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Archaeological Institute of America Lecture: Patricia Richards

October 1, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery Research: a Twenty-five Year Retrospective

Patricia Richards, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Sabin Hall Room G90, 3413 N. Downer Ave., UW-Milwaukee Campus


Description: This lecture provides a retrospective look at the political, regulatory, methodological, and ethical conundrums that characterize ongoing research that emerged from an archeological recovery contract associated with the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery. Today, the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery (MCPFC) project has developed into a multifaceted research initiative focused on one of the largest systematically excavated and permanently curated collections of osteological and material culture remains in the United States. Since 2008 the UWM Archaeological Research Laboratory has curated all human remains, material culture, and documentation associated with the 1991 and 1992 excavations of over 1,600 individuals at the MCPFC.

In 2013, UWM’s cultural resource management program conducted excavations of an additional 632 separate coffin burials representing over 800 individuals. In addition to single interments, multiple interments composed of complete individual skeletons as well as body parts likely reflective of autopsy and medical school cadaver use characterize the excavated burials. In addition, many graves contained debris consisting of general refuse and/or medical waste. This pattern is likely associated with dramatic land-use changes resulting from the development of the MCPF property from a general county facility to its current use as home to the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center and the Medical College of Wisconsin. While the goals of individual MCPFC analyses are diverse, all research is guided by the overarching goal of returning a voice and an identity to individuals robbed of both by burial in the MCPFC.

Patricia RichardsDr. Patricia Richards is a Senior Scientist in the Department of Anthropology of the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from UWM in 1997. From 1977 to 1997, she worked in the private sector as a Cultural Resource Management Specialist providing historic preservation consulting services to private and governmental clients. Dr. Richards was hired by UWM in 1997 to serve as Associate Director of UWM-CRM, a program that is managed as a contractual arm of the Department of Anthropology. Her specialties include mortuary analysis and historic period archaeology in the Great Lakes region. Dr. Richards is the director of the Milwaukee County Poor Farm Cemetery Project and currently serves as graduate advisor for eight Ph.D. students and two Masters students currently working on the MCPFC project.


October 1, 2017
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Sabin Hall G90
3413 N Downer Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211 United States
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