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Communications and Marketing

View Archaeological Field School in action on July 31

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Graff is leading student archaeological excavations at a Chicago home rumored to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. View the project firsthand 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, during a Media Day/Open House.

The summer Archaeological Field School (SOAN 205) class is meeting at the 160-year-old Gray-Cloud house (Grace Street and Kostner Avenue) in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood. They are searching for evidence of activity related to the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses established during the early to mid-19th century to assist enslaved African-Americans escaping to free states and Canada with the aid of people who were sympathetic to their cause.

“Urban archaeology allows us to bring the past to light in ways that inform our present understandings of American cities,” said Graff. “Having the chance to learn more about Chicago’s role in the Underground Railroad through the archaeological record is a great and important opportunity. Chicago deserves to have its stories told before we lose them to construction and development. This initiative can help people understand the history right under their feet, informing the daily lives of Chicagoans past, present, and future.”

The dig is already attracting media attention given the intriguing story about the Underground Railroad connection, and has been featured recently on WTTW’s nightly newsmagazine, Chicago Tonight. Graff is always excited to share her work with the wider public, and expects other outlets to be present for the Media Day/Open House as well. All members of the campus community are welcome to attend the Open House; please contact Emily Mace, Chicago Digital Humanities Coordinator, for more information.

The dig is part of Digital Chicago, an $800,000, four-year grant to Lake Forest College from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to involve students and faculty in urban archeological digs in Chicago, innovative digital projects, and complementary coursework in various disciplines.