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Dig a little deeper

Community archaeology unearths past settlements at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

In 1872, the De Swarte family, a group of Dutch settlers, built their home on a bluff near Lake Michigan. They had a house and a barn on several acres of land before they left the area in 1892. David Pacifico knows about the family name, dates, and buildings thanks to old surveyor’s maps and records he found with the Milwaukee County Historical Society. He knows about their crockery, tools, and nails thanks to the amateur archaeological dig at what is now Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Pacifico is the director of the UWM Emile H. Mathis Gallery as well as the leader of MCAP, the Milwaukee Community Archaeology Project. The project aims to explore the long-term impacts of urbanism on the landscape of southeastern Wisconsin. Currently, Pacifico is doing that by excavating the remains of the De Swarte barn to learn more about the immigrants that helped build Milwaukee into the city it is today. He’s doing it with help from a unique quarter: local citizens turned amateur archaeologists, alongside experienced volunteers including undergraduate and graduate students and professional archaeologists. “Archaeologists in general have been interested in this notion of community archaeology,” Pacifico said. “Doing these things David Pacifico examines a fragment of a broken crock found at the excavation of a 19th century homestead. Photo by Sarah Vickery. together creates community in the present. We bring people together to create a network of social relationships among people who might not have otherwise gotten together, and we’re doing so around a project that tells us about the city and the area that we live in.” Though Pacifico is responsible for running the Emile H. Mathis gallery, his background is actually in archaeology. Much of his research and field work focuses on civilizations in Peru, but in 2017, his interests took a more local bent. Pacifico was hiking in the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center one day and began wondering, as archaeologists are wont to do, what lay beneath the surface of the land. “Their name implies a historical connection because Schlitz refers the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. You can see, walking around, some bits of the farm used to pasture the Schlitz horses that used to deliver the beer,” Pacifico said. “My thought was, what came before that?” So, he turned to UWM’s American Geographical Society Library and the Milwaukee County Historical Society for answers. He found some in maps dating back to the late 19th century. 6

• IN FOCUS • May, 2019

Profile for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In Focus Vol. 9, No. 5