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Lost, but now found: artifacts discovered on St. Norbert Abbey grounds

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 2:39 PM CST
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - A local metal detector’s two year treasure hunt on the grounds of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere is now complete. All the artifacts he unearthed are now on display.

When we last saw Mike Counter in the summer of 2018, he had just received exclusive permission to metal detect the St. Norbert Abbey grounds.

“I always wanted to metal detect this property because there’s so many people from all around the world that have come through here over the years,” says Counter, an avid metal detector, who serves as director of media relations at St. Norbert College.

Over the course of two springs and summers, Counter went to work, covering the Abbey grounds in a grid-like pattern.

“Who doesn’t dream about hidden treasure, who hasn’t had a fantasy as a young child wondering what’s out there and I think it’s metaphorical, too, I mean, what lies hidden in our hearts and our minds waiting to be discovered,” says Jim Neilson, a St. Norbert College art professor.

Also an abbey priest, Neilson created a display to house Counter’s finds.

His metal detector uncovered a wide range of artifacts and relics, from coins and jewelry, to small toys and tools, some more than 100 years old.

“The little toy cannon is from the 1960′s, so a good variety, there’s two World War Two buttons, military buttons. These items, most of them have been lost for a long, long time and the thing that makes me ponder is how, how were they lost, how is a military challenge coin in the ground, next to a tree at St. Norbert Abbey buried 6-7 inches deep,” says Counter.

To help celebrate the Norbertine Order’s 900th anniversary, the collection will be on display at the abbey.

“I think people are going to see this and it’s going to animate memories, I recall wearing some of this boy scout attire when I was a kid, and I’m curious about the musket balls, what were they used for, how old are they, so I didn’t want to obscure that, I wanted to create this sort of cosmos of memory with this display,” says Neilson.

“It’s brought these items alive again, things that were buried are now alive and people get to enjoy them,” adds Counter.

If you’d like to check out the collection, you’re going to have to wait a little while.

St. Norbert Abbey’s Welcome Center remains closed due to the pandemic.

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