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Preserving Campus History

Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

We tend to think about sustainability in terms of the present and the future. However, how do we sustainably preserve the past? Although most Broncos are familiar with the Mission Church, many are unaware of the efforts that SCU takes to preserve its cultural and historical heritage.

The Archaeology department’s mission statement in part is to “protect and preserve the integrity of the area's multi-faceted and culturally diverse history.” Linda Hylkema, Santa Clara’s Assistant Campus Archaeologist, says her team finds living areas, trash pits, gardens, and orchards from the mission as well as from the 19th century Santa Clara College while excavating portions of campus. Most people don't know that Mission Santa Clara moved five times during its existence, or that three of those locations are on and around campus.

"Although the church and associated quadrangle moved, many of the areas, including the neophyte (baptized Native Americans) rancheria (village) did not. Many of the archaeological features we excavate can be dated to different eras of the mission based upon the types of artifacts within them." We even have a Native American burial ground on campus, although the actual location is not disclosed. The team cleans and catalogs the items they find, complying with strict California standards for treatment of archaeological items. Some of these items can be found in the de Saisset Museum and in the Ricard Observatory. The following photos are artifacts from campus. The first is a photo of shell beads found at the third mission location on Franklin St. The other three are from a 19th century deposit found in the O'Connor elevator shaft, most likely associated with the California Hotel (the building that stood there before O'Connor Hall was built).


Shell beads. Photo by Mark HylkemaInkwells, circa 1880. Photo by Linda HylkemaHighball glasses with ground surfaces, repurposed into inkwells, circa 1870's. Photo by Linda HylkemaSnuff (powdered tobacco) bottles, circa 1870-1880. Photo by Linda Hylkema


Hylkema says that she would love to someday do a project comparing 19th century trash and the trash of today. She says they find much more glass, ceramics, and metal (as plastics had not yet been invented).

The de Saisset Museum, otherwise known as the de facto “Mission Museum”, also seeks to bring Santa Clara’s historical legacy to the community. The California History Collection, much of which is on permanent view, tells the history of the area from the pre-contact period to the founding of Mission Santa Clara, through the Gold Rush and the early years of Santa Clara College. The exhibition includes artifacts associated with the history of the Mission, including holy relics, a cornerstone from the third Mission site, and Spanish colonial paintings; rare, historical ecclesiastical garments and liturgical accessories dating from the 17th century; objects owned and used by the Californios (Spanish-speaking settlers of the region); and scientific instruments and memorabilia from the early days of Santa Clara College. By preserving and displaying these items, the Museum integrates the overlapping and diverse histories of the many communities that have inhabited this area up through the early 20th century: the Ohlone people, the Spanish colonizers, the Franciscan Missionaries, the Jesuits, and Santa Clara students.



In addition, our English department houses the California Legacy Project. Headed by Professor Terry Beers, this project seeks to “raise public awareness and appreciation for our state's cultural legacy and to encourage faculty and students in their creative and scholarly interest in Californian culture.” The Project has had a successful ten years publishing over forty books that reflect and appreciate California’s diverse cultural and literary heritage. Subjects range from architecture, to natural history, to anthologies of California’s most prominent writers. The Project’s site also contains hundreds of radio scripts that recreate various passages from California literature.

This year, the California Legacy Project, the de Saisset, and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics participated in The Big Read, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant is meant to foster a renewed appreciation for community reading by centering around a work of classic literature related to the area; Santa Clara chose to focus on Call of the Wild by Jack London (as the protagonist Buck came from the Santa Clara Valley). These groups on campus, along with organizations from the wider Santa Clara Community, put on book discussions, sled-dog demonstrations, a Father Hubbard exhibit, and other activities to engage the community around this novel.

To understand where we’re going, we must understand where we’re coming from. The efforts on behalf of the archaeological team, the de Saisset, the California Legacy Project, and others on campus demonstrate the importance of preserving our diverse cultural heritage in a sustainable and engaging manner.

By Kaelin Holland, '11, Sustainability Intern for Waste Diversion.

Tags: Arts, Community Engagement, Cultural Resources, Education and Research, Living Laboratory, Program Highlights, Research, Student Life, Waste



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