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Thinking Outside the Box: The Rancho Project
This project was designed to align the needs of the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum for historical preservation and research with California State University, Dominguez Hills campus research and student experiential learning.
The partners were the museum and the Center for Service Learning, Internship and Civic Engagement. The museum needed assistance researching collections, lands and plants and historical preservation of its collections. Faculty from the Departments of History, Anthropology, and Biology participated in field trips to assist in developing research questions with the museum, and the partners were involved in designing the research process and in interpreting much of the data and determining how it would be disseminated.
Interns researched archival preservation methods to assist with historical preservation, cataloguing, and collection display. The Anthropology Department opened a field school. Students opened three pits on the initial survey, screened soil for artifacts and lithic material, making a photographic journal and site maps while sorting and cataloguing findings. The department analyzed and interpreted the results and created a report that the museum could use.
History students wrote a research paper on rancho land use. Biology faculty and students identified plants and made plans to restore native habitat. Findings will be published in catalogs, and documentation sheets of the collection, detailed archeology reports about rancho lands, local school curriculum, and research papers will be considered to create a publication about the museum and its history.
The project has added to the body of knowledge, and participants learned the value of university seeking out the rich resources of other institutions for mutual benefit. The strong community relationship has produced further collaboration, including the 50th Anniversary of CSUDH and the Centennial of the 1910 International Aviation Meet, which took place on land between the two institutions. Many more projects will follow.
Cheryl McKnight, Center for Service Learning, Internship and Civic Engagement
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Alison Bruesehoff, Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum
Key words: museum, Southern California, history, anthropology, biology, land use, native habitat restoration, internship