Can You Dig It? Local Rock Star Archaeologist Chelsea Rose Goes Punk Rock Gold Rush Steampunk
Punk rock girl, historical archaeologist and Rogue Valley local, Chelsea Rose, M.A., R.P.A., continues to broaden the appeal and accessibility of the archaeological sciences this summer at Southern Oregon University with the Gold Rush & Chinese Railroad Worker Diaspora Projects.
A supportive collaboration of federal, state and university efforts, Rose’s work deep-dives experiences of the Chinese immigrants of the mid- to late-1800’s; how they lived, where they lived and what they lived in.
The Gold Rush and Chinese Railroad Worker Diaspora Projects explore a poetic nexus of interest for Rose. “My main overarching interest is in the settlement and development of the West,” says Rose while taking in the beautiful, breezy Ashland sunshine at the SOU Student Union.” She continues, “I’m really interested in that kind of western history; with fresh eyes bringing in other voices to deconstruct the mythologies.”
A main tenet of discovery for Rose and her motley crew of diggers is the investigation of the healthcare conditions of the immigrants. As Chinese immigrants spilled their blood on the tracks of our transportation future, they also suffered and endured untold conditions, as they indentured themselves to the seemingly Sisyphean task of building the United States railway system.
Indeed, the “impetus for the project“ was the immigrant Chinese experience having not “been given the credit they deserve for their role in the settlement and development of Oregon,” according to Rose.
Perhaps this empathy for the hardships of the immigrant comes from Rose’s own experiences of vulnerability. In her youth, she wisely took the time to get comfortable with her true inner self. Rose grew up lacking confidence as a result of being pigeon-holed out of the male-dominated industries of science and technology by the male-dominated systems of higher education.
However, Rose’s commitment to the counterculture and punk-rock-girl-lifestyle thickened her skin enough to enter the “man’s-world“ of archaeology with a resolute decision to let her freak flag fly. Many piercings and tattooings later, Rose now stands decoratively adorned and with a strong sense of self mission. “Being introduced to DIY culture, critical thinking skills and outside the box problem solving,” says Rose, were vital elements to her successes.
Rose’s fascination with science extends up from the dirt and into the heavens above as she ponders how “the amazing Black Hole discovery took three years. It’s not easy to translate that into a half-hour TV show,” quips Rose, as she went on to lament the recent trend of “disposable reality television” producing sensationalistic, sometimes outright factually wrong programming.
Rose herself got sucked into the reality TV world, with her shows purporting authoritative integrity.
“People have such a low bar for fact-checking or critical thinking these days. How do you compete against crazy, sexy aliens with a tightly budgeted show on science?” asks Rose.
She continues, “For me it’s about how to teach the most people about archaeology and to create meaningful projects that Southern Oregon University students and the public can participate in.”
When discovering where you may fit in socially, Rose suggests you first get comfortable with yourself.
Rose explains, “You have to be comfortable with who you are and to be yourself, and so I didn’t. Luckily at the time, when I was really starting this trajectory of my current career, I just realized I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not. This is who I am, this is what I bring to the table and I think I can do cool things.”
When not digging dirt or teaching Tut, Rose loves some good old fashioned Ozzy Ozbourne, Motley Crū or Iron Maiden amongst the other 80’s metal hair bands.
When given the opportunity to clarify her care for the sciences, Rose says, “I’m doing this because I’m really passionate about archaeology. So what I really hope comes across is that I’m just a translator, archaeology is really the star.”
To learn more, ideally, we could all take Rose’s classes at SOU, but for those who can’t make it to class, check out sou.academia.edu/ChelseaRose to see her research.