Nevada Original Map


Click the picture above to see our Story Map of the Nevada City Cemetery

From sticks to the stars, technology has had a huge impact upon the human race. Today we often take for granted that we can get from Point A to B (and C, D, E, & F) using our phone, tablet, or GPS device. With the old, new and developing technologies we can also see into the past.

I am finishing my final semester at MSU this spring and have had the opportunity to not only foster my love of archaeology but also to really sink my teeth into the geospatial sciences with a minor in GIS. The sciences include GPS (Global Positioning System), GIS (Geographic Information System/Science), and Remote Sensing (measuring various wavelengths of the EM (Electromagnetic) Field) and more. In the summer of 2015 I was afforded the opportunity to be the GPS/GIS Project Lead for our Nevada City Cemetery Mapping Project. Through this I have been able to put into practice what I have been studying the past few years and be able to combine it with my passion for archaeology.

When you click below the link or picture below you will be taken to the ArcGIS Story Map page I created using the GPS information we gathered this past summer at the Nevada City Cemetery located in Madison County Montana. Actually the Story Map was to be about everyone buried in the cemetery when I realized that to truly tell the stories of those in the cemetery we would have to do something different. So the Story Map I made became the story of The Extreme History Project’s journey to tell the story of the people interred in the Nevada City Cemetery.

In order to truly to tell the tales of the residents at Nevada City Cemetery we are applying for funding to not only finish the mapping, sketching, and determination of the preservation status of the remaining graves but also to create in depth maps and information for each resident easily accessible by anyone. If you are interested in helping out with either your time or funding, please let us know!

I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to use what I have learned to reach into the past and I think it would be wonderful to be able to do that around the state. We have so many cemeteries and small graveyards all around Montana and it would be extraordinary to be able to map out everything and everyone.

One of the many, many benefits of using GIS for this project is that with all of the information we acquire we will be able to create searches and maps to see how many people died (according to the graves) in 1910-1920 and where they are located or how many women are buried and where. If we can also obtain the various ethnicities of the interred as well we would be able to chart where people died and see if we can find certain trends. With GIS there are so many possibilities including being able to link with other sets of data from around the state and country and being able to possibly map out patterns. This has been so amazing and I am so thrilled be a part of the Nevada City Cemetery Project.

Again, if you are interested in helping out in any way, please let us know!

Thanks for stopping by!

Nevada City Cemetery Story Map! Come take a look!



GPS, GIS and Archaeology:

The Beginning of a Beautiful, and Sometimes Complicated, Relationship

In the Mapping of the Nevada City Cemetery in Madison County Montana

By John W. Olson

Part 2

            Happy New Year (a little belatedly) and I hope everyone is doing amazing! I wanted to continue on with the post (a little belatedly) about the Nevada City Cemetery Project and spend some time talking about how this project came into being.

It began a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far……wait, wrong story! (I’m a geek)

Like many things in life, it began by chance. We go back a couple years, Spring 2014, to when our founders, Marsha Fulton and Crystal Alegria, were made aware of an effort to find the Hebrew Cemetery in Virginia City, Montana. The search for the cemetery was lead by Jeff MacDonald, Lead Preservation Specialist for the Montana Heritage Commission and Riley Augé, Adjunct Professor at University of Montana. Through this Extreme History became aware of the lack of a plat map for the Nevada City Cemetery. Apparently, some time during the 1970’s or 1980’s the original plat map for the cemetery was loaned out and never returned.

Extreme History Project teamed up with Project Archaeology for a week-long teacher’s workshop in Virginia City. Project Archaeology offers workshops to help teachers implement their archaeology-based curriculum in the K-12 classroom and “Project Archaeology gives students a basic understanding of how archaeology works and teaches them to respect and protect our nation’s rich cultural heritage.”

Teaming up with Project Archaeology, The Extreme History Project created a new aspect for the teacher’s workshop in which the teachers would begin the mapping and documenting of the Nevada City Cemetery.   Information that would be collected would be very comprehensive and would include the status and description of the cemetery, orientation of markers, names of stone carvers, the conditions of the markers and much, much more as well as sketches of each grave.

Marshas map (1)

Marsha Fulton made the above map by hand when the project first began to separate the Nevada City Cemetery into smaller “chunks” which would help us identify, map, and categorize each of the graves. In the summer of 2014 the teacher’s workshop made huge strides in the mapping and documentation of graves located in Sections 1-3.

In Spring of 2015, during a weekly meeting at the Extreme History Project office, the idea of GPS mapping of the graves was introduced. It was thought using GPS mapping would be a great step in possibly creating a plat map for the cemetery or at the very least provide an accurate map to Nevada City to help in future burials.

Also discussed was the possibility of taking all of the information obtained (GPS, sketches of graves, info on graves, etc.) and providing it as an interactive web site available to everyone. One of the biggest aspects of this was getting ahold of any stories from friends and family members of the people interred and with their permission sharing the stories on the web. Stories of people who came to Nevada City either to strike it rich, or following family members, and even people that never intended to stick around yet became founding members of the area. Stories of real people doing amazing things.

It is amazing that archaeology, history and the internet can allow us a much deeper peek into our ancestors and ourselves.

Next week I will talk about our first GPS survey.


GPS, GIS and Archaeology:
The Beginning of a Beautiful, and Sometimes Complicated, Relationship
In the Mapping of the Nevada City Cemetery in Madison County Montana

By John W. Olson

Tessa Switzer and John W. Olson (me!) at the Nevada City Cemetery.  We are using mapping grade receivers, external antennae, and range poles for mapping.

Tessa Switzer and John W. Olson (me!) at the Nevada City Cemetery. We are using mapping grade receivers, external antennae, and range poles for mapping.

I remember using MapQuest in Seattle with a friend to locate her new apartment. We entered the address on my desktop computer, arranged the view so that the printed destination area was enlarged thus enabling us to navigate the new terrain with relative ease. At least that was the theory. In reality, since widespread public access to GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation was fairly new, there were a few glitches that needed to be ironed out. In our case the map said there was a road that was supposed to go from close to the I-5 exit leading directly past the apartment. Unfortunately, or fortunately rather, there was no road going up the incline which I imagine was around 40-50% slope. We ended up ignoring the map and traveled a little ways around the hill to reach the other side, which had actual roads at decent slopes leading to our destination.

A few years later I was moving back to Montana from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (and yes, it was a long trip from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale and Fort Lauderdale to Cut Bank, Montana) and I had a PDA (Personal Data Assistant for those in the current generation that have never known a time without smartphones) that had a small plug-in GPS unit. This was 2005 and I was totally clueless as to why the unit didn’t work very well and why I kept losing the signal. Since those two incidents, technology has changed dramatically as has the knowledge (including mine) behind the technology.

GPS, as many people are aware, basically allows users to determine where they are located on planet Earth as well as provide the geophysical location of 3D objects such as houses, golf courses, and even the precise, and secret, location of your huckleberry patches way up in the boonies. Of course, knowing where something is and having a constantly updating GPS map in order to arrive at your destination is an amazing convenience. However, even at the dawn of the field, people began realizing there was considerable potential in knowing the geophysical location of objects and gathering pertinent data in relation to those locations. GIS had been born.

GIS is an acronym for Geographic Information System, or as my GIS instructor espouses, Geographic Information Science. I agree with my instructor in that “science” more aptly defines the enormous amount of technologies, concepts, and advances that have been utilized by almost every discipline. The targeting of the physical locations of university students and city residents who are sports fans can be used in determining the future location of a sports bar. GPS and GIS can also be utilized in creating avalanche predictions in the Bridger Bowl ski area based on average snowfalls, slopes, and the types of snow.   On campus, for many years the semester project for GPS students has included gathering data in new subdivisions. This data includes locating the positions of fire hydrants, doors to apartment or condo locations and their numbers, sidewalks and other important geophysical information. This data is then incorporated in the city and county Emergency Services database to aid in response times for the police and firefighters.

In archaeology, GPS and GIS can be used to graphically display where artifacts, ecofacts, midden positions, building, etc. are located is space and through time via relative and absolute dating of materials. This process can sometimes result in discovering new patterns or help to visually enrich current knowledge. This enrichment is very evident when we consider using GPS and GIS with mapping cemeteries.

In the next few weeks, this Thursday blog will explore the immense usability and versatility of GPS and GIS in regards to the Nevada City Cemetery Project that The Extreme History Project is heading up. I want to share with everyone how we are working on telling the story of the people buried in the Nevada City Cemetery. As an added bonus, I will also be telling you the story of the people who are telling the story of the people in the Nevada City Cemetery and how GPS and GIS has altered our methodology and expanded what archaeology can offer to everyone.

Until next week…Rock on! (Archaeology pun)

John W. Olson



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Hey Everybody, Its Giving Tuesday!

Posted: December 1, 2015 by extremehistory in Uncategorized



If you have enjoyed our programs and if we have made you think about the past in a new way, would you consider supporting us with a donation? We work very hard to bring you quality history programming and projects throughout the year. Your support means we can continue providing history programming throughout the coming year and beyond. Click the “donate now” button on the left  and thank you for your continued support!

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Indigenous People’s Day is a day worth celebrating!

Posted: November 24, 2015 by extremehistory in Uncategorized

Please join us on November 30, 2015 from 6-8pm at the Bozeman Library Community Room for this amazing discussion.


Indigenous People’s Day

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Image  —  Posted: November 18, 2015 by extremehistory in Uncategorized
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