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Research Questions

All of archaeology is about reconstructing past lifeways; that is, using archaeological data to understand daily life.  In my research I also want to understand a few other things:

(1) First, Irish immigrants in other places often experienced profound discrimination, which shaped their access to various resources, such as medical care.  On Beaver Island, especially in the late nineteenth century, Irish families predominated.  The 1870 and 1880 censes show that approximately 95% of all households on the island had at least one resident who was born in Ireland.

Given this circumstance, did the Irish on the island experience discrimination, perhaps by passing fishermen who brought their biases from other locations with them?  If so, how did that shape the ways in which they lived their lives and/or presented themselves to outsiders? And if not, how did the absence of such discrimination influence the choices they made, such as with consumer goods?

(2) Second, tea drinking was and is still a common practice in Ireland.  More than a brief break from the busyness of the day, having tea is an opportunity to maintain important social bonds.  So what were the rituals through which the Irish maintained their families and communities? And what objects were employed in that undertaking?

(3) Third, Irish immigrants in many other communities were very much tuned in to the social and political happenings back in Ireland, such as the Irish nationalist movement.  Can we discern any evidence of a transnational connection between Beaver Island and Ireland? What forms did those connections take? And what did they mean to island residents?

(4) Also what did it mean to be Irish on Beaver Island in the late nineteenth century?  Much of ethnic identity is defined in opposition to other groups – or least performed in ways that allow that ethnic identity to be recognized by those outside of the group.  With a predominately Irish population on the island, how was Irishness performed?

(5) I am also interested in learning what things you would like to know about the island’s history.  What research questions might we develop together?  I very much want this endeavor to be a collaborative effort.


For an extended research design, click here.

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