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Grant helps make WMU's Fort St. Joseph open house a success

Aug. 1, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A $6,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council helped make a recent open house for Western Michigan University's Fort St. Joseph archaeological project a resounding success.

The event July 26-27 drew more than 1,300 participants to the excavation site in Niles, Mich. It also highlighted a 10-year agreement between the city of Niles and WMU to continue the project. The grant was part of the council's "Michigan People, Michigan Places Our Stories, Our Lives" program, which supports community collaboration for public humanities programs.

"This is an important opportunity for residents and visitors to better learn about the history and culture of Southwestern Michigan in the 18th century," said Jan Fedewa, executive director of the Michigan Humanities Council, when presenting the award July 24. "The council is pleased to support this project which helps provide a better understanding of how archaeology can be used to construct history."

The open house featured ongoing excavations by students under the direction of professional archaeologists; an outdoor museum with informational panels and displays of 18th-century artifacts recovered from the site; and a living history village of authentic historical re-enactors who demonstrated daily colonial life as it was practiced at the fort.

"We are pleased to partner with the Michigan Humanities Council on this event," said Dr. Michael Nassaney, the project director and WMU professor of anthropology. "Their support allowed us to make a real archaeological excavation at one of Michigan's most important historical sites accessible to a wider audience."

"This funding helped Western Michigan present our rich natural history through the lens of their professional archaeologists, and I'm pleased to support it," said U.S. Senator Carl Levin.

"Grants from the Michigan Humanities Council help Michigan communities study and preserve the state's unique culture and heritage," added U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. "I am pleased to be able to support funding for the Council and for these important local community projects."

"We have such a rich heritage here in southwestern Michigan, and this grant provided a unique opportunity for our community to learn more about our forefathers who first settled the region," said Congressman Fred Upton. "I applaud the longtime collaboration between the city of Niles and Western Michigan University to ensure folks will continue to enjoy this landmark that provides a glimpse of life during colonial times."

The Michigan Humanities Council, founded in 1974, is the state's independent, non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, visit michiganhumanities.org.

The open house supported by the Michigan Humanities Council grant was also made possible by support from WMU's College of Arts and Sciences, which provided financial and staffing support to the effort.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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