Two volunteers dig in the garden at the Emily Dickinson Museum

UMASS Summer Field School in Historical Archaeology

May 29 – June 30

In 2018 Archaeological Services at the University of Massachusetts will again offer a Summer Field School in Historical Archaeology at the Emily Dickinson Museum, home of the renowned poet in Amherst, Massachusetts. Students will learn and practice the fundamental skills of archaeological field and laboratory research under the direction of both academically oriented archaeologists and experienced cultural resource management professionals.

Last year’s Field School was interesting and fun! Dickinson’s gardens and grounds were the focus of the field school. Student’s were joined by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in using in-field flotation to extract samples for botanical analysis to identify the remains of plants that once grew in the gardens. Students also began looking for buried paths, water pipes, bed borders, and other garden infrastructure, and continued the quest to delineate the archaeological footprint of the former barn and identify different activity areas within and around it.

The 2018 Field School will continue these investigations. Through their research, students will assist the Museum in reconstructing the historic landscape and the history of land use at the site from ancient times through the 20th Century, with an emphasis on the period of Emily Dickinson’s residence there. More generally, the Field School contributes to ongoing research on the history and anthropology of the Connecticut River Valley as part of the University’s longstanding archaeological research program begun in the 1970s.

This summer’s Field School will also continue an outdoor open field lab. Students will learn artifact processing, identification, and cataloging. The lab is open to the public, and students will have an opportunity to discuss their work with Museum visitors. In addition to excavation and artifact processing, the schedule will include discussions of assigned readings, guest speakers, and field trips to nearby museums and other excavations. Students will also learn and practice how archaeological research is presented and communicated to the public by giving tours of the excavation site to visitors.

Not able to participate in the full field school, but wish you could come for a couple of days? Find out more about our public archaeology program here.

  • Field School students earn 6 academic credits—the equivalent of two classes in five weeks.
  • Cost of the Field School is $3,000. This is a very reasonable price for a field school.
  • The course runs for five weeks, from May 29 through June 30. This schedule allows students the remainder of the summer for work, travel, etc. Class begins at 8AM and ends at 4:00 Tuesday through Saturday.
  • The Dickinson Museum is within easy walking distance of much of Amherst and is convenient to bus service. Students are responsible for their own meals and housing. Student summer housing is widely available in Amherst, and the University also offers dormitory housing to students registered for summer classes.
  • The field school is open to any interested person 18 years of age or older. You do not need to be a UMass student.
  • Field School Registration is through the UMass Division of Continuing and Professional Education. Application to the Field School is through UMass Archaeological Services. Contact Eric Johnson, Director, at
  • By completing the Field School students gain the necessary experience for entry-level employment in field archaeology at most Cultural Resource Management firms.
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