The mid-19th century was a time of innovation, and Simpson afforded his students the chance to use innovative technologies of today to discover more about our shared history. This includes geographic information systems or GIS, and applications such as viewshed and hotspot analyses. These technologies help modern scholars determine what was in the visible area for people living at the site at the time, lending insight to what they built and why, as well as decipher which areas are most likely to contain artifacts before digging.
“One of the things we really tried to do was bridge the gap and give (our students) both physical techniques and digital research techniques, which I think is still valuable in today's day and age—all fields need to be doing that,” Simpson said.
In addition to offering opportunities to explore the area and study artifacts found at the site of the settlement, several buildings in Macktown operate as “living museums.” Simpson’s students participated in mid-19th century practices and were treated to an authentic dinner and singing done exactly as it would have been in the 1830s. Simpson highlights Macktown as a rare historical example of white settlers existing in relative harmony with Native Americans.
“I think it's just one of those places that shows when cultures come into contact, there can be beneficial outcomes—it doesn't always have to be warfare and conflict,” said Simpson. “We were transported to the moment, and I think the students really got into it because that was bringing the past to life for them.”