Mercyhurst College graduate helps Erie see its history more clearly

With some help from Erie School District gifted students, Mercyhurst College graduate Jessica Jones hopes to bring Erie residents closer to their heritage through a display about the Erie Lighthouse and the region's rich maritime history in the Erie Maritime Museum.

The display is comprised of two parts, a mural completed by the first- through eighth-grade gifted students of the Erie School District, and a series of panels produced by Jones, who graduated with her bachelor's degree in anthropology/archaeology on May 20.

"I wanted to achieve two things," said Jones, who began work on the project more than a year ago. "I wanted the information on the Land lighthouse to bring the Erie community into the archaeological process since the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute has spent so much time investigating the lighthouse and its role in Erie. The public often doesn't really have access to those results because we focus so much on the technical aspect rather than publishing information for the public. I wanted to show the public the results of MAI's work in a way that would interest them."

Jones said the tie between the lighthouse display, which includes history of the structure and the conclusions drawn from the archaeological investigation into the site, and the mural is the rich maritime history of Erie.

"I wanted to interest the kids in their own history and show them how important water was to their community," said Jones. "Without water there probably wouldn't have been an Erie since so much of the community revolved around the lake - shipping, ship building, the War of 1812, the lighthouses that guided ships - all of that."

Jones said she also hopes the students, who conducted their own research into maritime history, will see that they are part of history.

"I wanted to establish history as an active part of the world, to show the students that they are just as much a part of the history of this community as those we study through archaeology," said Jones. "We too often think of history as the past rather than seeing what we are doing now as history in the making."

The display should be completely open by June 1 (the mural is in place now, the panels for the lighthouse display are in the production process).

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