Digging Butte's Chinatown
IntroductionThe lot at Mercury and Colorado Streets had been vacant for nearly 70 years when the city-county of Butte-Silver Bow sold part of it for development. The 2007 Butte Chinatown archaeological dig was conducted to document a long-gone part of Butte's history.
The work was led by Renewable Technologies, Inc. (RTI) of Butte, under the direction of Archaeologist Mitzi Rossillon. Cataloguing of the artifacts collected was by Nicole von Gaza, who also created a catalogue of all the marks found on ceramics. The dig was funded by Butte-Silver Bow County's Urban Revitalization Agency, which transferred ownership of the artifacts to the Mai Wah Society.
Funding for the exhibit came through a $2,000 grant from the Montana Historical Society's County History Initiative, which also supported printing of the accompanying booklet. In addition, cases were donated for the exhibit by Brenda Shea and Bob McMurray of Butte, and by the Mai Wah Society.
Curatorial work on the exhibit was done by Janet Sperry. The exhibit project was coordinated by Mai Wah volunteer Richard Gibson, who also wrote and laid out the booklet. The text is based on the technical report by Mitzi Rossillon; photos on this page are courtesy Mitzi Rossillon.
Much more information and photos of the dig and artifacts can be found on the Traveling Trunk site. See also the German Gulch web site.
Clothing does not survive well underground, or in Butte's harsh seasons, but the exhibit includes a hat and a shoe that were found. The careful professional work allowed the archaeologist to define several different features in the excavation, ranging in age from the late 1890s to the 1920s. Most of the Chinese artifacts are from about 1902 to the early 1920s.
The booklet is available for purchase at the museum for $5.00 per copy.