Fort Vancouver NHS Announces a "Summer of Archaeology"

2013 Field School
Students excavate at the William Kaulehelehe house site during the 2013 Public Archaeology Field School


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News Release Date: June 5, 2014

Contact: Doug Wilson, (360) 921-5241

Contact: Beth Horton, (360) 816-6250

This summer, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site will feature a variety of archaeology-themed programs as part of a "Summer of Archaeology" at one of the Pacific Northwest's premier archaeological sites. The National Park Service has conducted archaeological excavations at Fort Vancouver since 1947, and excavations continue today. The national park's museum collection currently contains nearly 2 million archaeological artifacts, field records, and photographs that represent the knowledge accumulated by many archaeologists working at the site.

Summer of Archaeology programs invite the public to learn more about the fascinating world of archaeology, and to discover the history of Vancouver that lies under our feet!

Field School
Field School students discuss their finds with visitors to the dig site


2014 Public Archaeology Field School

Every summer the National Park Service partners with Portland State University and Washington State University Vancouver for a Public Archaeology Field School. Students in this field school work with Park Service archaeologists to conduct archaeological excavations throughout the park.

This summer, students will be primarily working in two areas. Teams of student archaeologists will be working in the area to the west of the fort that was once the site of the Hudson's Bay Company Village. This area was a densely populated and ethnically diverse neighborhood made up of employees of Fort Vancouver. Excavations will focus on the sites of two Village houses: the house of Little Proulx, a French-Canadian fur trader, and the house of William Kaulehelehe, a Hawaiian educator who served the fort's Hawaiian population. Later, this area was the site of the U.S. Army's Quartermaster's Depot, part of the World War I Spruce Mill, which cut aviation-grade spruce for America's war effort, and a barracks and training compound for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Another team of students will be working on the Vancouver Barracks Parade Ground, excavating the site of the historic post's flag staff. A recent study by Dr. Doug Wilson, National Park Service Archaeologist and Adjunct Associate Professor at Portland State University, and Dr. Elizabeth Horton, a National Park Service Archaeologist who recently completed her doctoral dissertation on the historical archaeology of the soldiers and their families at Vancouver Barracks, has identified the location of the 1854-1879 flag staff, which will be the subject of this year's explorations. "The colors, or flag, that flew from the post's flag staff was a tangible object that served as a visual reminder of the common group identity of the soldiers on the post," said Horton. "It was a highly significant and symbolic location for the post. All of the early U.S. maps of the post and region measured from the flag staff."

From 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday, June 24-August 2, both dig sites will be accessible to the public. Members of the public are invited to visit the dig sites and talk with archaeologists and students about this year's finds. "We are pleased that the Public Archaeology Field School will provide the public with a chance to see our citizen scientists conducting research on the many layers of Fort Vancouver. We hope that this year's work will help in the restoration of the post flag staff, which is an icon of Fort Vancouver and the Barracks," said Tracy Fortmann, Superintendent of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. "This is the first step in restoring the flag staff. We hope that someday a garrison flag might be flown at special times as it would have flown proudly in the past."

Directions to both sites can be found at the Ranger Station inside Fort Vancouver, or in the park's Visitor Center. If you have accessibility issues and would like to visit the dig site, please contact Doug Wilson at 360 921-5241. For more information, visit

Kids Dig
Kids learn about archaeology as part of the popular Kids Dig program.


Kids Digs

Kids Digs introduce kids ages 8 through 12 to the fascinating world of archaeology at one of the Northwest's most famous archaeological sites! In this program, kids excavate a site with the help of park staff and volunteers, and discover what we can learn about the past from the artifacts buried under our feet.

Kids Digs take place on June 28, July 12, and July 26 at 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM. Space is limited to 20 kids. Spots for each program can be reserved at the reconstructed fort on the day of the program. Learn more at

2014 Public Archaeology Speaker Series

This year's Public Archaeology Speaker Series will feature talks on a variety of topics in history, archaeology, and the heritage of the Pacific Northwest, presented by experts in the field. Ranging from studies on the diverse people of the fur trade era, to the American soldiers and families of Vancouver Barracks, to the 20th century stories of aviation and World War I, these lectures will educate, illuminate, and spark the imagination.

In conjunction with this series, on Thursday, July 24, starting at 5:30 PM, a special program at Pearson Air Museum will commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. This event will feature family-friendly activities, special tours, costumed living history interpreters, and live World War I-era music performed by the Vancouver Community Concert Band, under the direction of Dr. Jim Rourk. At 7:00 PM, Historian Dr. Gerald Williams will speak on the history of the World War I Spruce Mill at Vancouver Barracks.

All talks are free to the public, and will be held at the Tex Rankin Theater at Pearson Air Museum. For a full schedule, visit

Museum Collection Open House


Museum Collection Open House

In this popular program, visitors go behind the scenes inside our curation facility to get up close to actual artifacts that come to us through archaeological excavations or are donated by members of the community.

This summer's tours take place on Saturday, July 12 and Saturday, August 9 at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Each month, this program features a different historical theme and brings together artifacts based on that theme. The theme of July's tours will be "Spruce Mill Soldiers"; the theme of August's tours will be "Vancouver Barracks at the Turn of the Century."

Tours are limited to 15 people. Children over 10 years old are welcome. Register in advance for a Museum Collection Open House tour by contacting Museum Technician Meagan Huff at (360) 816-6255 or by email at Registration for remaining spots on each tour can be reserved at the Ranger Station inside the fort on the day of the event. Learn more at

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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