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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Miss Megan Olshefski

Contact Miss Megan Olshefski (email at megan.l.olshefski@durham.ac.uk)

Background

I am a PhD student and a 2020-2021 Fulbright scholar focusing on the development of identity, memory, and heritage within groups of seventeenth century forced migrants.

In 2016 I graduated from University of California Los Angeles with a BA in History (College, Departmental, and Latin Honours), with a thesis focusing on the role women played in the development of Roman religion, culture, and growth of state (753-264 BCE). Thereafter, I worked in the Los Angeles television industry as a researcher and producer for documentary-style programmes including: National Geographic, NBC/Universal Studios, and the series Who Do You Think You Are? (US). Resulting from my work on the latter programme, I learned of Durham University’s Scottish Soldiers Project allowing us to retell one soldier’s story for global broadcast. My past fieldwork experiences include excavations at Binchester Roman Fort and Auckland Castle at Bishop Auckland (as part of Durham University’s Auckland Castle Project).

I intend to combine my passions for archaeology and the visual arts through the creation of independent documentaries; with the hope to increase open access to education, public engagement, and interest in history and archaeology.

Research Topic

Archaeological Formation of Identity, Memory, and Heritage of Seventeenth Century Forced Migrants

Abstract

The presence of forced migrants during the seventeenth century altered the order of global socio-economics. By studying their archaeological material, a better understanding arises as to how individuals and families integrate into communities, establish identities, and pass on a memory of home to their descendants.

Durham University's prior research on the Scottish prisoners captured at the Battle of Dunbar (1650) and imprisoned in Durham Cathedral serves as a foundation in determining how individuals establish identity, craft a collective memory, and develop a heritage after they are torn from their homeland. In order to understand these components, thorough analysis of the historical archaeology and material culture of differing groups of seventeenth century forced migrants is critical. The groups of interest comprise of: Scottish prisoners of war sent to New England, Barbados, and France (1650); Irish prisoners of war sent to Barbados (1650s); and Moriscos forced from Spain to Morocco, Tunisia, and France (1609-1616) due to religious persecution.

Additional research interests within the aforementioned case studies include: interactions between the Barbadian Scots and Barbadian Irish and if there were any conflicts or creations of familial relations; location-based differences and similarities of cultural establishment between the collective groups of Scots; and if there are cross-cultural connections between the Scots, Irish, and Moriscos in how one formulates an identity and memory after facing a collective trauma.

Grants

2020-2021, Fulbright-Durham University Postgraduate Award

Conferences and Talks

From Doon Hill to the Hills of Hollywood - Uncovering the Truth of our Past Through Family History and Television. Invited presentation at Palace Green Library, Durham University, June 2018.

Putting Historical Research to Work. Invited presentation at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, February 2018.

Women and Their Influence in Roman Government. Presented at UCLA History Conference, University of California Los Angeles, May 2016.

Research Interests

  • Atlantic and Mediterranean diasporas of the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods
  • Historical archaeology
  • Cultural heritage
  • Collective memory and trauma
  • Archaeological resource management
  • Public history
  • Cultural resource management

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Olshefski, Megan. (Forthcoming 2020). Sexual Assault from 1978-1999 at California Polytechnic University. California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo History Volume.

Newspaper/Magazine Articles

Related Links

Is supervised by

Scottish Soldiers Project

Cooperating with the Palace Museum in China