Moonshine Archaeology Project
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Carly Hunter

Major: Anthropology
Minor: Sociology
Hometown: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

How did you learn about this opportunity?

During my Introduction to Archaeology course two years prior to my research experience, my professor, Dr. Kirk French, mentioned the project in class. He was using it as an example of humans leaving their mark on the environment. After mentioning that he wished to do a more extensive research project on illicit whiskey production in western North Carolina, I was intrigued. I emailed him after class expressing my interest of being a part of the project and kept in touch over the next year while the Moonshine Archaeology Project was taking off.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

For two weeks, Dr. Kirk French, three other students and myself, traveled to Maggie Valley, North Carolina to study the social and economic impacts of illicit whiskey production in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains. Through the owner of Maggie Valley’s first legal distillery, we were able to make many connections with people in the community who had experience or knowledge related to our research. Each day we were typically in the field from about 9am until 4pm. Our days consisted of ethnographic interviews with locals and people who were interested in our research. We also did two days of pedestrian survey in search of old stone furnaces which would have been used for illicit whiskey production, hidden from the public eye. Moreover, we also spent some time in the Waynesville Public Library looking through digitized newspapers from all over the area dating all the way back to the Prohibition years. All of these activities were documented through video footage, digital photographs, GoPRO and Drone video, as well as written records.

How did this experience impact you academically?

On the side of academics, this experience will introduce me to something I have never done before. In April 2018, I will be presenting my own research poster at an undergraduate exhibit here at Penn State, as well as at the Society for American Archaeology's (SAA) annual conference which is held in Washington, D.C. this year. This will teach me how to put together my own research, present it to people in an interesting and engaging manner, as well as strengthening my public speaking skills. I am both nervous and extremely excited for this experience.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My career goals are still undecided. More specifically, there are many routes my degree in anthropology could take me. Right now, I am leaning toward a career in Washington, D.C., whether that be in research, education, policy or government. I am very passionate about helping people and making a difference. I am not yet sure how I would want to make that difference or on what scale, but with anthropology, that goal is very possible. As far as this experience goes, I learned what it was like to work with people of a different culture than my own. That was beneficial for me simply because it solidified why I chose this major.

As far as this experience goes, I learned what it was like to work with people of a different culture than my own. 

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. This is a great way to make connections and begin networking with professors and students who are further in their careers than you might be. I learned a lot about people that are different than myself, I got a better sense of where I want my career to go, and I had a great time in the process.

For more information on research opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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