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Applied Archaeology: Two More Student Projects

June 9, 2014
National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C., USA

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C., USA

I recently posted about my course Applied Archaeology and Museums and some of the student projects from the class.  Below are two more student projects of a different type.

Rachel Clark created a Wikispace page for the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis.  The purpose of the page is to serve as a place to post about internships, jobs, and general information related to the Program – all areas that students expressed a need for more information.  The Wikispace page will rely on student input for added information and maintenance.  This makes sense as the information is primarily intended to support student interests and needs.  Area museums seeking interns or job applicants can also post to the Wikispace.

The idea for the project floated around for a couple of years until a student took the responsibility to act.  Rachel conducted a series of interviews and surveys with her peers in the Program to decide appropriate content.  She also met with each faculty member in the Program to get their buy-in.  The page Rachael created is typical for Wikispace in being stylistically simple but with much data content.

The WikiSpace page will be promoted on the Museum Studies Program homepage as a student based project.  The WikiSpace page is also an experiment in user-generated content for the Program.  If the page is truly relevant to faculty, students, alumni, museum professionals, they will use, edit, and support the page.  If not, the page will go the way of the original Friendster.  Rachel has performed the first step in creating the framework based on peer and faculty survey and interview results.

Jordan Goss, a sophomore in History, conducted a survey and wrote a report on the public support and interest for a cultural heritage venue in her hometown of Marion, Arkansas.  Jordan did a particularly impressive job with the project.

She started the semester proposing to create an exhibit in the town high school on the cultural heritage of the area. Jordan was challenged with questions such as: Does anyone besides you want the exhibit?  Is the high school the best place for such an exhibit?  What will be the content of the exhibit?  She then decided to shift the focus of her project from creating an exhibit to determining the interest and feasibility for such an exhibit.

With guidance from Bernard’s Research Methods in Anthropology she created a survey.  She loaded the survey on Qualtrics (think Survey Monkey on steroids) for which she has free access as a University of Memphis student.  She promoted the survey through social media, mailed copies, and in person.  She also conducted semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Marion.  Finally she submitted and completed an Institutional Review Board proposal to conduct the surveys.

Jordan received over 200 responses that appear to reflect the demographics of Marion, Arkansas.  In her analysis of the survey data she determined:

  • that the majority of residents wanted a cultural heritage center of some sort
  • the demographics of those who support and do not support a center
  • the recommended site and type of exhibit/presentation.
  • the topics of greatest interest  to the respondents
  • how the respondents envision funding a center.

An impressive set of initial of data!  Jordan is currently administering the survey to a broader audience.  In the fall semester, Jordan will create a formal proposal based on her survey results.  Jordan’s survey work is a an excellent first step to determine the feasibility of a cultural heritage center in Marion, Arkansas.

Katie and Jordan’s projects provide important takeaway points:

  • As with all the other student projects from this semester, Katie and Jordan’s were able to make real-time contributions to area cultural heritage venues.  At this point 10 of the 12 projects are actively in place for use in area institutions.
  • Katie and Jordan’s projects each relied extensively on survey results from the intended users of their products.  We stress this point often in the class – the need for project relevance for the intended users.  In both cases, the feedback and buy-in of the anticipated users markedly changed the initial direction of the project.
  • As Katie and Jordan developed their projects, they were aware of the distinct possibility that their end products might not be used.  The WikiSpace page might be ignored by the intended audience.  Marion, Arkansas may never have a cultural heritage center or museum.  However, both students believe that they have taken the correct first steps toward creating a viable finished product.  I agree.

So ends another year of student projects that result in products with real-time applications in area museums!

 

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