James Oronoco Dexter Site

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In 2003, archaeologists excavated the James Dexter site–the home of a free Black coachman living in Philadelphia in the 1790s. Now located under the bus depot at the National Constitution Center, the site is within the boundaries of Independence National Historical Park.

The site is important for many reasons. It became a case study for the National Park Service’s ‘Civic Engagement and Public Involvement‘ practice and policy.

Researchers at Drexel and Cheyney Universities are currently working to co-create a Dexter site interpretation with the public. Their research involves employing a user centered-game design strategy for presenting Dexter’s life within a virtual landscape using 3D, immersive, computer technologies.

Learn More….
In the Shadow of Liberty, The Search for James Oronoco Dexter (video), by Mitch Smith,
Who Was James Dexter (Independence National Historical Park)
James Dexter Biographical Sketch, Independence National Historical Park Historic Research Study.

We the People: The Decision to Excavate the James Dexter Site, National Park Service Civic Engagement Case Study.

James Dexter House: James Oronoco Dexter, at PhilaPlace.

Pioneer’s Life is Dug Up at Independence Mall: New Archaeological Approach Focuses on a Freed Slave, African Diaspora Archaeological Network Newsletter, by Stephan Salisbury, 2005.

Excavation of James Dexter Site, Independence National Historical Park.

Digital Cultural Heritage, by Ryan Rasing, Drexel University 2015

Archaeological Reconstruction Using the Oculus Rift, Philadelphia, PA, ‘Philadelphia Day of Archaeology, July 2014 contribution, by Chester Cunanan.

James Oronoco Dexter: Historical Archaeology New Technologies and Community, ‘Philadelphia Day of Archaeology, July 2014 contribution, by Glen Muschio.

Digital Model of the James Oronoco Dexter House, ‘Philadelphia Day of Archaeology, July 2014, by Matthew Mlodzienski.

Award Winning, 3D model of the James Dexter House Archaeological Site, Philadelphia Archaeological Forum artifact of the month, June 2013, contributed by Jason Kirk, Dr. Glen Muschio, and Daniel Newman.

Digital Media Technologies, ‘Philadelphia Day of Archaeology, July 2012, by Jason Kir.

Archaeology, Animation & Visual Effects, Philadelphia Day of Archaeology, July 2012, by Joseph Tomasso, Freshman, Digital Media Program, STAR Scholar, Pennoni Honors College
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Beneath Independence Mall, story of early free black America, Philadelphia Inquirer, by Stephan Salisbury, 2008

Archaeologists Excavate Site of a Freed Slave’s House, New York Times, 2003.

Bus depot issue reveals the story of a real man James Dexter was a cog in the wheel of early African American life, Philadelphia Inquirer, by Stephan Salisbury, 2003.

Dig Before Depot, Archaeology Magazine, 2003.
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Educator Resource
History Found in Pieces, Independence Park Institute. Four part downloadable lesson plan.


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