In 2010, Chelsea Gross’s Bowdoin archaeology class excavated four sites around the Joshua L. Chamberlain house on Maine Street in Brunswick. The house is now a museum run by the Pejepscot Historical Society.
Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Scott MacEachern and his students unearthed about 7,000 artifacts from the excavation, far more than expected. Gross said a major home construction in 1871 likely resulted in the vast number of nearby artifacts — ceramics, glass, medicine bottles, nails, wood, bones, etcetera — that the class discovered.
Gross, an anthropology major, took on the project of cataloging the objects, eventually turning her familiarity with the inventory into a senior year honors project. “The idea [of my thesis] is that there is so much literature on [Chamberlain] and he has so many accomplishments as a general, governor of Maine and president of Bowdoin,” Gross said, “that it is helpful to understand his greater household.” Chamberlain, his wife, two children and as many as five servants lived in the home together.
Traditionally in history, the domestic side of significant figures has been overlooked, Gross explained. “The help and the household were structurally silenced.”
Although Gross’s thesis is an intellectual endeavor, she said an important part of her research for her has been shining a brighter light on Chamberlain and his Brunswick home, which in turn sheds light on the Pejepscot Historical Society. “This project has created a lot of buzz,” and Chamberlain can be a compelling draw for museum visitors and donors, she said.
Read more about other students’ community-based honors projects and independent studies at Bowdoin.