Making archaeology accessible to the public is a major goal of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. It is the community’s history that is being unearthed and interpreted by project researchers, and it is very important that they have the opportunity to learn about the project’s findings and even take part in the archaeological process.
The Project invites the public to attend its annual summer lecture series, register to participate in the summer camps and host an open house at the end of the field season. Other public outreach initiatives include:
- Michigan Archaeology Day–Lansing, MI
- Support the Fort Education Days–Niles, MI
- Kalamazoo Living History Show–Kalamazoo, MI
- Plow Day–Buchanan, MI
- WMU Day at the Capitol–Lansing, MI
- Regional History Day–Buchanan, MI
- Summer Archaeology Lecture Series–Niles, MI
- French Market–Niles, MI
- Friday Afternoon Site Tours–Niles, MI
The strong tradition of public partnership between the City of Niles and the project has recently produced the Archaeology Advisory Commission. This commission will direct the future of archaeology at the fort, and has cemented the bond between Western Michigan University and the City of Niles. This partnership of academia and the public realm will ensure that community education and involvement remain primary goals of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. Members of the Advisory Commission represent the following interest groups, among others:
- Fort St. Joseph Historical Association
- Fort St. Joseph Museum
- Northern Indiana Center for History
- Western Michigan University
- Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi
- Berrien County Parks
- City of Niles
- Support the Fort
- Niles District Library
- IBM Global Services
- Fernwood Botanical Gardens
Public education has been an important aspect of the project since 2002. Each field season, three summer camps are held:
- A camp for young adults
- A camp for continuing education adults, and
- A camp for elementary and high school teachers.
These camps provide the members of Niles and surrounding communities with the opportunity to engage in active excavations. Summer campers receive hands-on training in archaeological field techniques, as well as a more in-depth knowledge of the historical context of the fort. For the first time in 2006, teachers were offered the opportunity to participate in the summer camp for continuing education credit through Western Michigan University. The project was also the recipient of the 2007 Historical Society of Michigan Education Award.
Open Houses typically take place in August.
Since 2004, the Fort St. Joseph Archaeology Open House has been the culmination of Western Michigan University's field school and the showpiece of its public education and outreach initiative. Free of charge, the public is invited to view ongoing excavations and to interact with the student archaeologists. To assist with interpreting the archaeology, past open houses have offered an Outdoor Museum with student-created informational panels and artifacts on display as well as a Living History Village with professional reenactors interpreting 18th century life. Speakers, including WMU professors, have given lectures on the archaeology and history of the fort.
Minecrafting Archaeology was created to allow players to experience a real archaeological excavation which has been recreated in Minecraft. The setting for this map is the historic French colonial fur trade post, mission and garrison known as Fort St. Joseph. Two scales of an excavation unit dug at the fort by archaeologists in 2014 have been recreated. Explore the world of archaeology and the process of conducting excavation, identifying artifacts and learning about French colonial history in Michigan.