A Frozen Retreat in Quebec at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference

Last week, Fairfield Foundation staff (along with intern, volunteer, and Fairfield Fellow Colleen Betti) ventured to the great white north for the conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Quebec City. These conferences offer an opportunity to mingle with colleagues, academic peers, and friends, and also allow us to stay tapped into current excavations and research at institutions that we are already familiar with (Monticello, Mount Vernon, Poplar Forest, etc.), and others across the country and throughout the Atlantic world that we might not otherwise be exposed to. At this conference, Dave and Thane co-authored a paper, entitled “Enslaved Landscapes within Lewis Burwell II’s Fairfield Plantation at the End of the Seventeenth Century,” which Dave presented in a session that they helped organized, called “The Intersecting Plantation Landscape II” (continuing a session presented at the Society for Early Americanists conference in Savannah in March 2013).

The trip started out on an inauspicious note for some – 24 hours before departure time, Dave and Anna found out that their flight from Richmond to Quebec (with a few stops in between) was cancelled, thanks to that phenomenon the weather professionals were calling “The Polar Vortex.” Colleen’s travel from Baltimore was similarly impacted, and much scrambling ensued, but eventually they all secured routes to Quebec that involved planes and automobiles (but thankfully no trains!). The travel day was long but at least we had made it to Quebec! We drove into the city late at night and got to experience the beauty of a city with holiday lights still decorating the trees and buildings, whose streets and sidewalks were frozen over, creating a softly glowing, glittery winter wonderland. As a first impression of Quebec, it wasn’t bad!

That frozen wonderland theme would persist throughout our stay – continued cold temperatures, along with fresh bouts of freezing rain, ensured that all adventures undertaken on foot would be slippery and treacherous- but energizing and fun! The conference hotel was located just outside the imposing stone wall of the “Old City” of Quebec, placing us within walking distance of such historic attractions as the Citadel (still an active fort today), the ramparts, and the St. Lawrence River promenade.

And of course, the weather conditions made it imperative to take frequent breaks for pastries, cappuccinos, hot chocolate, and crepes – you certainly wouldn’t hear us complaining about those! We also enjoyed all the poutine, French fries, and maple products that we could stomach!

Unfortunately for some, the return trip was just as inconvenient as the trip there – more cancelled flights led to interminable car rides home for some (Quebec to the Middle Peninsula of Virginia is NOT an easy commute, we’ll just leave it at that!). In the end, we were very thankful to have the chance to spend a few days in a beautiful city catching up with old friends – but especially thankful for friends who did not hesitate to offer up seats in their cars when it was time to leave (thank you Jenn Ogborne and Casey and Luke Pecoraro!).

Now that we’ve all had some time to recover from the travels, stay tuned to hear more from us about the session we were involved in at the conference, as well as our thoughts on plantation landscapes!


  1. William Moss says

    Glad you enjoyed the conference and the city. Sorry we couldn’t do better weather for you, but it all worked out in the end. William Moss, Conference Chair, SHA Québec 2014

    • Fairfield Foundation says

      Thanks for the comment! We know SHA can’t control the weather – and it certainly won’t stop us from attending and enjoying future SHA conferences!