LEARN Archaeology Expedition Program

Research & Collections

At Montpelier, YOU can discover the past. Our week long LEARN Archaeology Expedition Programs are your chance to help our archaeology staff Locate, Excavate, Analyze, and Reconstruct the Madison landscape. These programs are designed to incorporate you into each part of the archaeological and interpretive process, putting you side-by-side with our archaeology staff as we rediscover the Madison plantation through archaeology. All while building a cohort of friends that will last a lifetime!

There is no prior experience necessary. Folks from all ages, ranging from eight to 82, have participated. We make it our job to train you as part of the dig Montpelier archaeology staff. We have four types of Expeditions:

Locate: Metal Detector Expeditions: These expeditions are for Metal Detectorists looking to learn about archaeology and to detect on Montpelier's property! 

Excavate: Field Expeditions: Work side-by-side with our staff, excavating, sifting, and digging on Montpelier's property to uncover James Madison's past!

Analyze: Lab Expeditions: Analyze the ceramics we uncover in the field through identification and mending, and learn about iron conservation with our lab staff.

Recreate: Log Cabin Expedition: Help us recreate the sites we've excavated using the original construction techniques to build log cabins, timber frame homes, and other elements of the Montpelier landscape!

Our schedule for the 2014 dig season is closing, but we have some slots available for the following sessions:


Our 2015 Expedition Schedule

Location (Metal detecting) Expeditions

  • Session #1-March 29-April 3 (Metal Detecting Expedition)
  • Session #3-November 8-13, 2015 (Metal Detecting Expedition)

Excavation Expeditions

  • Session #1-March 8-13, 2015
  • Sessiion #2-April 12-17, 2015 (Descendant Expedition)
  • Session #3-April 26-May 1, 2015

  • Session #4-July 26-31, 2015

  • Session #5-August 2-7, 2015

  • Session #6-August 9-14, 2015

  • Session #7-September 6-11, 2015

  • Session #8-September 20-25, 2015 (Alumni Expedition)

  • Session #9-October 4-9, 2015

  • Session #10- October 18-23, 2015

Analysis (Lab artifact workshop) Expeditions

  • Session #1-March 1-6, 2015 (Lab workshop)

Reconstruction (log cabin workshop) Expeditions

  • Session #1-February 15-21, 2015 (Log Cabin Workshop)

The Program

Each program is designed to give participants exclusive hands-on experience in one element of the archaeological process: from identifying archaeological sites, to excavation, to analysis, to interpretation. You will work side-by-side with a staff of eight trained, professional archaeologists, which means you will be working on real sites—sensitive features, artifacts, and deposits that have been buried for centuries and that the public would usually not get to experience. In addition to digging at artifact-rich sites, you will also engage in lectures, and take "insider" tours of the archaeological sites and the mansion.

Arlington House

During your Expedition, you will have the special opportunity of staying at a converted antebellum plantation house right on the grounds of Montpelier with other Expedition participants.  Click on the following link for Photos of Arlington House.

For more information about how to participate in these programs, please contact Matthew Reeves, Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration, at dig@montpelier.org or (540) 672-2728 x 161.


Logo design by Mary Garner-Mitchell, http://www.garnermitchell.com/


"Dr. Reeves and the rest of his staff were wonderful to work with—patient, willing to share knowledge, and helpful to those who were first time 'diggers.'"

Archaeology Expedition participant