Treasures of Archaeology
Posted July 8, 2022

Today, the blog is taking a different turn.  Instead of talking about all of the wonderful things we have in the collections, we’re going to focus on some true treasures; our volunteers and interns!

First off is…


Mary Lou DiDonato

Her journey to volunteerism started in 1980 with an impromptu visit to the museum in Columbus. Soon afterward, she found herself volunteering on an excavation in Franklin County with OHC Curator, Martha Otto. When she wasn’t volunteering, she was working regular job as a Business Analyst with Huntington Trust Company, Huntington National Bank.

Mary Lou has always had an interest in artifacts. She likes learning where each was found, what they were used for, made of, and who created them. Understanding each artifact’s story helps her connect to and appreciate the past.  In addition, helping artifacts go from dirt encrusted finds to possibly being put on display in the museum is a particular privilege and honor.

Mary Lou “enjoys working with like-minded people, our stimulating conversations and, of course, the donuts. I hope to continue working in the Archaeology lab for years to come.”

We hope you do too, Mary Lou!

Michael Dion

While Michael began volunteering at OHC in 2007, she had already been doing volunteer archaeology through Smithsonian and Earthwatch since 1990. What started out as a quest to find a different vacation experience, she found that the Smithsonian was looking for volunteers to help excavate a slave cabin on a sugar plantation on Monserrat. It sounded interesting, so she joined the team and loved the experience. She ended up helping on other excavations in Russia, Wales, Grand Turk, Israel, Romania, South Africa, Thailand, Poland and Fiji.

Michael worked in technology positions for a major bank for 33 years. Her first job was a key punch operator trainee and she was one of the first females to work in the computer room. She continued in numerous staff and managerial positions before joining colleagues that were outsourced to IBM, where she spent six years before retiring.

Through volunteering, Michael “meets and works with people I would never encounter otherwise. All of them add to the richness of my life.”

Michael, you add richness to all of our lives as well!

Denny Davis

Denny, a U.S. Navy veteran, worked as a hydraulic assembler at Jeffery Mining Manufacturing for 29 years before joining the volunteer team in 2012. Upon starting, he found that he was one of several other previous Jeffrey’s employees volunteering in the archaeology department!

His love for archaeology began in 1960 with a trip to the Smithsonian Native American exhibit and his passion hasn’t ceased. He enjoys doing all kinds of work, but especially cleaning artifacts from thrash pits.

Denny, thanks for all your camaraderie and washing skills!


Debbie Near

Debbie started volunteering in 2018 about the time she retired from Chemical Abstracts where she worked in biochemistry and genetics.

She became interested in archaeology by watching TV shows.  Debbie is especially excited to learn about LIDAR technology being used for archaeology.  It really opens the field to new discoveries.

Debbie’s favorite things about volunteering are “A) being maybe the third person to touch an artifact not touched in a thousand years (or so), B) thinking about how ancient persons lived by working with remnants of their daily lives and C) the academic atmosphere and working with professionals that are experts in their field.”

According to Debbie, the “OHC professionals I interact with are not only nice, but are very enthusiastic about their profession. As a novice, I enjoy discussing ideas and “facts” about archaeology that I heard on TV shows. I work with a small group of other volunteers. We have become good friends and I look forward to coming to my volunteer job every week.”

Debbie, you are one of our favorite things!

Ann Wenger

Ann began volunteering in 2019. Most recently she was employed with Columbus State Community College as Senior Office Associate for the Arts and Sciences Department where she enjoyed working with students, faculty, and advisors until she retired in 2018.

Her interest in the natural world was instilled from childhood. Born a Buckeye, Ann remembers school field trip visits to the former Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society (now known as the Ohio History Connection). Her earliest memory is a family visit to Schoenbrunn Village, and other visits to Newark Earthworks, Serpent Mound, Flint Ridge, Adena Mansion, Buckeye Furnace, and Lake Erie’s Glacial Grooves. Ann’s paternal second cousin was also associated with the Society.  She didn’t realize how much both family excursions and relationships had influenced her interest in archaeology until she discovered the opportunity to volunteer with OHC.

While exploring a second career as a “life-long learner,” Ann discovered and pursued studies in geology. She was surprised to find how closely related archaeology and geology are.

Ann “loves working in the Archaeology Lab, especially the opportunity to learn hands-on!”

Ann, we love that you love being here! ‘Rock’ on!

Ellie Schrader

Ellie started interning in May 2022 while a full-time student at Denison University. She finds the aspect of connecting to history through tangible objects very interesting, and especially became attracted to archaeology after taking several art history courses and finding herself most attracted to pre-contact pieces. Ellie is very drawn to objects whose histories and meanings have been forgotten, waiting to be found and better understood. Archaeology provides an opportunity to directly connect to humans over a vast time span–from their original creators and handlers to archaeologists. That is why her favorite thing about interning is learning more about the artifacts she works with and the lives of the people who once created them.

Ellie says that “as a student who is just beginning to dip my toe in the archaeology pool so to speak, I’ve really appreciated working with the Ohio History Connection and being able to have such a great introductory experience to archaeology!”

Ellie, your ability to pick up new processes and terminology has been impressive. You can jump into the archaeology pool anytime!


All of our past and present volunteers and interns are superheroes and true treasures.  We literally could not get things done without them.

Whether cleaning and cataloging artifacts or doing data entry and scanning, there is a volunteer position for you. If you would like to join these fantastic people on Tuesday mornings, click here to apply

We hope to see you soon!

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