'Passport in Time' doing archaeological excavations at Camp Au Train

Published: Jul. 31, 2019 at 8:54 PM EDT
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Public volunteers are having the chance to work alongside archaeologists in the Hiawatha National Forest this week, it is all part of this unique program called ‘Passport in time.’

This program unites archaeologists and students from Michigan Technological University with the Hiawatha Forest Services and public volunteers.

“It’s really designed to try to engage the public, in a public outreach and education manner,” said Eric Drake, Heritage Program Manager for the Hiawatha National Forest.

“We really like getting people involved so they can understand how important archaeology is but also the methods that are involved,” said Drake.

The group has been doing archaeological excavations at Camp Au Train this week.

"Archaeology is really about trying to understand peoples’ lives in the past through the material culture that people left behind,” said Louann Wurst, Professor in the Industrial Heritage and Archaeology Program at Michigan Tech.

Camp Au Train was originally created as a Civilian Conservation Corp camp during the Great Depression, where young men lived and worked as a form of employment.

"Mostly doing conservation work, planting trees, and building bridges, but then the camp was later reused as a German POW (prisoners of war) camp,” said Wurst. “So part of what we are trying to do is understand how this one camp could be used for two such different populations of people."

They are hoping to find deposits associated with the Civilian Conservation Corp camp, as well as the POW occupation camp.

"So then we can look at what their lives were like and how that varied,” said Wurst.

Timothy Maze is an incoming graduate student at Michigan Tech and he believes the unique thing about this program is the volunteers working alongside the students and professors.

"They are answering the questions with us, they're asking the questions with us, we are learning just as much as they are because this is an investigation that we are all doing together,” said Maze.

‘Passport in Time’ is free if you want to volunteer, you just have to apply online whenever an upcoming program is happening.

"The ‘Passport in Time’ program is a really wonderful way for the public to get engaged in archaeology and the history,” said Maze. “So apply for it when it happens and come be a part of it because it's history happening as we go."