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Co-Creation, the Public, and the Archaeological Record

April 7, 2014

My colleague Elizabeth Bollwerk and I have organized a session of papers (Friday morning, April 25 at 8:00 AM) around the theme of Co-Creation, the Public, and the Archaeological Record  for the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting this month in Austin Texas.  We previously organized a session on museums and co-creation at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings a couple of years ago, published last year as a thematic volume Open(ing) Authority Through Community Engagement in the journal Museums and Social Issues.

The 2014 SAA meeting session brings together a set of papers by practitioners that take-up co-creation and open authority within the discipline of archaeology.  We are particularly pleased that Carol McDavid, a long-time leader in public archaeology and community engagement will serve as a discussant for the session.  The session abstracts are listed below.  If you are going to be in Austin, we hope to see you at our session!

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Open(ing) Archaeology: A Model for Digital Engagement - Elizabeth Bollwerk (Central Washington University, Museum of Culture and Environment) - This paper begins with a brief introduction of the Open Authority and Co-Creation models and explores their role in altering and revolutionizing archaeological practice.  The focus then shifts to a discussion of engagement methods that archaeologists are currently utilizing on the web, including blogging, crowdfunding, and social media and evaluates their success as co-creative projects.  These methods are compared with co-creative methods that are being utilized by other scientific disciplines, in particular, crowdsourcing.  This paper concludes by considering 1) the obstacles and challenges facing the implementation of archaeological co-creative projects that are web based and 2) best practices for digital co-creative engagement identified from successful projects.

The “Public” in Public Archaeology: Down from the Ivory Tower and into the Real Trenches - Michael B. Barber (Virginia Department of Historic Resources), Michael J. Madden (USDA-Forest Service), and Carole L. Nash (James Madison University) - Archaeology is not for the benefit of archaeologists.   Building on the foundation of the Archaeological Society of Virginia, Virginia’s community of professional archaeologists has joined forces and developed the “Certification Program for Archaeological Technicians.”   The program trains avocational archaeologists in the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the profession.  It is our contention here that co-creation should begin with the first phases of any archaeological endeavor and continue through interpretation and overall historic preservation.     

 Making the Past Relevant: Co-creative solutions to the challenges of heritage preservation in rural Peru - Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza (PIARA) and Rebecca E. Bria (Vanderbilt University and PIARA) - In the impoverished traditional Quechua communities of rural Ancash, Peru, the planning and implementing of archaeological heritage preservation and community museum projects faces a variety of obstacles that require creative solutions. At two nearby monumental archaeological sites with over 2000 years of prehistoric occupation, Hualcayán and Pariamarca, archaeologists work directly with the local community to demonstrate the relevance for the preservation of their cultural resources. Conflicting interests by adults who are pressured by local political parties, business interests, and a loss of connection to the ancient past has led the US and Peruvian collaborators of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) to engage local communities in developing a multi-faceted and co-creative approach to present and protect their cultural heritage.  The engagement includes 1) long-term, education-focused heritage preservation projects with local school children, 2) the design of local museums that also serve as community centers, and 3) plans for the creation of a community-run development project to generate communal funds through ecological and cultural tourism activities. The latter project will connect the two sites as archaeological parks, museums, and campgrounds or homestays as tourism destinations rather than a simple pass-through on a Cordillera trek.

The Duality of a 21st Century Tribal Museum: Archaeological Research and Museum Stakeholders at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center - Kimberly Kasper (Rhodes College) and Russ Handsman (Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center) - Since opening its doors in 1998, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center has identified as both a tribal center and a museum committed to challenging the public’s conventional understandings of Native history in New England. Within each stakeholder arena, archaeological research continues to provide a critical pathway for recovering and illuminating the historic experiences of reservation life. In this paper, two internal case studies are presented to illustrate the complexity that exists within the museum’s dual identity as it integrates new information  “with, for and by” the tribe and public. The first focuses on the materiality of late 18th-century Pequot house sites and a recently developed low-cost but high impact, I-Pad-based program for museum patrons. The second reflects on how archaeobotanical studies, from 17th and 18th century Mashantucket historic sites, are incorporated into an ongoing project to nurture and enrich the storytelling tradition in the tribal community. For each project, there are two different audiences, two different types of archaeological material studies, and two very different approaches for collaborative engagement – co-existing in a single institution. That duality may not be present in other tribal museums but it is both foundational and essential to MPMRC’s mission to (re)construct nuanced understandings of Native American histories.

Co-Creation of Knowledge about the Past by The Hopi Tribe - T. J. Ferguson (University of Arizona) and Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa (Hopi Tribe) - For two decades, the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office has worked with archaeologists to co-create knowledge about the past and the contemporary values associated with heritage sites. Much of this work has been accomplished in the framework of research mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Here we describe the processes of this community-based participatory research, including research design, implementation of fieldwork, peer review of research findings, and reporting. The Hopi Tribe’s collaborative research with archaeologists provides intellectual benefits for the management of archaeological resources and the humanistic and scientific understanding of the past.

 Co-creation as an Essential Means Toward Open Authority in Archaeology - Robert Connolly (University of Memphis, C.H Nash Museum at Chucalissa) - Based in constructivist educational theory and using participatory museum and open authority models, this paper examines products co-created by visitors, volunteers, students, and museum staff at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  Two case studies are featured.  First, an exhibit on the African American Cultural Heritage of Southwest Memphis based on the excavated materials from a 1920s era farmstead that was co-created with University of Memphis and neighborhood high school students.  Second, using curated collections, a set of education products and museum exhibits co-created by avocational archaeologists, and museum studies graduate students.  Critical to the co-creative process is incorporating the authoritative voices and decisions of all participants.    This paper argues that co-created products are ultimately more robust and relevant to the public than projects that incorporate only the voice of the professional community.  As well, co-creative processes in archaeology serve as a vital link to educating the public on opportunities for engagement and the funding needs of cultural heritage institutions.  Co-creation forms an essential opportunity for sharing with the public the authority and responsibility for the curation of a community’s cultural heritage

Salvaging a Community: Archaeology, Demolition, and Resurrection at the Euclid Avenue Church of God, Cleveland, Ohio - Mallory R. Haas (Center for Community Studies) and Elizabeth A. Hoag (Cuyahoga Community College) - The unfortunate demolition of the ca. 1888 Euclid Avenue Church of God has created a unique opportunity for public archaeology. Both before and after the demolition, we began a new kind of community-based historic salvage and preservation project, to save public social memory and tangible artifacts from the church. In this paper, we describe how, working with various stake-holders involved with the structure including the congregation, municipal offices, and private institutions, we have utilized a more holistic perspective that seeks to accommodate everyone’s agendas. We are developing a co-creative approach to historical preservation while preserving social history and legacy of the structure.

Promoting a More Interactive Public Archaeology: Archaeological Visualization and Reflexivity through Virtual Artifact Curation - Bernard K. Means (Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University) - The Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University was established in August 2011 with funding from the Department of Defense’s Legacy Program. Since its establishment, the Virtual Curation Laboratory has created hundreds of 3D digital artifact models from a wide range of archaeological sites located in the eastern United States, as well as printed plastic replicas of many 3D digital models. Some have questioned whether our efforts and those of similar projects are curiosities or novelties with little to contribute meaningfully to scholarly research or public engagement. In this paper, I will argue that 3D digital models and printed replicas allow for new ways of visualizing the past, while preserving the actual artifacts themselves. These forms of archaeological visualization enable the broader public and not just a narrow band of researchers to dynamically and meaningfully interact with rare and fragile objects in ways that would otherwise not be possible, empowering their own contributions to interpreting and understanding the past.

Co-Creation and the Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) Program Across Florida - Sarah E. Miller (Florida Public Archaeology Network) - The Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) program offered by the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) began in 2011 as a reaction to the rapid deterioration of historic cemeteries in Florida.  During the first year the Northeast Regional Center of FPAN collaborated with community partners to conduct CRPT workshops in each of its seven counties.  CRPT has now expanded to over 20 cities across the state.  Workshop participants learn to view cemeteries as outdoor museums in their community through morning and afternoon sessions.  The morning session focuses on: cemeteries as archaeological sites, laws that protect cemeteries as well as the people who care for cemeteries, the importance of survey and recording, and examples of cemetery projects within the community.  The second session puts theory to practice with hands-on landscape assessment, headstone cleaning, and recording in a local cemetery.  This paper will assess CRPT as a c co-creative public archaeology program and discuss its relevance to the participating communities.

Building Capacity for Co-created Digital Moviemaking in Youth Programs - Teresa Moyer (National Park Service) - The Urban Archeology Corps is a National Park Service work program that invites youth to reflect on archeological stewardship through digital moviemaking. Youth from communities surrounding the Anacostia River watershed engage in interdisciplinary research with the end goal of individually crafting a short film about their experiences. Especial emphasis is placed on connecting the stories that go untold in the national parks with the youth and local people. This paper is a case study in building capacity in youth programs for co-created digital products that enable the National Park Service and the communities it serves to share in archeological stewardship.

Engaging and Empowering Citizen Archaeologists through the Co-Creative Process: A Case Study Involving the Oklahoma Anthropological Society - Holly Andrew & Bonnie Pitblado (University of Oklahoma) - Like many avocational archaeological groups across the nation, the Oklahoma Anthropological Society (OAS) has struggled in recent years to meet the needs and interests of community members.  To address this challenge, in spring 2013, OAS leadership requested our help to revitalize the group’s membership and its recently shelved archaeological certification program.  To ensure a co-creative approach to the reshaping of OAS, our approach to providing assistance began with an ethnographic study of the OAS membership—using methods including participant observation, individual interviews, and survey administration—to establish member values and goals.  We then compiled these data and used them to develop concrete proposals for a revised OAS certification program and for reaching out to a broader cross-section of Oklahoma citizens than had traditionally been the case.  Finally, we offered the proposals back to OAS membership for comments and suggestions for improvement, and revised the ideas accordingly.  Our paper overviews the methods and results of this collaboration between professional and avocational archaeologists and reflects upon the success of our co-creative effort to improve public archaeology programs and educational opportunities in the state of Oklahoma.

Transforming Metal Detectorists into Citizen Scientists - Matthew Reeves (James Madison’s Montpelier) - In 2012, the Archaeology Department at James Madison’s Montpelier began an experimental program with Minelab Americas to encourage metal detectorists to become more involved in the scientific process of archaeological research. Specifically, the program was designed to be a week-long experience where archaeologists and metal detectorists would work together to identify and preserve archaeological sites at the 2700-acre Montpelier property.  In the process, the metal detector participants were taught the importance of site preservation through background lectures and detailed information on how the survey methods they employ during the week with their metal detectors ensure minimal disturbance of the site while identifying enough information regarding the site to ensure its preservation. Participants learned how gridded metal detector surveys were conducted and the importance of proper context and curation of recovered objects.  In turn, participants provided feedback on what would enhance the experience to inspire continuing learning and interaction with archaeology in the future. The success of this program led to a new public-set of programs that are held three times per year and are open to the public. Having previous participants recommend this program to their friends and community members has been integral to the success of the programs.

Approaching sustainable public archaeology on Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile): education, conservation, research, and tourism - Britton Shepardson (Terevaka.net Archaeological Outreach) and Beno Atán (Explora) - Rapa Nui, like many other locations rich with archaeological heritage, poses extreme risks and potential when attempting to combine cultural conservation with tourism.  After ten years of work on Easter Island, Terevaka.net Archaeological Outreach (TAO) has developed a program to provide tourists, hotels, archaeologists, and conservationists with a vested interested in the education of high school students local to the island.  Our 2013 project sheds light on both a recipe for success in sustainable archaeology on the island and our shortcomings in reaching the goals of all participating organizations.

Turning Privies into Class Projects - Kimberley Popetz (Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum) - What would happen if we gave a group of high school students the opportunity to act as archaeologists and curators with a real archaeological collection? Would they benefit from the experience? Would we? And what about the rest of the community? Could they derive some benefit from the project as well? We decided to find out. Students worked with a collection of artifacts that was excavated more than 30 years ago, turning it into an exhibit for the public. If you’re contemplating a similar project, join us to learn what worked and what to avoid.

The Road Goes Ever On and On: Public Archaeology at Teozacoalco - Kenneth Robinson and Stephen L. Whittington (Wake Forest University) - Co-creation in public archaeology can be challenging outside of the United States, particularly when a project provides the first opportunity people have to meet an archaeologist, or even to hear of archaeology. The staff of the Teozacoalco Archaeological Project has been working since 2002 with citizens and authorities of San Pedro Teozacoalco and other small communities to undertake the first archaeological research in a remote part of the Mixteca Alta in Oaxaca. The project is attempting to collect data and respond to the desires of rural communities while negotiating regulations and politics at local, national, and international levels.

Discussant - Carol McDavid (Community Archaeology Research Institute, Inc.
& Rice University)

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