History Under the Floor Boards
History Under the Floor Boards is an exhibit suspended over the site of an archaeological excavation in the Officers’ Quarters at Fort Snelling.
The exhibit combines fact and fantasy by presenting imagined vignettes, video footage of the archaeological work done at the fort in the 1970s, images of objects found, music and a roaming magnifying glass. Nearby, display cases showcase some of the objects that were uncovered, and descriptive panels explain the building’s architectural evolution from the 1820s to the present.
During the 11-minute presentation, an enthusiastic 12-year-old narrator explains that, way back in the 1970s, archaeologists uncovered bits and pieces of people’s lives. The narrator’s voice follows a magnifying glass as it glides along on the ground, guiding visitors’ eyes to the exact spots where building features and objects were found.
Period music takes visitors back to the 1970s and video footage shows down-in-the-dirt archaeologists sifting meticulously through what was left of the fort. A movie clip of a pith-helmeted archaeologist offers a humorous juxtaposition. (Perhaps the stars of the silver screen, usually finding spectacular buried treasure, don’t convey an accurate image of archaeological work.)
Sprinkled throughout the presentation are the vignettes – played out in 1820s voices and silhouettes – that provide glimpses into family life at the fort in the 1820s. They help visitors to imagine scenes that may have taken place right where they’re sitting. At the end of each vignette, a piece of the archaeological puzzle falls under the floor boards.
As visitors step out of the archaeological presentation, they meet guides portraying the actual residents of the fort – the soldiers, cooks, laundresses, storekeepers and craftspersons who inhabited the fort in 1827.
Captioning accompanies the exhibit’s video presentation. An audio description, which enhances the archaeology presentation for visitors with little or no vision, also is available. Archaeology activities for children are offered during focused school tours.