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WMU recognized for work on Fort St. Joseph

Nov. 9, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University has received one the state's highest awards for its archaeological exploration and educational efforts at the former Fort St. Joseph in Niles, Mich.

The University's departments of Anthropology, Geosciences and History were recognized by the Historical Society of Michigan with one of 15 State History Awards for this year. WMU received the award jointly with the Fort St. Joseph Museum in the educational programs category. The State History Awards are the highest recognition presented by the state's official historical society and oldest cultural organization, which was established in 1828.

The award praised WMU and the Fort St. Joseph Museum for their excavation of artifacts at the 18-century mission and French fur trading post and their creation of a wide range of programs to teach the public about the post's history.

"Western Michigan University and the Fort St. Joseph Museum have deepened our understanding of Michigan's rich colonial French history through their programs at the Fort St. Joseph site," read a statement from the Historical Society of Michigan.

The Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project was initiated in 1998 to identify, investigate and interpret the physical remains of Fort St. Joseph, on of the most important Colonial outposts in the western Great Lakes. WMU has conducted its annual archaeological field school at the site since 2002 in partnership with the city of Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum and Support the Fort, a nonprofit organization focused on preserving the fort's history. The project has netted more than 100,000 artifacts and animal bones associated with the French and English occupation of the fort that once was located along the St. Joseph River.

WMU and the Fort St. Joseph Museum also created a wide range of programs to teach the public about the post's history. Newspaper and magazine articles, PowerPoint presentations and even coloring books for children have described the fort's history. A Community Days open house at the field site features historical re-enactors, artifact exhibits and a variety of educational programs.

"It's wonderful to receive the recognition. It really shows that what we're doing is reaching the public," says Dr. Michael Nassaney, principal investigator and WMU professor of anthropology. "We encourage public participation. This isn't archaeology done in secret."

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

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