Another Look at Laborers in Five Points, NY

To revisit our discussion on labor and identity in archaeology, and in light of my choice of the industrial era as the setting for my final project, I decided to take a look at The Five Points Site. Maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), this exhibit was originally a collaboration between several individuals and organizations. Dr. Rebecca Yamin is given credit for the exhibit’s text. The exhibit itself is comprised of text and images tied together with hyperlinks. A typical entry, if you will, features items such as maps and photographs of cataloged artifacts accompanied by descriptions of the activities that took place at Five Points. Interestingly, the site provides a significant amount of detail about the excavation process; it also features a section dedicated to some of the ways that archaeology may be used to challenge existing narratives.

The style of this exhibit is much more closely aligned with McManamon’s (1994) ideas of how public archaeology should be presented. That is, the exhibit is intended to convey specific information, as well as a particular narrative, to an audience. However, this interaction does not constitute a dialogue. Largely absent from the exhibit are outside interpretations; for example, views of contemporary New York residents, or even descendants of the Five Points community are not included in the information presented by the exhibit. This may be, in part, attributed to the nature of the project itself. In a statement attached to a page featuring their contact information, the GSA acknowledges that the virtual exhibit is an extension of a physical exhibit in New York City, presumably intended to interest locals and tourists alike in the area’s history. Additionally, several organizations are credited for their support of the exhibit; whether or not these organizations have interest in engaging the public in a more open conversation as per Little’s (2007) suggestions may also play a role in the exhibit’s capacity to do so.


Little, Barbara J.
2007 Archaeology and Civic Engagement. In Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement, edited by B. J. Little and P.A. Shackel, pp. 1-22. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD.

McManamon, Francis P.
1994 Presenting Archaeology to the Public. In The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education, edited by P.G Stone and B.L Molyneaux, pp. 61-81, Routledge, London.

If you’d like to take a look at The Five Points Site yourself, follow this link!

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