Dig of the Week: Woodstock Archeological Project

By Carla Charter

It was the 60’s, a time of Peace and Love. The Bethel Woods Museum and the Public Archeological Facility of the State University of New York at Binghamton are working to preserve the iconic Woodstock concert that will always be linked to that era.  The project began last October and finished earlier this summer.

Among the discoveries was the location of the Bindy Bazaar area, a very informal and casual marketplace during the event.  “They would pick an area for a booth and collect rocks to outline the areas of the booth area. Sometimes they would put a tarp in the trees over the top of the booth. They would back a camper or a truck into the area. They would sell jewelry and food. We were able to clear the ground and find pattern of rocks that had been used by certain vendors and booths, “ said Nina M. Versaggi, Director Public Archeology Facility Binghamton University.

The archeologists also became involved in efforts to locate the original stage locations and the fence that separate the crowds from the stage. The stage area had been bulldozed in the 1980’s in preparation for other concerts. “We started with pictures but they were not accurate to use as they were taken from an angle. We did the best we could to measure from photographs,” she said.

We used a professional metal detector to try to locate patterns on metal that may be on the ground. It is called patterning. If there is a concentration of metal then a gap we are finding the metal fence. Through hand excavations we were able to locate one of the post holes related to the chain link fence.   The post hole they found was in the location of an estimated line of the fence which had been created as a result of the photos and measurements found with gaps in the metal detection.  The facility was also able to locate where they believe one of the sound towers may have stood.

When the Woodstock Concert was over there was so much trash on the ground bulldozers had to be used to clear the trash away so very few artifacts were found. We found pull tabs that may or may not have come from the concert. We found several pieces of glass The biggest find was the post hole, the approximate site of the tower and the Bindy vendor area.

It is unclear whether there will be another Woodstock excavation. However, the facility is currently working on another project in downtown Binghamton uncovering the beginnings of Binghamton.

The Museum at Bethel Woods exhibits multi-media displays including the award-winning exhibit “Woodstock and The Sixties”, which contains a growing collection of artifacts and reference materials including photographs, film footage, newspapers, jewelry and posters that allow guests to authentically explore the Woodstock Festival as well as 1960s popular culture, politics and societal change.

The Museum at Bethel Woods is home to several new installations including a special exhibit entitled Peter Max: Early Paintings, which features never-before-seen selections from the Casterline Family Collection and the Fireman Family Collection.  The exhibit explores the early work of Peter Max, whose colorful imagery helped to define the psychedelic 1960s. The pieces demonstrate Max’s transition from nostalgic collage-inspired realistic paintings to his visionary, imaginative cosmic creations.

Inspired by the whimsical and colorful creations of Peter Max, twelve regional artists have also repurposed vintage doors which are peppered across the gorgeous Bethel Woods campus for an outdoor installation entitled Doors to Originality.

The tumultuous 1968 presidential election in its 50th anniversary year is explored in the mini-exhibit Election ’68: The Whole World is Watching.  The exhibit is supported by a collection of campaign memorabilia, including political buttons (a major inspiration for the design scheme of the exhibit), bumper stickers, pamphlets, and other unique items.