Robyn Lacy is currently completing her MA in archaeology at Memorial, where her research focuses on early 17th-century British burial landscapes in eastern North America and Newfoundland. She completed her BA in archaeology from the University of Calgary in 2014, and spent a year studying at Durham University, England, during her undergraduate degree. Prior to her MA, she worked as a commercial archaeologist in southeast British Columbia, and looks forward to opportunities to further her research. Robyn enjoys travel, rock climbing, and painting. Her thesis is currently in review.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
I had been hearing great things about the archaeology department at MUN throughout my undergraduate degree, and when I went to look at graduate programs, I was really interested in looking at 17th-century British archaeology. The only place in Canada that has a lot of that is MUN, so it was my top choice!
What drew you to explore archaeology originally?
I’ve actually wanted to be an archaeologist since I was in grade one or two! Growing up, whenever my family would go on a trip together we would always visit historic sites and museums, and I remember being fascinated with the amazing history that people could learn from a few bits in the ground and some old buildings. I knew I wanted to contribute to preserving our heritage along with them.
Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
My current research is looking at 17th-century British-founded settlements along the northeast coast of North America and Newfoundland to explore the relationship these people had with their dead, and more specifically with their burial spaces. I study the spatial relationship and organization of burial grounds, and how they are placed within the settlement itself in order to look for potential patterns in how colonial towns were organized in terms of life/death areas.
The patterns that I found through that survey were then used to narrow down the location of the 1620s burial ground at the Colony of Avalon in Ferryland. I spent the last two summers at Ferryland excavating these ‘high-potential’ areas in search of evidence of grave shafts, but unfortunately didn’t end up finding them.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor bring to his role as your advisor and mentor?
My supervisor is Dr. Barry Gaulton, and I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to work with him throughout my graduate degree. Half of my research revolves around Ferryland, and with Barry being the site archaeologist there, he brings his experience in academia and the field to his supervisor role. He is always available to answer questions or steer me in the right direction when I have too much on the go, and that has really helped to guide my research process!
Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?
Yes, I have attended two conferences this year. In March, I was invited to present a paper at the ‘Transmortality: Materiality and Spatiality of Death’ Conference in Luxembourg City. That was an amazing opportunity not only to share my research with an international group of researchers but to learn about so many different aspects of research on death and dying from many different disciplines.
In May I travelled to Ottawa and Gatineau to present my thesis research as a poster at the Canadian Archaeological Association’s 50th anniversary conference. This conference gave me a chance to see what is happening right now in Canadian archaeology, which was very exciting, while also visiting the area for the first time and meeting lots of archaeologists from across the country.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I’m a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society, and recently worked with the society to create a ‘Museum in a Box’ travelling exhibit about the archaeology within the province. I’ve been at the Rooms a few Sundays this summer with the box, talking to visitors about artifacts that we find throughout the province at archaeological sites, and what they can teach us.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
So many things! I really appreciate the environment in my department to foster not only research initiatives among the students, but also collaborations among the faculty and with other departments as well. People are always interested and looking for ways to promote or participate in the work that their colleagues are doing, and I think that it’s a wonderful place to be a grad student!
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
While I’m currently exploring potential topics for a PhD project in the UK, I think my first step is to gain some more experience in the field! I’d like to work with an archaeological collection in a museum, in either a collections management role which I have some prior experience in, or curatorial role of some sort, or get myself out in the field somewhere! There are so many interesting opportunities through archaeology and heritage work, I’m really looking forward to find one of them that fits well for me!