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Working in Cultural Resource Management (Ontario Perspective)

June 7th 2023

Written by: Emma Chong

I am spending my summer doing CRM in Ontario, so here are some things about my experience from the first four weeks and something that you should consider if you are looking into doing CRM, especially out of province.

My first week was a local job. I had orientation on my first day, where they discussed how the day would look, what hazards to look for, who the field directors were, and some other little tidbits. But the rest of the week was spent in the field. I learned how to dig a test pit (a 30cm hole) and how to screen the soil. The first day was extremely hard. I was not prepared for how physical the job would be. It also started raining hard in the afternoon, and the soil became clay and very hard to screen. I wasn’t even able to take my shoes off when I got home. I simply stood in the doorway, looking sad and pathetic. The rest of the week was more of the same. I got better at digging holes and faster at screening. We didn’t find anything exciting, but that makes sense, given the disturbed context of the site.

My second week, I was thrown into an away job. I went up to Northern Ontario, by the Sioux Narrows area. This meant having to fly up to Winnipeg (never been) and then driving back into Ontario for four hours. We also had to bring our own screens and shovels, so we had an extra bag. That first day was simply a travel day, leaving around 4:30am and making it to our hotel around 3pm. The next day was actually in the field. It was about a 3km walk into the forest. They gave us a bright orange hat to keep the hunters from shooting us (fun). The walk wasn’t too bad, but the ticks were terrible. We got to the site, and instantly my field director had ticks crawling on him. I’ve never had to deal with ticks before, so this was very new to me. The whole week, I had about 20 ticks on me. I found one in my hair and under my shirt, but luckily, none burrowed into me. I had to pull one out of my field director on the third day. We had half a travel day to drive back to Winnipeg, and then we flew back on Friday. Overall, definitely a good experience to have under my belt, but I wasn’t entirely a fan of it.

My third week was incredibly intense. While the first and last day was just in Toronto doing local work, we were on a project with an intense deadline on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We were working in Niagara on a site that the client was waiting for us to finish so that they could start building. But we had too many things to do in very little time. We ended up working two 9 hour days and one 12 hour day (including the drive back to Niagara). The soil was clay and impossible to push through the screen, which meant it took extra long to do; plus, the test pits were about 70cm down, which meant that the intensifications (since we found a flake) took even longer. My whole body was aching, and my fingers were so sore I couldn’t open them.

My fourth week was a lot less intense. I worked with the Kingston crew on an ongoing special project. The project has been going on for 3 years. Irish immigrants from the 19th century were brought over during the Great Famine. They all had typhoid and ending dying and being laid to rest where the Kingston Hospital is located. My company has taken on the project of recovering and documenting the remains. This was an interesting project for me as I was able to find artifacts and bones that were later collected. It was very fascinating and a little sad.

Overall, my experience working CRM in Toronto (or Ontario as it has mostly been) has been very different than I thought it would be. I’ve enjoyed learning new things and putting the theories I’ve learnt in class to use out in the field. My coworkers are all very good at explaining and making sure that I understand what’s happening. My field director is always checking in to make sure that I know what’s happening. But it’s definitely been very hard physically, and my body is just now getting more used to it. Still, it’s starting to get very hot, so that’s another factor that I will have to get used to.

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