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EDITORIAL: History, with a view up close


You can’t get any more hands-on with your local history than this.

Back for an encore presentation next week in Stellarton will be the opportunity for the public to help in an archaeological dig on the site of a centuries-old foundry.

The Museum of Industry is offering the chance for people to join the province’s archaeological service in the exercise at the foundry, built to support the coal mine established by the General Mining Association in 1827. The dig site is just a stone’s throw from the museum building, toward the East River.

The two days set aside for four available sessions on Sept. 9 and 10 marks a followup of last year’s successful event. It turned up a plethora of smaller bits and objects of metal as participants worked their trowels, but also such exciting pieces as a nickel from 1928, a padlock, a brick from Scotland with carved letters and a piece of fish belly rail made from iron.

As in the earlier dig, next week’s will see a number of archaeologists on hand to supervise, provide tips, answer questions and explain the process. The goal this time around is to go deeper to see if they can find foundry walls, work surfaces, casting floors or perhaps footings of machines.

Whatever objects or foundations are discovered, it’s all part of supplying more pieces to the overall picture, helping to flesh out what that operation from nearly 200 years ago was really like.

There’s little wonder that last year’s dig was so popular, with some people putting their names on a waiting list, hoping for a call. It’s partly the opportunity for some education on a subject – basic archaeological techniques – that most don’t get a chance to observe up close.

And then there is also the interest many residents have about the early days of their community. Consider that those who have called Pictou County home for a number of generations might well have had ancestors toiling in these very places.

This nascent industry goes to the very heart of the early foundation and character of the towns at the core of Pictou County. When we think of the early days of coal mining and iron and steel fabrication in Canada, this area is an integral and leading part of that development.

No doubt many of those who participated last year will be eager to go back for another shot at it, to help sift through that soil down to the next layers of discovery. And for anyone who’s ever had the hankering, this is a prime opportunity. But don’t delay in trying to reserve a spot, they have a reputation for going quickly.

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