University of Montana Field School at the Moon-Randolph Homestead

By Nikki Manning

Back in February of this year when I visited with Caroline Stephens, one of the homestead’s caretakers, I will admit that I didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into as we eagerly planned an archaeological field school for this summer. Yet, five brave students from the University’s Department of Anthropology signed up not only for the field experience but to provide a service for one of the Missoula community’s most beautiful gems. Our mission as we chose to accept it – a full architectural survey of the dilapidated “Main Cabin,” built sometime between 1890-1910, and an inventory of the many artifacts that are stored in there, almost as if the inhabitants went out to the field for the day and might home anytime.

  The “Main Cabin” at the Moon Randolph Homestead.

The “Main Cabin” at the Moon Randolph Homestead.

Fast forward to now and we are just beginning our third of five weeks. During our first two weeks we accomplished a lot and what feels like never enough. We have endured drastic changes in temperature – our first day was windy and in the high 50s and today we were pushing into the high 90s with not even a light breeze. The wasps are getting tired of our intrusion and our bull snake friend (how big he really is ranges between 3-5 feet depending on the storyteller and the listener!) is not too thrilled with us poking around in his home either. The spiders – well, we won’t even go there.

Our main tasks so far have been full photographic documentation of the cabin and landscape, a vegetation survey of the immediate cabin vicinity, and SO MANY measurements. We have measured every nook and cranny of the interior (including the “cold room” off the kitchen which has acquired the loving moniker of “the Snake Hole Lounge”) and every surface of the exterior. We are currently working on the drawings based on those measurements and will soon begin the artifact inventory.

  The cold storage room off the kitchen – a.k.a. the Snake Hole Lounge

The cold storage room off the kitchen – a.k.a. the Snake Hole Lounge

Caroline graciously offered to add a blog feature to the Moon Randolph website for us to share our experience with you all and is even going to let us stage a temporary takeover of the Instagram account! We already have a few blog posts ready to go about some interesting finds and observations that we have made thus far so check here often for new entries or the Instagram and Facebook page for more photos. We will be sure to keep you all informed, possibly entertained, and may even call on you, the Missoula community, to help us figure out what some of these artifacts are that have us scratching our heads!

Thanks for reading and following our journey!

Nikki Manning, Kate Kolwicz, Genevieve Andrus, Nicholas Densley, Samantha Hofland, Caleb Wilkerson