Whiteness in NH: An Archaeology of Accountability


  • Alec Momenee-DuPrie - GBCC
  • Kieran Mulligan - UNH Anthropology and Classics


  • Jordan Fansler - GBCC 
  • Eleanor Harrison-Buch  - UNH Department Chair of Anthropology


The research for this project aimed to critically interrogate the colonial roots of whiteness and privilege in NH and how it perpetuates systemic racialized and class-based inequities today.  NHHC funds supported the preliminary work for this new project in the summer of 2021 where Dr. Harrison-Buch from UNH researched in collaboration with Dr. Jordan Fansler, a History Professor at Great Bay 

This project created an “archaeology of accountability”, confronting New Hampshire’s (NH) white history by investigating nineteenth-century bourgeoisie culture on the Seacoast. This elite culture owed much of its social, political, and economic status to the rise of industrialism and the exploitation of a growing immigrant labor force in Portsmouth. The research examined the intersection of color and class that produced racialized identities for Irish, Italian, and other poor nineteenth-century immigrants. Their exploitation, exclusion, and racist discrimination—where “white privilege” was certainly not a given—remains largely overlooked in the history of race and racism in the Northeast. To reconstruct this historical production of social and economic inequality, the research team used archaeological remains and historical archives from the Seacoast area, including the Isles of Shoals ten miles offshore from Portsmouth.  

The funds supported collaborative research over the course of four weeks (July 18-August 14, 2021). The cohort worked in tandem with two undergraduate researchers in the archives at the Portsmouth Athenaeum and Portsmouth Historical Society where thousands of archival documents, historical photographs, and artifacts pertaining to the Shoals are housed. During the 4 weeks the team carried out initial field visits to the Isles of Shoals and stayed at UNH-managed Shoals Marine Lab facility and conduced archival research on the history of the Isles of Shoals.  

Using various kinds of historical and archaeological data, the team developed pedagogical content that draws explicit connections between past and present conditions of white privilege, addressing the legacy of “high” culture and politics that continues to shape racialized inequities for the “other” in NH and across America.  


The “Traveling Trunk” is used as a pedagogical tool in the classroom of our summer archival and archaeological research, and is filled with real and reproduction artifacts, archival documents, photographs, portraits, paintings, films, books, and other materials to bring the Seacoast history and culture alive for our students back in the classroom. Our aim with the Traveling Trunk is to make our research more accessible to a wider audience, creating an engaging and adaptable pedagogical resource for use in both history and anthropological archaeology undergraduate classes at UNH and GBCC.