Digging Darrow

30th May - 11th June 2017

It’s DigVentures’ very first trip to the USA! We’re headed to upstate New York to find the remains of the most important Shaker settlement in America.

95% Funded
2 Days left
£6,450 Goal

Hellooooo USA! DigVentures’ first ever dig ‘across the pond’ is happening in upstate New York, where we’re excavating the remains of the biggest Shaker settlement in America.

We’re thrilled to be the first archaeological team to take on the challenge – and YOU can join us!

The Shakers are one of the most intriguing social and religious movements in American history. Established in the 1700’s near Liverpool in north west England, the group set sail for America soon after forming to escape persecution for their ‘heretical and dangerous’ beliefs.

Led by the charismatic Ann Lee, the Shakers established a community on Mount Lebanon in 1787 which became 
the largest in the United States, and the spiritual centre of Shaker society; a society who from the very beginning believed in racial equality, female leadership and technological innovation.

Nestled between the Berkshire Hills and Taconic Mountains in idyllic Columbia County, New York State, Mount Lebanon is now home to Darrow School, an independent college preparatory school, who have been the conscientious caretakers of the many Shaker buildings, artefacts and landscape features that still exist on their campus.

In 2013, DigVentures helped a small group of students do a trial excavation of the ruins of one of the settlement’s original houses. Together we proved the truth of historical claims that it was destroyed by a fire, and that it was still full of original Shaker artefacts. And there’s plenty more to find!

Darrow School has now embarked on a mission to dig even deeper into its unique history, and to create new educational opportunities for Darrow students, Shaker scholars and history-lovers all over the world.

Digging Darrow is planned as a five-year project stitching together scholars, existing resources and new research to explore these fascinating American social innovators. The 2017 season will be an essential first step in laying the foundation for the longer excavations to come. We are so excited about what the future holds for this exciting work!

Together, we can start to make some really important discoveries about this enigmatic community whose innovations and material culture still provide inspiration for architects and designers around the world today.

Dig places for this initial season will be very limited, and allocated on a first-come basis, so if you want to join our dig team, get in quick!

The Shakers are internationally recognised for their handcrafted objects, furniture and architecture, and the clean, simple designs which embody their spiritual beliefs. Recent studies, however, have challenged the enduring and popular image of Shaker simplicity, to reveal a complex and often fractious history.

As the Shaker community declined in population in the early 20th century, the Mount Lebanon site was gradually sold to various private owners, including Darrow School, which took ownership in 1932. Mount Lebanon was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and was recognized by the World Monuments Fund in both 2004 and 2006 as one of the 100 most significant endangered historic sites in the world.

It is also home to the Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon whose collections and scholarship, built up over the last 50 years, will contribute to the foundations of the project’s desk-based research. Additionally, Hancock Shaker Village, a living history museum devoted to Shaker life, is just a short drive away.

As one of the most intriguing social and religious movements in American history, new archaeological investigation provides a significant opportunity to further understand this group as well as the period when the United States of America was emerging as a newly-formed nation.

Darrow is the only school in the United States located on the site of an historic Shaker village. The school’s mission to dig even deeper into the unique history of its campus, and incorporate this activity as an essential part of their project-based curriculum, will be the only hands-on program of its kind available to high school students in the United States. Understanding the archaeological resource, and what it tells us about the Shakers, is fundamental to this exciting new phase of learning.

There are many established Shaker scholars, facilities and resources in the region, and the dig is intended to spark new research collaboration and increase the profile of Shaker studies.

This dig will be an essential first step towards a full-blown interdisciplinary archaeological investigation that will take place over five years. We can’t wait to see what we find!


In 2013, DigVentures completed a targeted excavation of the ruins of the Center Family Wash House on the campus of Darrow School. This year, we’re going to expand the project to take stock of both the above- and below-ground archaeology, and to establish targets for more fieldwork in future seasons. The excavation is set to take place over two weeks:

  • Tuesday 30th May – Sunday 4th June
  • Tuesday 6th June – Sunday 11th June

Dig places for this initial season will be very limited, and allocated on a first-come basis, so if you want to join our dig team, get in quick!

During those two weeks, we will:

  • Map out the entire Shaker village. Their spatial architecture was unique, and we want to examine how it defined Shaker identities, reinforced their beliefs and brought Shaker ideology into being
  • Look for other demolished structures such factories, workshops, millponds, culverts, aqueducts, and spillways. We’ll look at how their experimentation with new technology and industrial innovation changed their landscape
  • Do plenty of excavation. We will expand the area of excavation that we started in 2013 to investigate industrial and domestic structures, and gather the evidence we need to learn more about the Shakers through their material culture
  • After that, we’ll use everything we find to start exploring four big research themes. These will include: utopian dreams, industrial landscapes, and the role of work in the Shaker spiritual experience, reflected in their famous aphorism, ‘hands to work and hearts to god’

To carry out our excavation, analyse everything we find, and make the results available online, we’re aiming to raise £6,450/$8,000 in order to:

  • Plan the dig. There are some (fairly complicated) logistics involved!
  • Pay for all the ‘aftercare’. Excavation is just the tip of the iceberg! It’s the analysis, reporting and artefact conservation that happens afterwards that is the most time-consuming and expensive part of any archaeological research project.
  • Hire enough archaeologists to make this a public dig that’s fun to join in with. We’ll make sure there’s plenty of dig team staff and expertise to ensure everyone has a truly insightful archaeological experience
  • Write up all the results and make sure that everything we find also exists online. We think all of our data should be free and easy to access
  • Keep you all up to date before, during and after the dig. It doesn’t start and end with excavation. We’ll be publishing videos, live streams, virtual artefacts and blogs so that you can follow the whole process from start to finish

DigVentures believes that archaeologists can carry out internationally important research while bringing as many people on this journey with us as possible, and making the thrill of discovery available to everyone.

With a location that combines significant amounts of archaeological remains with many Shaker structures still in use, this field school will provide students with training in the practical skills involved in the archaeological fieldwork as well as a unique opportunity to learn about heritage interpretation, historic buildings and site management, public engagement and community archaeology.

As a crowdfunder, you’ll be right at the very heart of the action, either online, or in the field.

By becoming a Digital Digger, you can support great archaeology from a distance. We’ll send you interactive virtual artefacts to examine, share daily video updates with you, and provide plenty of opportunity to talk directly to our team while we’re digging. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes view of archaeology at its best, and it will feel like you’re right there in the trenches with us!

You can also top up your contribution and get even more awesome rewards, like one of our team t-shirts, or an authentic chocolate replica of our famous Anglo-Saxon namestone!

Or… you can become a Field Venturer and grab the opportunity to actually come and dig with us! Depending on how big an archaeological adventure you want to have, you can come for a day, a weekend, a week or even make a proper two-week holiday out of it. However long you choose, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to dig and discover alongside our professional archaeologists.

Every single contribution goes straight to the archaeology, so you’ll be directly helping to unearth a brand new piece of Shaker history.

How much will it be in dollars?

Your chosen benefit will be charged in pounds based on the prevailing exchange rate. We’ve given a rough indication of the dollar equivalent at each benefit level, but please bear in mind that it will probably vary.

Do I need to have done any archaeology before?

Absolutely not! All you need is an adventurous spirit and a willingness to learn – we’ll provide everything else you need to dig alongside us in the trenches.

Which dig days are still available?

The dig is scheduled to take place over two weeks, including:

  • Week One: Tuesday 30th May – Sunday 4th June 2017
  • Week Two: Tuesday 6th June – Sunday 11th June 2017

If you want to Dig for a Day, you are welcome to join us any day Tuesday-Friday.

If you want to dig for two days, you are welcome to join us for any two consecutive dig days, including weekends.

If you want to dig for a week or more, you can choose which week you prefer.

Whichever dig days you choose, just remember to include your preferred dates in the notes when you make your contribution.

What about food, accomodation and transport?

Darrow School will provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone involved in the dig, and from experience we can tell you their meals are healthy, hearty and DELICIOUS! Meals are all made from locally grown, organic produce with vegetarian and vegan options available. You don’t have to eat every meal with us, but the option is there if you want it!

However, travel and accommodation are things that you will still need to book and arrange yourself. We have provided some suggestions in the other FAQs. You will also receive and Info Pack when you make your crowdfunding contribution.

Do you have any advice on accomodation?

There are plenty of options for accommodation. However, you should make sure to find somewhere to stay as soon as possible. Although this dig will be at the beginning of the tourist season in the Berkshires, there are several events at Darrow across these two weeks which mean nearby accommodations will fill up quickly

The following is a brief selection of BnBs and hotels, however if none of these suit your tastes or budget, please feel free to book wherever you will be most comfortable. Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) is also a good place to look as there are many offered in the area.

Woodland Hills Campground
20 mins from Darrow

Cherry Plain Camping (plus cabin option)
20 mins from Darrow

Inn at Shaker Mill Farms
In New Lebanon

Shaker Mill Inn
In New Lebanon

Hitchcock House B & B
5 minutes from Darrow

Shaker Meadows B & B
5 minutes from Darrow

Red Lion Inn
30 minutes from Darrow

Best Western Berkshire Hills Inn & Suites
Pittsfield, MA 01201
10 minutes from Darrow

Crowne Plaza Pittsfield
One West Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201
15 minutes from Darrow in the center of Pittsfield

Hilton Garden Inn Lenox-Pittsfield
1032 South St., Pittsfield, MA 01201
Please use Darrow corporate id #3066222 for a 20% discount
15 minutes from Darrow

Hotel on North
297 North Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 358-4741
15 minutes from Darrow

How do I get there?

Darrow School is located in New Lebanon, NY, just on the border with Massachusetts. Darrow Road, marked by Darrow’s sign, turns off Route 20, seven miles west of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The campus is approximately 30 miles east of Albany, NY, and 10 miles west of Pittsfield, MA. It is 150 miles north of New York City, and 150 miles west of Boston.

There are a variety of public transportation options that will bring you close to the campus, if you do not have your own transportation. Uber has also brought people to the campus.

Airports: Albany International Airport is approximately 45 minutes by car from Darrow. Hartford’s Bradley International Airport is approximately 1 hour, 20 min. For international and long flights, JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, and Logan Airport in Boston are all approximately 2 ½-3 hours from campus. Pittsfield, MA, has a regional private airport for small airplanes and jets.

Amtrak train service: There are stations in both Pittsfield, MA, (serving the New England region) and Albany, NY, (serving Hudson/NY region)

Bus Service: Peter Pan, Greyhound, Bonanza, and other bus lines serve Pittsfield, MA, and the Albany area. We recommend traveling to the Pittsfield area if you are coming via bus.

Further travel info from Pittsfield: www.newenglandtravelplanner.com/go/ma/berkshires/pittsfield/trans/index.html

What about visas?

The United States has variable entry requirements for EU and non-EU countries, including ESTA visas and other documentation. All non-USA citizens should visit the USA Embassy website to determine your home country visa requirements.

Can I come and visit even if I'm not digging?

Of course you can! Just give us a heads up by email if you’re interested in coming to see what we’ve found.

What if I have done archaeology before, or am an archaeology student?

We are the only field school officially accredited by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists in the UK, so we can guarantee that however much experience you already have, we can help you get EVEN MORE experience! We’re happy to discuss any specific skills you’d like to gain while you’re with us.

We also have a special discounted contribution level for people who are studying archaeology.

What happens once I make my contribution?

We’ll send you a confirmation email straight away. We’ll then add you to our VIP Lindisfarne crowdfunders list so that you get special updates as the campaign progresses.

If you’re coming to dig with us, you’ll need to email us your preferred dig days as soon as you can.

When will I get my goodies?

You’ll start getting your digital goodies (like videos and virtual artefacts) as soon as the dig begins.

You’ll get your real-life goodies (like chocolate artefacts and t-shirts) once we’ve finished digging and had a chance to wash our boots!

What if I got some dig days but can't make it in the end?

We can either transfer your dig days to another excavation, or you can bequeath them to someone else… go on, pass on the archaeology love!

How else can I help?

Crowdfunding isn’t the only way you can help! The goodwill of our community is just as important – yes, really! You can be a huge help by spreading the word among friends, family and interest groups, and by sharing our campaign and updates on social media too!

If you happen to be in New York State this summer, come and stop by for a visit. It truly is a beautiful place, and even if you can’t come digging, we’d love to see you and show you what we’ve found!

Is there anything else I should know?

Please note, the legal age to drink alcoholic beverages in the USA is 21, and this will be strictly enforced for dig participants. Any violation will result in disciplinary action, which could include ejection from the field school. Given that underage drinking is illegal and can result in an arrest, any infractions could have lasting effects for non-USA citizens in terms of their ability to travel to the United States in future.

Darrow, on Mount Lebanon, is the site of the first Shaker settlement in America

Some of their buildings still survive, but there’s plenty more to be discovered below ground…

It’s a beautiful place to be – by day, and by night!

The Shakers are renowned for their minimalist aesthetics and handmade objects, which still inspire modernist architects and designers today.

They had plenty of amazing ideas too – they believed in female leadership, racial equality and the power of technological innovation!

Join the team today

Support great archeology by helping us reach our crowdfunding goal.

Digital Digger (£10)

Curious about archaeology? Take a peek into the trenches and watch the dig unfold online, plus you’ll get updates from the lab after the dig has finished.

Your Name In Lights (£25)

Upgrade your support and we’ll give you a great big shout out in the official Dig Report and send you an advance copy. It’s a bit like getting your name inscribed in a medieval manuscript, or put up in lights, but better!

+ Digital Digger

Team T-Shirt (£50)

Our famous archaeology team t-shirts are well known for making a statement. At this level, we’ll send this year’s latest design featuring one of our favourite on-site sayings – don’t worry, we’ll keep it clean while we’re on site getting dirty!

+ Digital Digger + Your Name In Lights

Chocolate Namestone (£75)

What could be better than finding a priceless artefact, than… being sent a priceless artefact that you can EAT?! We’ve hooked up with expert chocolatier Edible Museum to make authentic, full-size chocolate artefacts cast from our favourite discovery so far: the 1,200 year old Anglo-Saxon namestone we found on Lindisfarne! Or should that be NomNomNomstone?

+ Digital Digger + Your Name In Lights

Shaker Pantry Box (£125)

These oval boxes are one of the Shakers’ most iconic designs, and we’ve discovered a talented artisan who makes them using traditional tools and techniques. With signature Shaker clean lines and simple design, these little beauties are the perfect place to keep your treasures.

+ Digital Digger + Your Name In Lights

Dig for a Day (£165)

Make your dream come true and dig alongside DigVentures’ experts! Get in the trenches, try something new and exciting and make a real archaeological discovery. No experience needed – we’ll teach you everything you need to know.

Dates: Any of Tuesday 30th May – Friday 2nd June, or Tuesday 6th June – Friday 9th June. To join us on a weekend, please see ‘Dirty Weekend’ or ‘Dig for a Week’


Dirty Weekend (£325)

Join the team for two days on site and you’ll get plenty of trowel time, plus a chance to try your hand at everything else we’re up to. If there’s a better way to unwind after a hard week in the office, we’ll eat our hats!

Dates: Perfect for the weekends of 3rd-4th June, or 10th-11th June, but also usable for any two consecutive days of the dig.


Friends with Benefits (£520)

With two of you in the trenches, digging will be twice as much fun! Join the team for two days on site… If there’s a better way to unwind after a hard week in the office, we’ll eat our hats!

Dates: Perfect for the weekends of 3rd-4th June, or 10th-11th June, but also usable for any two consecutive days of the dig.


Student Special (£420)

Archaeology student wanting to top up your field skills? We’re here for you! DigVentures is the UK’s only CIfA-accredited field school providing NVQ-equivalent training. We’re even happy to give you a skills assessment and targeted training.

We will require confirmation by email of your enrolment status from your tutor prior to the dig.

Dates: Week One (30th May – 4th June) or Week Two (6th – 11th June). Or why not go for both! Just add two to the cart.


Dig For A Week (£625)

Now you’re really getting in on the action! Come and stay with us for a week and get trained up as an archaeologist. You’ll be in the trench from Day One… who knows what you’ll discover? If you’ve ever wanted to be an archaeologist, this is your chance to make it happen.

Dates: Week One (30th May – 4th June) or Week Two (6th – 11th June). Just add your preference in the notes when you book.


Dig for Two Weeks (£1,200)

Be top of the spoilheap! Seriously, seasoned pros would trade their favourite trowel for the opportunity to spend two weeks with the team digging and learning top-notch archaeological field skills. We’ll assess your field skills and make sure you walk away with the confidence to use them – wherever archaeology takes you next.

Dates: 30th May – 11th June, with a rest day on Monday 5th June.



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