Digital Tools Bring the Past to Life for Community During Highway Project

Pennsylvania

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Our archaeology/cultural resources team discovered pre-contact Native American artifacts dating back to 3560 B.C. The team created a digital social and community outreach program that made the tremendous number of artifacts beneath a major highway truly come alive.

The team’s vision was rooted in using a continuously updated, live-reporting website – both agency-facing for compliance purposes and public-facing for engagement. DiggingI95.com is filled with images and stories about past centuries of nearby life, including Indigenous Peoples and historical-period communities. The Native American artifacts constitute the largest assemblage of materials found in Philadelphia and is inspiring renewed interested in and appreciation of Delaware Indian cultural heritage by stakeholders. The Archaeologists found 10 previously undocumented, intact sites, and were surprised that some were pre-contact that dated back to about 3560 B.C.

The interactive website is coupled with additional outreach channels that dramatically increase community involvement: pop-up museums featuring standing-room-only events; public educational events that use Microsoft’s HoloLens technology to create 3D Hololens renderings and 3D prints of historic buildings and artifacts; “artifact of the month” postcards; and a professional archaeological journal, River Chronicles, which features pictures and stories about the one million artifacts uncovered during archaeological excavations.

The overall scheme departed from the customary mandated procedures that usually only involve paper documentation to be archived, usually garnering very little public interest. This truly unique compliance-as-community approach brought a new-found joy of history to our teams and the communities we serve.

Awards:

  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation American Cultural Resource Association’s Public Sector Industry Award
  • American Cultural Resources Association Public Sector Industry Award, 2017