(HYBRID IN-PERSON / ONLINE) Archaeology in Urban Settings: Hidden Histories and Connecting to the Past - A

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Saturday, May 6, 2023 - 11:00am to 12:00pm
Muin Room (Hybrid)
  • Laureen Bryant, City of Calgary
  • Nicole Nicholls, City of Kamloops
Session Description (300 word max): 

In some parts of Canada archaeological legislative requirements sit with provincial governments, some are at the municipal level, and others include distinct participation of local First Nations.  Some municipalities have predictive models to help them manage archaeological resources, while others have been exempted from having to undertake archaeological work.  There is a range of regulations and polices that speak to these heritage sites across the land, and as a result there have been many interesting projects that have revealed the hidden histories within these urban settings.  Consultants undertake extensive projects on behalf of, in collaboration with municipalities, or within a municipal boundary in general. 

However, as many people walk through urban areas, they are unaware of the potential history beneath their feet.  To understand and support heritage conservation people need to know about it.  A small number of municipalities in Canada have hired in-house Archaeologists recognizing the need for policy and process development, site protection on city owned lands, and overall citizen education. But often, building public awareness still falls to consultants and advocational societies.

The goal of this session is to invite all who work or conduct research within urban settings to share papers about their interesting projects, innovations in process, public awareness building, the opportunities they see in urban archaeology and any challenges they may have faced working in urban settings.  

11:00 AM: What the Rail? Uncovering Calgary’s Electric Railway (1909-1950).
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Erik Johannesson - Circle CRM Group Inc.

Urban landscapes, perhaps more so than other archaeological settings, represent palimpsests of human activity wherein the built environment intersects, transforms, or replaces pre-existing structures and features. As such, current developments and construction activities conducted in urban settings often come into contact and interact with the remnants of past installations and buildings, and thus provide excellent opportunities to investigate the built environment of the past.  This paper highlights this relationship via a discussion of the City of Calgary’s decommissioned streetcar system that operated from 1909 to 1950. In the spring of 2022, Circle CRM Group Inc. was contracted to identify and assess a section of rail and wooden binds that had been exposed during the installation of a new storm drain in the Kensington district of Calgary. The rail was subsequently attributed to Calgary’s Electric Railway that serviced the city’s Capitol Hill and Crescent Heights neighborhoods until the streetcar system began to be phased out in the 1940s. Asphalt surrounding the metal rail indicates that upon decommission, the rail line was not removed, but rather embedded within successive bouts of road construction, wherein it now lies in silent testimony to an often overlooked part of Calgary’s transit system and history.

11:20 AM: Unearthing the Everyday Stories of Jack Long Park (EgPm-365)
Presentation format: Online - pre-recorded
  • Kendra Kolomyja - Lifeways of Canada Limited

Jack Long Park is nestled within one of the oldest neighborhoods in Calgary, near the meeting point of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Construction work for a park revitalization project began in 2019 and exposed a broad scatter of historic material throughout the area. Though much of the material that was initially turned up was the scattered debris of a century of city dwellers, further investigation revealed that the park still had many stories to tell. Archaeological investigation, supported by ground-penetrating radar survey and combined with historical archives and photographic records, was able to bring to light some of the stories of this nearly overlooked parcel. This small community park offers a glimpse into Calgary’s earliest development years and even farther back to the Precontact people who had been drawn to the confluence of the rivers long before the city began.

11:40 AM: Perspective from a municipal archaeologist – five years later
Presentation format: In-Person
  • Laureen Bryant - City of Calgary

The City of Calgary’s White Goose Flying report, a report outlining which of the 94 Calls to Action are actionable by the municipality, specifically states “acknowledge and respect Calgary’s Indigenous archaeological sites”. Almost 45% of the land base owned by Calgary Parks and Open Spaces has been identified as containing a historic resource or having potential for undiscovered sites. As the Archaeologist in the Cultural Landscape portfolio, I strive to identify, conserve, and celebrate those sites on City owned land. Still, five years into the position, awareness, understanding, and communication are key to the success of site conservation. This presentation will reexamine the opportunities and challenges working from within a municipality and will highlight some of the exciting projects that have and will allow citizens and visitors connect to the hidden histories of the land.