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Students working on the Appalachia Population History Project. (Provided via Dr. Nancy Tatarek)

Anthropology Alive! connects college community to Appalachia region

Anthropology Alive! will offer a chance for locals and tourists to experience a day in the life of an anthropologist studying the Little Cities of Black Diamonds community of Buchtel.

Buchtel was a mining town near Nelsonville and was a part of the old coal-mining communities in Athens county and the surrounding area that made up the Little Cities of Black Diamonds.

Anthropology Alive! will begin Saturday, and the morning workshop will be held in Baker Center.

“The afternoon will be in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Buchtel to visit grave sites and learn about researching health records and death records of those buried,” John Winnenberg, an organizer of the Winding Road Project, said.

Lunch and transportation will be provided for the event, according to The Winding Road’s website. The Winding Road, along with Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area are collaborating to create this event, Winnenberg, a partner of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds council, said.

Nancy Tatarek, an associate professor of anthropology, who will assist visitors in locating records and teach training focused on the Appalachia Population History Project, will lead Anthropology Alive! The project focuses on studying small mining towns from the 1940s in the Appalachia area and researching members of the communities health and the relationship to the environment, Tatarek said.

“My research project aims to look at population demography, sickness epidemics and birth and death in the Athens area,” Tatarek said.

The event is an opportunity for those participating to learn hands-on how anthropology research is conducted, Tatarek said.

“Anthropology is the study of people and their way, but backward in history to understand something from researching records and archives,” Winnenberg said.

The Appalachia Population History Project is a long-term research project, started three years ago, with the aim of examining local history and culture conducted by Tatarek and her students in the Anthropology program at the College of Arts and Sciences.

The project uses archives, field studies and research to better understand the history of the coal mining communities, Tatarek said.

“I realized that the rural population is understudied,” Taterak said. “We know about the cities, but not the effect of rural populations.”

Over the past three years, the project has run on the labor of undergraduate students interested in the project, Tatarek said.

“The project is trying to discover the health and longevity of the miners and how it compared to the general population of the area during the coal mining boom,” Winnenberg said.

The St. Patrick’s Cemetery is the resting place of those being researched by the participants, according to The Winding Road’s website.

“My idea behind getting a tour going was not to just be standing and talking, but getting people involved in anthropological research,” said Tatarek. “The day will consist of different things.”

A group of people around Southeastern Ohio wanted to create high quality, stable experiences for locals and tourists that highlight the best features of Appalachia, said Winnenberg. Those emphasized aspects include history, arts, local foods and outdoor recreation, he added.

“Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area (is) marketed by the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development,” said Winnenberg.

The Winding Road will be offering more events focused on the Appalachian area this year, Winnenberg said.

The College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Campus and Community Engagement is also working with these partners in their fields to have events in the region to bring the local and campus communities to work on projects together, Winnenberg said.

Projects like those help bring the college community closer to the local region, he said.

“I would encourage students, faculty and locals of region to use this as an opportunity to get to know each other better,” Winnenberg said.


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