Fort St. Joseph project earns prestigious state honor

Published 5:41 am Saturday, May 24, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Museum director Carol Bainbridge at Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles is hoping a recent state award will open doors for more funding to be used on archeological exploration at the Fort St. Joseph site in Niles.
The award was given to Support the Fort, Fort St. Joseph Museum, the City of Niles and Western Michigan University on May 9 for their joint effort to locate, investigate and interpret the site of the historic fort.
The award, which is part of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's Awards for Historic Preservation, was presented during National Historic Preservation Week.
However, the honor is also a recognition of their outstanding historic preservation achievements at the fort. Bainbridge said the dig, that took place from mid-May to mid-June 2002, helped provide a lot of information about the fort.
But it wasn't just the artifacts found at the site that made it an important dig.
She is hoping the result of the 2002 dig will open doors for increased funding for future digs.
Hopefully that will enable archeologists to learn more about the fort, that was built by the French in 1691 and became an outpost in the Great Lakes fur trade, as well as in the struggle for power between France and Britain.
To receive funding, however, someone has to write grant proposals. And that is exactly what Dr Michael S. Nassaney, associate professor of Anthropology at Western Michigan University, and 2002 dig leader is currently doing.
Bainbridge said Nassaney is working on a grant proposal he will submit to the National Endowment for the Humanities in September 2003.
That is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.
If that endowment comes through, it will give those involved in the archeological exploration of the fort $400,000 more to work with, she said.
In the end, Bainbridge said, the goal is still to learn enough about the fort to hopefully reconstruct it and create a museum based on findings from the excavations at the fort site.
The Governor's Awards for Historic Preservation, however, isn't just limited to historic preservation achievements. Awards are also given to homeowners who rehabilitate their homes, developers who transform underutilized historic structures into vital economic assets, academic institutions, professional and avocational archeologists, educational projects that inspire people to preserve historical buildings and policy makers who demonstrate commitment to the preservation of historic resources through innovative planning activities.