lakes: Their Future by Val Klump, Director of the Great Lakes WATER Institute

October 20: Climate Change and the Great Lakes by Julia Noordyk, Coastal Storms and Water Quality Specialist 

Wisconsin Underwater Archaeology and Maritime History Conference

Saturday October 10th (10am – 4pm)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This annual event brings together underwater archaeologists, maritime historians, and divers, for a day of presentations about maritime history and underwater archaeology in Wisconsin waters and beyond.  Registration is $20 and is open to the public. 

Kevin Cullen, Deputy Director

 

Excavating into the Neville Public Museum’s Archaeological Past

Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Put simply, archaeology is the study of the “stuff” (material culture) people in the past made, used and left behind. By studying this material, through careful excavation and documentation, archaeologists are able to paint a picture of how different cultures lived and survived in their unique environments throughout time. As an archaeologist myself and a new curator here at the Neville Public Museum, I was quite pleased to learn that the museum holds one of the largest North American archaeological collections in the State of Wisconsin. This collection primarily includes artifacts made by prehistoric cultures that once lived throughout Wisconsin over the past 10,000 years. These artifacts include stone and copper tools, pottery fragments, faunal remains, etc. Such a collection is invaluable for research in answering the questions of when and where people lived, what they made, and why they may have settled where they did.
Renier Site in the town of Scott
Sometimes, digging back into an archaeological assemblage can spur new questions and remind us that museums are important keepers of our cultural heritage. This was the case in a recent article published in the Green Bay Press Gazette’s “Glimpses of the Past” section (June 30th 2014). The newspaper recounted an article it published on the same date 55 years earlier, in 1959, describing the Neville Public Museum’s excavation of a very important and very old American Indian site located along the southeastern shore of Green Bay in the town of Scott, Brown Co. Known as the Renier Site, (named after the landowner) it dated to the Late Paleoindian Period (ca. 8,500 years ago) and exhibited evidence of belonging to a prehistoric culture known as Eden-Scottsbluff. This culture was first identified on the western Great Plains, so it was significant and surprising when then curator, Ron Mason and Carol Irwin, found remains of these ancient nomadic hunters here in Wisconsin. The site included fragments of projectile points (spear points), of Eden and Scottsbluff types, stone chippage, fire-cracked rock, etc. 

In the 55 years since the Renier Site was excavated, the interpretation of the site and artifacts have helped to narrate the earliest chapter in Wisconsin’s human story. Other Paleoindian sites dating to the end of the last Ice Age in Wisconsin have since been discovered, yet they remain exceptionally rare and difficult to find. Therefore, the Neville Public Museum is privileged to be the caretakers of this collection and indeed of its more than 100,000 three-dimensional objects. It is exciting to know that there are likely to be many more surprises waiting to be “re-excavated” in the years to come.


Kevin Cullen joined the staff of the Neville Public Museum in October 2013.  He is responsible for curating and designing exhibits, researching artifacts, as well as public advocacy for the museum.  His training and experience covers a range of disciplines including: Anthropology, Fermentation, Museum Curation and Design, Terrestrial and Underwater Archaeology, etc.



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