How to Get Published in Anthropology & Why

An issue that I pursue rather relentlessly with students is the need to publish their research.  I argue the point less from the “publish or perish” perspective of higher education  – a view that is undergoing radical revision now and will continue to change as the very concept of what constitutes a “peer-reviewed” product evolves.  Rather, I argue the point from several different perspectives.  First, I look at my file drawer of graduate school papers and projects filed and forgotten after the end of long-ago semesters or when another commitment came along, despite the potential of the research.   Second, I point to our obligation to inform the public who foot the bill for the research projects through grants, tuition waivers, and fellowships.  Third, I note that having a GPA between 3.5 and 4.0 is not a big deal in today’s era of grade inflation.  The student or emerging professional needs a mechanism to have their abilities and accomplishments stand out from the rest of the pack when applying for graduate school or entry level jobs.

A publication can be the mechanism to highlight the student’s ability, whether in a peer-reviewed journal such as American Anthropologist, American Antiquity, or Curator, online peer-reviewed journals such as Tennessee Archaeology, Museums and Society, or even in blogs.  (See this link for an interesting discussion on the use of blogs in tenure and promotion processes.)

A colleague, Judson Finley requires graduate students in his courses to write and submit a book review to a professional journal for publication.  This practice seems a good first step for students to take toward publishing.

Another tool is the recently published How to Get Published in Anthropology: A Guide for Students and Young Professionals, edited by Jason E. Miller and Oona Schmid, published by AltaMira Press.  Like the Anthropology Graduate’s Guide that I reviewed last spring, Miller and Schmid’s volume answers many of the questions students either did not know or felt they should know and therefore were afraid to ask.  The book is divided into three parts.

Part 1 contains five chapters that lead the reader through basic instructions and advice that follow a logical progression from the initial concept for a presentation through to publication in a professional journal.  The chapter subjects include the relevance of attending professional conferences and the process of participating in and organizing sessions, creating posters for conferences, paper presentation techniques and skills, and turning dissertations and conference papers into publications.

Part 2 contains five chapters that address the specific publication considerations of anthropology subdisciplines including archaeology, applied, physical, sociocultural, linguistic, medical and visual fields.  The individual chapters discuss the types of publications and advice specific to each subdiscipline.  The individual chapters also take up more universally applied themes such writing styles, deadlines, web resources and more.

Part 3 contains four chapters that review topical areas specific to the publication process such as press and author agreements, issues of copyright, and author collaboration.  Hugh Jarvis’ final chapter “Online Opportunities and Challenges” is a good read on several levels.  Jarvis, a true pioneer in Anthropology on the internet, challenges the reader to consider their online persona, along with the worth and limitations in online publication, and the internet as an information source.

Two appendices list peer-reviewed anthropology journals and publishers of anthropology monographs.

Overall, the volume is balanced and practical in its approach.  The reader however is cautioned not to take the advice as gospel.  For example,  the admonition to heed the maxim of “No chapters in edited volumes until tenure” (p. 39) assumes that all readers are tenure track academicians, a notion that is simply out-of-step with career trajectories of not just anthropology but the social sciences in general.  In such instances, the volume would benefit from taking the broader intent that the editors note in the Introduction that the “book focuses on publishing that plays a role in your ability to secure a job and have a career as an anthropologist” (p. ix) regardless of where that career might be.

As I note at the outset of this post, the public presentation of research should not simply be a means to achieve tenure but an integral responsibility of all public research efforts.  If we are not vigilant in this regard, then folks such as the Florida Governor can rant away about the inconsequential nature of anthropological research. Regardless, How to Get Published in Anthropology is an excellent primer for getting your feet wet in the publishing business.

Thanksgiving for Kent Vickery – Public Archaeologist

This Thursday is the Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States.  Appropriately, I was thinking about a thanksgiving to an individual who influenced my approach to public archaeology – Dr. Kent Vickery, my M.A. program advisor at the University of Cincinnati.  He passed away this June, just a few years into his Colorado retirement.

Dr. Vickery and I were not always on the best of terms.  He was a serious taskmaster where no research project ever seemed completed.  In his classes, he started to lecture when he walked in the door and did not stop until the bell rang.  No pictures, all words.  One year, running behind in his lectures, he passed out 25 pages of typed notes the last day of class that would be on the final exam.  Our classroom styles are quite different.

But when it came to applying archaeology outside the lecture hall, he proved a key mentor for the  practices I try to use today:

  • His door was always open to students.  There are many archaeologists who published more than Kent, and many a good bit less, but Dr. Vickery clearly ranked in the upper 5% of professors committed to their students.  He always had time for a discussion or to offer advice. He was a walking bibliographic reference on all things related to his fields of research.
  • Outside of the classroom, Kent believed in hands-on learning.  He provided students the materials to take on a range of laboratory analysis projects.  Of importance, he also encouraged his students to present their findings at professional meetings and to publish their results.  He worked hard up until his retirement to organize and publish the field work he had done over the years.
  • Kent promoted his students in the profession.  In conversation, he was more likely to talk about the important work of his students than of his own.  He could spill a tremendous amount of red ink over any paper forcing the student to defend their assertions.  We butted heads quite a bit over my M.A. Thesis.  I was shocked to find that he had written a lengthy proposal and successfully had my M.A. Thesis nominated as one of only two from the University of Cincinnati for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award.  He didn’t ask me if I wanted my thesis nominated, he just did it.
  • Whether through work with Boy Scouts or avocational archaeologists Kent expended an incredible amount his time taking archaeology from the academy to the public.  He was a standard fixture at the avocational organization Central Ohio Valley Archaeological Society meetings.  Every Tuesday night in his lab an assemblage of students, professionals, and avocationals worked late in the evening on a diverse set of projects.
Kent and I kept up over the years.  The last time he “put the bite on me” was to create a composite map for the hundreds of features recorded from excavations at the State Line site.  I regularly got Christmas cards from he and Karen, including last year.

I don’t know that Kent would have considered himself a Public or Applied Archaeologist.  I have to believe that if he were starting out in the business today, he would fall right in with the best of community outreach.  Immediately after his death there was a flurry of emails among his former students and friends.  The common thread in those comments was that Kent’s fingerprints were all over the archaeology of the Greater Cincinnati area and that he had trained most of the archaeologists working in the region today.  These practitioners include museum professionals, leaders in the field of cultural resource management, and more than a few professorial types.  His former students that shared their thoughts of Kent at his passing are people today committed to public outreach in both museums and archaeology, demonstrating, that the apple does not fall too far from the tree.

Thanks Kent.

What does Steve Jobs have to do with IT?

What does Steve Jobs have to do with Archaeology, Museums & Outreach?  My answer is not found in any of the recently published homages on his life or in one of his visionary quotable quotes.  Instead, consider the perspective that likens Steve Jobs and Apple Computer to a museum and the Apple products to the exhibits or the archaeological excavations.  Here are just a few points of comparison:

  • Apple products are intuitive but not simple.  They have the power and the ability to do any task but they excel in taking the user from the skill level where they are to where they want to go.  Consider something as simple as the difference between Apple’s Keynote program compared to Microsoft’s PowerPoint.  I think of this point when considering exhibit design.  A while ago I wrote about how we envisioned an ethnobotany exhibit at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa that took complex material but presented the information on multiple intuitive levels.  Last week I wrote about presenting the intricacies of prehistoric engineering to the public.   The punch line is that contrary to our assumptions that folks just won’t understand or be interested in complex concepts, the Apple model suggests that you take folks from where they are at and launch them on a journey without limits.  Apple excels in achieving this end.
  • Here is a dangerous statement – Apple’s customer service is fantastic.  I am certain that some folks have horror stories to tell about their Apple product service.  Here is my story – I have owned nothing but Apple computer products since 1988.  Over that period, I have never had an unresolved issue with anyone at Apple computer – including on one occasion replacing a warranty expired Power Mac at no cost.  My concerns were always at the forefront of the Apple employee who answered the phone or was assigned to my case.  A standard line I go over in both the classroom and at the Museum is that the only reason we exist is for the visiting public.  Without the visitor, museums would function only as repositories or research institutions.  As I noted in last week’s post, I also remind students and staff that the majority of us in museums are on the public dole, supported by tax dollars in one form or another, and  we must be able to explain our relevance to the public who pay our salaries.
  • If you have visited an Apple Store, you know they can be rather chaotic places, especially around the time of new product releases.  But I am impressed that the focus of these stores remains on the Great Thing or the Apple products themselves.  Each store has rows of wooden tables on which sit the complete range of Apple products for the customer to try.  If you look around the store, there are no bells and whistles, techno light shows and so forth.  There are just tables of products and people.  In museums and in archaeology, we often become enticed by the glamor of touch tables, mobile apps, or gaming that become ends in themselves and draw attention away from the Great Thing.  Last year I posted on a low-tech but thoroughly engaging experience at the Pearl Button Museum in Muscatine Iowa.  As well, this book cover has always impressed me with what a very simple tactile engagement with the Great Thing can mean.
As I said at the outset, I don’t know anything about Steve Jobs the person or the business person.  But my 20 year plus relationship with the products his vision inspired has been a great trip.  I am reminded of my experience in  linguistics classes as an undergraduate.  I took more than the required number of the dreaded courses because I found them to be so interesting and applicable to other aspects of my life and research interests.  In fact, those linguistics courses led me to focus my doctoral dissertation work on prehistoric “architectural grammars.”  I find the same thing in what I perceive as the vision of Steve Jobs – it leads in directions, to borrow from Levi-Strauss, that are “good to think with.”  I thank Steve Jobs for the vision.

Are Museum Ethics Changing?

One of the student assignments in the Museum Studies graduate seminar I lead each fall semester at the University of Memphis is to provide annotated references each week on the seminar topic.  I enjoy the diverse responses from graduate students in Art History, Earth Science, Anthropology, History and other disciplines.  That diversity allows me to think outside of my worldview as the director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  One of my intents with the assignment is build a database of resources to share on the range of Museum Practices issues.  In the coming weeks, I will occasionally feature selections of those resources on this blog, especially as they relate to public engagement of museums and archaeology.

Early in the seminar we take up the issue of Museum Ethics.  Here are some of those resources:

  • Treatment and Repatriation of Human Remains – Katherine Broome wrote about the website set up by family members and first responders of the September 11, 2001 disaster at the World Trade Center.  The group’s function is to galvanize opposition to the placement of human remains in any memorial museum at the site.  The May 2011 issue of Anthropology Today, has an update by the advisors to the group.  Within the U.S., for the last 25 years museum questions about human remains have principally focused on those of Native Americans as a result of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).  Here is a link to an updated scholarly treatment on the impacts of NAGPRA.  Cori Ogleton came across a statement from the Pitt Rivers Museum in the UK about the exhibiting of human remains.  The governing policy of the Museum on the treatment and repatriation of human remains is also available.  A primary difference between the U.S. and U.K. policies is the formal legislation in the U.S. compared to less structured guidelines in the U.K.  As well, the role of the relative or descendent voices of the human remains held in the U.K. seems considerably less in the U.S.  The treatment and repatriation of human remains is a critical issue in public outreach in both archaeology and museums today.  In the U.S., our institutions are now directly accountable to the citizens whose collections they curate.
  • Treatment and Repatriation of Cultural Materials – The Elgin Marbles have long been a touchstone for discussing the repatriation of cultural materials.  That horizon has broadened considerably   Katie Maish found a formal discussion between Malcolm Bell III who notes the loss of context when art is taken from its original setting and James Cuno who promotes the cause of the Universalist Museum approach.  Noteworthy is that only Western Institutions signed the 2002 Declaration of Importance and Value of Universal Museums.  Alex Pearson came across an excellent blog that discusses the generalities and specific instances of looting and museums ethical responsibility.  The repatriation and exhibition of a cultural materials will continue to be a substantive issue that faces archaeologists and museums in their very ability to conduct public outreach.  Does the public’s desire to view prehistoric ceramic vessels override the objections of those descendent voices, also a part of that public, who wish for the objects to be kept from public view?  If the public’s desire to view these objects is considered paramount, why are they for the most part locked away in repositories away from public view?
  • And in General – The American Association of Museums (AAM), the International Council of Museums, the Society for American Archaeology, and most other national organizations make their code of ethics available on-line.  Megan Keener reported an interesting project from the Center for the Future of Museums of the American Association of Museums.  The project invited practitioners from a diversity of museum settings to consider the needs for amending the AAM’s current code of ethics.  The discussion notes that codes need constant updating to address the evolving and dynamic pace of world events.  Here is an example of the project’s discussion.  The Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall University also has abundant resources on the subject.

The accountability demanded of archaeologists and museum professionals by the very voices whose materials cultural they curate is rightfully on the rise and will continue to grow.  As well, as archaeologists and museum professionals are employed in nonprofit and publicly financed institutions, in an era of decreasing discretionary dollars, institutions that are unable to explain their relevancy to the public likely will not, and should not, survive.  In this capacity, ethics takes on an increased role.

How has your institution been faced with new ethical considerations?


Museums, Archaeology & Mobile Apps

Got myself an iPad a couple of weeks ago so I am now learning about the mobile app business.  I have to confess that the biggest draw for me in taking the iPad plunge was to use a music/sound making app called Reactable.  At the same, I sufficiently rationalized the iPad’s portability and work applications as factors to justify the cost.  To dutifully follow-up on the rationalizations, I went to the App Store and searched on Anthropology, Archaeology, Museums to see what all was out there.  There is a good bit of cool stuff.  You can tour Roman-era London via the Londinium app produced by the Museum of London, explore the Please Touch the Exhibit app from the Melbourne Museum, view fine art in the Philips Collection multimedia app based in Washington D.C., and on and on . . .

There is a good bit of museum and archaeology app stuff out there.  But are these apps the latest fad, toys, or what?  As is often the case the American Association of Museum provides a good summary overview text on the subject.  Mobile Apps for Museums: The AAM Guide to Planning and Strategy edited by Nancy Proctor is a good place to start investigating the applicability of these new mobile applications.  Proctor is the Smithsonian’s Head of New Media Initiatives.

In 100 pages, the volume contains 12 brief overview essays on almost all phases of mobile apps from the technical to practical considerations.  An additional 12-page glossary interprets the jargon inherent in any such discussion.  Although a careful read of the entire volume is worthwhile, several essays stood out to me:

  •  Robert Stein’s essay “Mobile Content Strategies for Content Sharing and Long-Term Sustainability” deals with the compatibility of museum apps across time and space.  He reports on a paper he and Proctor co-authored at the 2011 Museums and the Web Conference that addresses this issue and references the TourML wiki as a source for ongoing dialogue.  The upshot of the article is recognizing the importance in the early stages of app development that there are industry standards to assure the production of quality and interactive products.
  • Kate Haley Goldman’s essay “Understanding Adoption of Mobile Technology with Museums” is an important first read for anyone considering mobile apps in museum settings.   Goldman astutely observes that “for institutions already using mobile interpretation, encouraging visitors to use the mobile interpretation was the largest challenge.  Yet for others – vendors and researchers, as well as those considering projects – attracting new visitors via mobile was a primary goal.  This disconnect represents a great opportunity for future research” (p. 67).  Goldman speculates that part of the disconnect comes from the validity and reliability of the visitor survey measures.  She argues for visitor based longitudinal studies to help clarify the issue.  This understanding echoes Clay Shirkey’s concern that internet technology must be relevant to existing behavior.
  • Jane Burton’s essay “Playful Apps” provides another layer of insights as the relationship of the museum user to museum apps. She notes that you can explore physics by playing Launchball from the Science Museum of London or learn about human origins by visiting Meanderthal from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  She cites Flurry, a San Francisco based smartphone analytics firm report, in noting that “studying the U.S. mobile gamer, we note that she earns over 50% more than the average American, is more than twice as likely to have earned a college bachelor’s degree, and is more like to be white or Asian” (p. 74).  Like Goldman, she finds that conventional wisdom on app adoption and use in museums might be suspect and counter the conventional wisdom of the typical app user.
The collection of essays provides an excellent starting point and balanced overview for anyone wishing to get beyond the immediate must have hype or the flip side of too quickly dismissing the use of mobile apps in museum or archaeology public engagement efforts.  However, except for an essay on mobile apps at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, no author in the volume considered in a substantive way whether the apps actually fit in with the mission of the museum or organization.  Proposals for adopting such new technology that are thoroughly enmeshed in the mission of the institution will allow justification of the high cost of app development and equipment often needed to operate the systems.  Otherwise, nay sayers (and funders) may argue that we are just jumping on to the latest interpretive fad.

What is your experience with mobile apps?

From Me to We: Museums & Communities

In academia today there is a tension between the importance of interdisciplinary studies compared to single discipline research.  Although universities encourage collaboration across disciplines as an effective means for applied research individuals are evaluated and rewarded for production within their own departments.  To see the range of the discussion on this point, google interdisciplinary studies on the Chronicle of Higher Education website.

This tension can also be framed within a me vs we approach.  In a strict disciplinary approach, departments are viewed as individual “me” silos concerned foremost with their own self-interest and often with little concern about what happens outside of their own walls.  The interdisciplinary approach is considerably more engaging as a web of interaction that plays off of multiple partners.  In this capacity, the product of the interdisciplinary whole is more than the sum its individual departmental components creating a group synergy.

I have thought about the need for an interdisciplinary approach for a cultural heritage development in project in Orange Mound, an African American community of Memphis Tennessee with roots extending into the late 1800s.  The Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis is currently assisting the Orange Mound community in the creation of a local component for the traveling exhibit The Way We Worked from the Smithsonian Institution.  Orange Mound community discussions around the exhibit immediately raised possibilities for other cultural heritage projects.  In Memphis, there are many individual neighborhood possibilities but little in the way of a collaborative approach.  For example, typical cultural resource management archaeological projects result in gray literature reports and boxes of cultural materials, but little in the way public access or presentation.  A notable exception includes virtual presentations such as the Lamar Terrace project.  As well, for the past five years, the Rhodes College Crossroads to Freedom Project has collected oral history from the African American community.  I have posted before about community cultural heritage the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa collaborated on in Southwest Memphis.  But there is little or no effort to develop an interdisciplinary consortium of collaboration for these types of projects

Interdisciplinary projects have demonstrated considerable worth in broader community development.  For example, at the University of Memphis a colleague, Katherine Lambert-Pennington recently received national recognition for her work in this area.

When considering cultural heritage projects such as at Orange Mound, an interdisciplinary approach seems the most fitting.  The Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices (CHAMP) at the University of Illinois is one such example.  A quick scan of the CHAMP faculty demonstrates the broad interdisciplinary approach that the Collaborative can bring to any issue.  Consider the breadth of those faculty and their resources to envision any cultural heritage or museum project.  Consider how that interdisciplinary set of skills and ability will benefit the greater whole.  I suspect that there are few cultural heritage projects where going it alone will produce a better product.  However, such the multidisciplinary approach necessitates that we all move out of our individual silos and into a web of interconnection with others.

How can you benefit from a collaborative interdisciplinary relationship?

Moving From Me to We

Chapter 3 of Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum  is titled “From Me to We” where she considers how an individual’s museum experience might be enhanced by other visitor experiences at the same institution.  She writes:

Designing experiences that get better the more people use them is not simply a question of providing experiences that are well suited to crowds. While many people cite social engagement as a primary reason for visiting museums, they don’t necessarily want to spend their entire visit talking or interacting with other visitors in groups. Successful me-to-we experiences coordinate individuals’ actions and preferences to create a useful and interesting collective result. Technologists often call this “harnessing collective intelligence.”

This passage suggests the very real potential of moving the Me to We concept beyond the visitor experience to the institutions themselves.  In my capacity as the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, I believe this understanding is ripe with opportunity.  In the past couple of months, museums in West Tennessee formed a loosely structured consortium of institutions.  In reviewing an admittedly incomplete listing of West Tennessee Museums I counted nearly 75 institutions, many of which I was unaware of their existence.  This led me to thinking about the following:

  • If our newly founded consortium takes a unified approach, how will each institution and the group be strengthened in “harnessing our collective intelligence” in cross-promotional efforts?
  • Beyond simple promotion, what is there at each of the 75 West Tennessee Museums that will produce a better collective experience both regionally and at each location?
  • How do we maintain our individuality as institutions to prevent becoming clones to every other museum’s good idea?
  • How do we create multiple webs of interconnectivity without getting completely bogged down in the process?

Related, a few weeks ago a friend was talking to me about the wonders of Spotify.  I signed up for the service and now have direct access to a greater diversity of music than I imagined available – all that I can download to my iPod.  Of late, I have thought about how when I entered high school in the mid-1960s, for my cohort there was Top-40 radio, and that was it.  Shortly, rock took off on FM radio and broadened the scope a good bit.   But today Spotify advertises “millions and millions of tracks” to choose from instantly.  This new choice is both a qualitative and quantitative leap of staggering proportions.

The same is true for the cultural heritage venues.  Besides the increasing number of the institutions of all shapes and sizes, budget cuts, the virtual world, competing leisure time and informal learning opportunities, all diminish the immediate visibility of museums and other cultural venues.  We took for granted the success of these cultural heritage sites in the past.

Moving from Me to We is not simply a matter of pragmatic self-interest and survival.  Rather, moving from Me to We is a means to most effectively live into our missions in the 21st century.  There are tremendous potential and current successes to this movement.  I will review some of these opportunities in the coming weeks.

How will your institution move from Me to We?

21st Century Careers in Archaeology

So what is it that archaeologists do in the new millennium?  What are the career opportunities in archaeology today?  Check out the special issue of Society for American Archaeology’s monthly publication The Archaeological Record to find out.  This special issue contains 12 personal accounts of careers in archaeology that show how the field involves a lot more than just digging holes.  Read about archaeologists involved in work with the Federal government, community based projects, collaboration with educators in public schools, in the virtual world, and much more.

When I returned to school in 1985 as a nontraditional 30-something undergraduate I first registered for a course in physical anthropology and decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up.  The next quarter I took Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and decided ethnography would be my future.  The next quarter was linguistics and I once again pondered a different career direction.  Then I took Introduction to Archaeology and realized that this subfield of Anthropology allowed me to merge all of my research interests.  I was thoroughly caught up in the interdisciplinary work of Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus in Early Mesoamerican Village, The Cloud People and more.  Then, I distinctly recollect that after my first field experience in 1986, I was newly committed to excavation and artifact analysis.

Fast forward some 25 years and I have not dug a whole lot more than a few shovel test probes in the last couple of years but the same excitement for archaeology I had in the 1980s continues in my work as the director of C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and when teaching in the Museum Studies program and the Anthropology Department at the University of Memphis.  My career has certainly not taken me where I thought it would back then.  But I realize the end result is much more meaningful.

As reflected in the 12 personal stories in the special issue of The Archaeological Record, I also have found that the new career opportunities in archaeology speak to the discipline’s relevance in today’s culture not simply as a source of curiosity and speculation but as a means for engaging the public in a discussion of our culture’s future.

How has your archaeological career evolved over the years?