Reflections on 101 Blog Posts

My buddy Buddy and me relaxing pool side after a hard ride.

This is blog post number 101 to Archaeology, Museums and Outreach.  My initial intent for the blog, as reflected in my first post in December of 2009, was to offer a platform for discussing innovations and experiences in public outreach around cultural heritage.  That intent came after attending a session on community outreach at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in November of 2009.  Many of the session participants expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of professional support given to the subject.  I viewed this blog as a response to that concern for like-minded individuals to exchange ideas.

Here is some stuff I learned over the two-year period this blog has been up:

  • For better or worse, Archaeology, Museums and Outreach seems to fill a niche.  There are lots of websites that promote an individual institution’s archaeological outreach projects.  However, there are few others, if any, focused on outreach in general.
  • I have not put much effort into growing this blog, and maybe I really should.  On analytics in general, between followers, searches and direct referrals, I generally run 500 to 700 hits per post, with a consistent increase over the two year period.  You can easily increase hits with blog tags.  I posted one entry  with the title of Measuring Program Success and soon realized that I unintentionally hit on a key search engine phrase.  That single post accounts for 20% of all of this blog’s hits ever!  So it is not difficult to drive traffic to your blog, but what does the reader find once they get there?  To tag every post with “Measuring Program Success” would dramatically up the blog hits but also seems the equivalent of spamming.  What is more important than growing the number of hits is staying on topic.
  • At first, I was surprised by the limited number of comments made to my blog posts.  For most posts there are no comments.  The 120 or so comments received over a two-year period are from about 50 of the posts.  But . . .
  • a rather pleasant surprise from the past two years is the amount of interaction/networking I have done with others in my field I have met through the blog, none of whom commented on a post.  For example, I routinely run into or receive email from colleagues and friends who in-person comment on specific posts, or note that they enjoy the blog.  Excerpts from three of my book reviews are cited on the publisher’s website. The websites of professional organizations and individuals link to this blog.
  • Of particular interest to me has been the role of blogs in academics.  One might expect a tenure and promotion committee to dismiss the energy I expended in the 70,000 or so words I have written for this blog to date – noting that amount of words would constitute at least 3 peer-reviewed articles in top line journals.  Peer review publication is supposed to be the primary indication that the colleagues in one’s given field acknowledge the suitability and worth of your scholarship for publication.  However, as Mr. Dylan noted The Times They Are a Changing.  The change in academia is reflected  in a recent article on the importance of academic blogging in general and for the dissemination of research.  My blog posts to date resulted in invites and publication of two peer-reviewed articles and appointments in the professional organizations to which I belong.  In this new reality, blogs also become an indicator of scholarly research.
  • Finally, I really enjoy writing this blog – the dialogue and ideas that result.  That dialogue is also the reason that I enjoy the classroom setting – the opportunity to engage with students and get their good ideas.  So on the assumption that blogging does not go the way of My Space, Geocities, and Friendster, I look forward to putting together another 101 posts.

Using National Archaeology Day as a Response to American Digger

Looter trenches at Slack Farm, 1987 http://www.mesacc.edu/dept/d10/asb/anthro2003/archy/pothunting/

The Spike network is launching a reality series called American Diggers.  National Geographic has a similar reality series called Diggers.  The upshot of these programs is that they are treasure hunts.  The professional archaeological community responded with formal letters of protests and blog posts.  Petitions, newstories, and numerous blogs of outrage are up.

For their part, the Spike network responded saying:

“If property owners sign off, then it is legal–landowners can do whatever they choose with artifacts found on their land. That’s the argument Shana Tepper, spokesperson for Spike TV, made to Science Insider. “Our show is shot on private property,” she said. “They’re getting artifacts that are otherwise rotting in the ground” cited from here.

The private property rationale is reminiscent of the Slack Farm debacle of the 1980s. Of note, National Geographic prominently exposed the Slack Farm looting. (See “Who Owns Our Past?”, by Harvey Arden, National Geographic, Vol. 175, no. 3 (March 1989), pp 376-390.)

I wholly agree with the outpouring of protest against these latest attempts to loot the cultural heritage of the U.S. for profit.  The reality shows are not even about mystery and intrigue ala Geraldo Rivera opening the Al Capone vault.  They are about profit pure and simple.  American Diggers and their ilk flow logically from other reality shows such as PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, along with the History Channel’s Pawn Stars and American Pickers.  Antiques Roadshow format goes – is it real? how old is it? and what’s it worth?  Although price is ultimately the punch-line for the two History Channel programs, American Pickers has a good bit of discussion on appreciation of the object along with temporal and personal context.

The public presentation of antiquities must move beyond the money.

In 1987, I enrolled in a field school class at the University of Cincinnati taught by the late Patricia Essenpreis.  Ten percent of our course grade came from how we interacted with the public.  Pat was adamant that we be able to explain the relevancy of what we were doing to anyone who asked.  She argued that if we could not justify how archaeology was relevant to the lives of folks today, we might as well stay home.  I struggled with this mandate for a long time.  I had a difficult time getting my answer to the relevancy question beyond a general interest and curiosity that folks have in a prehistoric landscape.  At the same time, the descendants of the women and men who lived on that landscape often prefer that we not excavate on their ancestral homelands.

Over the past 25 years, Pat’s question has always been on my mind.  I can now launch into a pretty long monologue about how archaeology, particularly in its applied or public form, can be a source of empowerment for descendent peoples, educate on respecting and celebrating diversity, and more, along with acknowledging the value in a more casual curiosity and desire to know about the past.  To present that total perspective takes a good bit of work from those of us in the museum and archaeological professions, but it is our mission to the public we serve.

As a profession, archaeologists seem to expend an above average amount of time and effort in public outreach.  That television offerings like Spike’s American Diggers and the venture of organizations such as the National Geographic Society into this genre of media suggests that we have a lot of work left to do.  So, perhaps when we sign the petition protesting American Diggers, we should also be writing to PBS about Antiques Roadshow, and be certain to take the time to respond to the teacher wanting a speaker on career day at their school, etc.

The Archaeological Institute of America has set October 20, 2012 as the second annual National Archaeology Day.  This date can be an excellent opportunity to tell our side of the excavation story.

There is plenty of time to plan!  How will you celebrate National Archaeology Day?

Celebrate Museum Advocacy Day

Below is an op-ed written by Mallory Bader, graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum for the February 28, 2012 edition of the MemphisCommercial Appeal.  The piece is based on the American Association of Museum’s Advocacy Day activities for 2012.

Guest column: Museums have mission to serve, educate

Today is National Museum Advocacy Day and it’s an excellent time to express support for your local institutions.

  • By Mallory Bader, Special to The Commercial Appeal

In tough economic times, government officials trying to balance their budgets often consider cutting funds for cultural institutions such as museums. Some view museums as luxuries we cannot afford. However, museums are much more than warehouses filled with objects. They are places where change occurs and lives are transformed.

I believe the museums that continue to flourish despite tough times are those that embrace their communities and address the challenges of our times. Instead of simply being repositories for “stuff,” public museums have a mission to serve, educate and empower our citizens.

Museums serve the public by providing fun and engaging educational opportunities. According to the American Association of Museums, museums spend $2.2 billion a year on education alone. At least 22 percent of our nation’s museums are located in rural areas and act as a primary educational voice for a community’s cultural heritage. Many are surprised to learn there are more than 75 museums in West Tennessee alone, most located outside of Memphis.

Museums can engage with communities to tackle a variety of issues that are debated in the political forum and affect our everyday lives. Nationally, discussions through the AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums take up issues such as local food movements, sustainability and human rights, to name a few. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is at the forefront of local and national discussions on human rights and social inequalities not just of the past, but of the present and into the future.

One way that museums can be centers for social change is through education. More than ever before, museums work in collaboration with schools to meet students’ educational needs. The idea of a “participatory museum” means more than just hands-on activities; it means a museum where the students and other visitors help to create the experience. Students now have an active role in their museum experiences and develop critical thinking skills while engaging interactively with the subject matter.

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, we provide K-12 students with engaging educational opportunities that are tied to a school’s curriculum standards. For example, students and other visitors have participated in the creation of our new outdoor exhibits such as the Traditional Medicinal Plant Sanctuary. When completed the exhibit will serve as an educational tool for visitors to discuss the role of traditional plants in the lives of the prehistoric Native Americans who lived at Chucalissa. The exhibit will also serve as a model for preserving and conserving medicinal plants for future generations of Memphians.

At Chucalissa, we are working to better address the needs of our community. For example, in redesigning the museum’s exhibit hall, we are going well beyond simply updating our exhibit cases. We are involving the public by holding focus groups and interviews with teachers, community members, archaeologists and Native Americans to help determine the content of our museum exhibits.

Museums now tell stories and build exhibits that paint a larger and more inclusive picture of our society. These stories often deal with people who have been marginalized or issues that are politically charged. Museums must become socially responsible and connect to the communities they serve, or else they will become irrelevant.

Institutions such as the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and the Pink Palace Family of Museums are publicly owned. Blockbuster exhibits and tax dollars alone will not keep these museum doors open. To be successful, the public must take an active role in defining what museums are to become. This crucial connection cannot happen without museum visitors being advocates and voicing their support of museums to our government officials.

Today is National Museum Advocacy Day — an excellent time to express that support. Remember, like libraries, schools and other public institutions, museums are meant to serve the public, but the public must also support and serve those institutions.

Mallory Bader is a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and a graduate student in the Museum Studies Program at the University of Memphis.


Students as “Irregular” Museum Staff

The C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa is a small facility with a full-time staff of four, supplemented by three graduate assistants each semester and the occasional temporary employee.  Perhaps the theme I write about most in this blog is the role of the interns, volunteers and students who are crucial to our Museum Mission that mandates we offer “exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities” to both the University of Memphis community and the public.

For our annual Volunteer Appreciation Day dinner, I always do some quick computations to report the important role of volunteers in our operation.  For example, I noted that in 2010 the number of hours expended at the Museum by what I refer to as the “irregular” staff composed of graduate assistants, interns, and volunteers nearly equals that of the four regular staff members (6750, 7850 hours respectively).  When I walk through our Museum, I quickly fill a legal size page enumerating the projects completed by this irregular staff.

I recently reviewed the last three years of our student projects.  Without even including the considerable contribution of Graduate Assistants, we hosted:

  • 7 Graduate and 11 Undergraduate Internships
  • 13 Graduate Level Projects through the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program
  • 3 Masters Level Practica
  • University of Memphis students who routinely take part in Volunteer Day activities
  • Class visits & projects of the Governor’s School, Fresh Connections, and the Departments of Earth Sciences and Anthropology
  • Student researchers using collections curated at the C.H. Nash Museum curated

These types of interaction are crucial for developing organic links with our governing authority, The University of Memphis.  Developing and sustaining these links takes a substantial investment on the part of the regular staff .  However, I am convinced that these relationships are precisely how we can be most relevant to the University.  In so doing, we move beyond a bricks and mortar expenditure to engage with students as an integral part of  the University Mission.

The engagement is often simply a matter of taking advantage of opportunities in the University setting.  Here are two examples – this semester I am teaching an Applied Archaeology and Museums undergraduate/graduate level course.  Enrolled students will complete one major and two minor projects.  For the major project, students will collaborate with the Public Education Committee of the Society for American Archaeology to update and redesign the Society’s public education webpages.  The webpages were created several years ago and are in need of a thorough revision.  For one of the minor projects, students will create a proposal to promote the prehistoric and historic cultural heritage of Memphis’ DeSoto Park that contains Mississippian era mounds and Civil War era structures.  Currently this city owned facility does not offer any interpretation of the built environment other than a single National Historic Register marker.

I believe that such projects are critical to educate students in service learning.  As archaeology and museums continue to grapple with how to demonstrate their relevance and involve the public in meaningful participatory experiences, engaging students directly in those projects is an incredible opportunity to take the classroom beyond the campus walls to educate those who will be the policy makers of tomorrow.  And then there is the bottom line question – does it work?  Can we take students from classes or as interns and create quality products for museums and other professional settings?  The total of my experience over the past few years strongly suggests that, with a commitment to mentoring, yes we can.  Stop by the C.H. Nash Museum to see if you agree!

What opportunities do you see for engaging students in your work?

In Defense of Wikipedia as a Research Tool

At the end of my graduate seminar this past semester, I suggested that while I did not as a whole consider Wikipedia a “scholarly” resource for citations today, it was certainly a good starting point to search out relevant references.  I proposed that five years from now, the next iteration of Wikipedia might prove to be a legitimate scholarly resource, citable in papers in the same way survey textbooks are today.

That class discussion prompted me to pull a book that had sat in my “to read” stack for the past couple of years – The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen.  His thesis is that Wikipedia, YouTube, etc. are the breeding grounds for amateurs to spread their misinformation, contrasted to the high standards of traditional professional journalism and scholarship.  I hoped the book would give an alternative to my classroom advocacy of such online venues as tools for engagement and dissemination of information. I read the Introduction and Chapter 1 and was greatly disappointed.  When I got to page 48 and read Keen’s rant against the “citizen journalist” reports from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I realized he writes from an elitist and Luddite perspective.

My interest in this discussion is from the perspective of whether such online resources are at least starting points for valid and reliable research information.    This week my Applied Archaeology and Museums class, will discuss plans for their first class project.  Students will prepare written papers on repatriation of the Elgin Marbles.  We will then have an in-class debate on the pros and cons of the Elgin Marbles repatriation.  I looked at the Wikipedia page for the Elgin Marbles.  After spending 15 minutes clicking through the various links on the page, I realized it would simply be stupid of me not to point students toward this as a first resource for the class project.  Check out the page.  I think you will agree.  The page simply is not the idiocy Mr. Keen rants against.

In a recent blog post Jennifer Carey links to a list of 15 resources for free scholarly information.  I was particularly intrigued by the Wikimedia Foundation’s project Wikiversity that is “devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all types and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.  We invite teachers, students, and researchers to join us in creating open educational resources and collaborative learning communities.”   Sounds exactly like the nightmare Mr. Keen wrote about.

Here is what I learned about Wikiversity in 15 minutes of clicking.  Wikiversity has some well-developed modules, principally in the hard sciences. I am preparing for a special course this coming fall flowing from Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  Through Wikiversity I found that this spring a module Political Simulations and Gaming is being created through the Department of Board Game Design  at the University of Westminster.  I will check back in a few months.  Seems a great potential resource.

The naysayers such as Keen are like the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1400s who issued a death sentence for those using the Gutenberg printing press.  (I got that info from a scholarly reference cited on a Wikipedia page.)  Wikipedia and other online user-generated resources have the same range of quality as the “professional” community.   As with the Gutenberg’s press in the 1400s, Wikipedia and other user-generated resources will continue to grow as new technologies.  In just a few years, Wikipedia has quite admirably raised the bar of their quality.  Such user-generated resources are effective tools for the types of engagement that archaeologists and museum professional strive in their outreach efforts to the broad public we serve.

Try this – go to Wikipedia and search your favorite archaeological or museum something – whether NAGPRA, Hopewell Culture, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Field Museum of Natural History . . . Then ask yourself, is this good user-generated information for the public to have ready access?  If it is, that’s great.  If not, perhaps you should use some of your own expertise to user-generate some content!

How do you use Wikipedia or other online sources in your work?

Engagement and Sustainability in Museums

Engagement and sustainability are the two words that come to mind when thinking of the challenges facing museums in 2012.  As a small institution, at the C. H. Nash Museum in 2011 we had the luxury to step back a bit, think through those two concepts, without the burden of a huge infrastructure and payroll to preoccupy our every action.

We started off the year by completing a program restructuring to assure we met the expressed needs of our visiting school groups.  We also surveyed our e-newsletter readers to get their input on program priorities for our museum.  We made certain that these discussions were firmly situated within our mission statement.

In April, we led a 12 paper session called “Re-imagining the Engaged Museum” at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Seattle.  This was a fantastic opportunity to hear from other museum professionals on efforts to make their institutions socially relevant.

This year we completed our second Museum Assessment Program (MAP) study.  A key part of both our 2010 Institutional MAP study and the Collections based study this year focused on sustainability.

This fall, visitation by school groups dramatically increased at our museum compared to the past few years.  We attribute the increase to our revised programs. word of mouth advertising, and an aggressive and consistent social media presence.  We have also developed a reputation for having a staff that is very focused on visitor service.  As we remind each other regularly, the only reason we are a museum is because of our visitors.  Without visitors, our function would be that of a repository or research center.

This fall, in staff discussion of our programs for 2012, a common theme was that all of our museum offerings need to be driven by the community that we serve.  I have posted before that our anticipated upgrades and redesign of the main hall exhibits will first solicit the input of key stakeholders and users, along with the casual visitors to our museum.  As well, all of our substantive projects for 2012 including the medicinal plant sanctuary, reconstruction of prehistoric houses, and excavations of the 1930s era Civilian Conservation Corps Camp will only occur with the active participation of our key stakeholders and users – the very same people who will inform our exhibit redesign.

In 2012 and beyond, sustainability of our institution will only be accomplished as a result of community engagement.  We will heed the advice posed by Nina Simon and others that the Participatory Museum should not simply be a hands-on experience for the sake of being a hands-on experience.  Rather, the Participatory Museum’s goal is to fully engage the visitor in the public institutions of which they ultimately have responsibility.   I remain convinced that the long-term sustainability of our cultural institutions will occur when the public for whom we perform the function of stewards for their collections are effectively engaged in the entire museum process.

What challenges do you see for 2012?

How Virtual Can Lead to Real Time

A concern expressed by museums for presenting collections online is that the practice will reduce museum attendance.  On the surface, this argument is rather self-serving and suggests an institution’s real purpose  is not their mission statement but to maximize real-time visits.  The Museums and Society 2034 report from the American Association of Museums noted that “According to research by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, 43% of museum visits in 2006 were remote, predominately via museum websites.”  Of course, the report predicted this trend will increase and argued that remote visits can serve as a vehicle to drive more people to visit real-time.

Less scientific, but rather instructive, during the last meeting of my Museum Practices class this semester, I asked “Does any student know of, heard about, or can you cite any instance where an individual did not visit a museum because they had experienced the collections online?  Have any of you canceled your trips to Amsterdam because the Google Art Project has placed so many of Van Gogh’s paintings online?”  Of course the answer was an emphatic NO to the latter question, and no one could point to an example of the former.  As a general statement, the strident position of seminar students five years ago in opposition to the concept of a virtual museum today is considerably more moderate.

Archaeologists and other cultural heritage professionals are beginning to experiment with placing collections online.  Here are a couple of sites that took or today are taking the lead in this work:

In 1998 Carol McDavid created a groundbreaking website for archaeology at the Levi Jordan Plantation, the place where a “plantation was built in 1848 by Levi Jordan, his family, and the people who worked for them as slaves and, later, as tenant farmers and sharecroppers. This web site attempts to discuss the lives of ALL of these people, and covers a period from 1848 until about 1888-1890.”  Although rather crude by today’s standards, and in an exchange with Carol last year, she was somewhat surprised that the site was still live, the experiment provides a model for the future.  Scanning the Table of Contents for the website shows the considerable amount of information placed online.  Were one interested in cursory information or detailed scholarly research the Plantation website would be a first stop.

A modern version of the Levi Jordan website is in place for New Philadelphia site in Illinois.  The website notes that ” New Philadelphia was founded by Frank McWorter, a free African American, in 1836. Shortly after purchasing his freedom from the estate of George McWhorter, Frank invested in acquiring land in a largely undeveloped area of Pike County, Illinois . . . He and his family moved to Pike County in 1830. . .  and legally registered the town . . . New Philadelphia was the first town established by a free African American before the Civil War.”  The wealth of data available on this site is truly outstanding, including a full set of archaeological fieldwork reports, something reasonably unheard of in the past and even today.  Along with census records, newspaper archives, descendent genealogies, surveys and maps, as with the Levi Jordan Plantation, the website created for New Philadelphia is a first stop for both in-depth research or casual interest.

Here is the punch line for me on both archaeological sites as cultural heritage venues – I first learned about each of them in the book  Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement edited by Barbara Little and Paul A. Shackel.  After reading the book’s articles about these two locations, I tracked down the above websites.  I have never visited a museum at either of these locations because none exists – all readily available documentation is in either published articles or online.   However, movement toward museums or other cultural heritage institutions is in process at both Levi-Jordan Plantations and at  New Philadelphia.  Arguably at both of these sites, the very presence of a robust internet presence argues for a significance that will support their future development.  Were it not for the Internet presence, to me, both of these locations would fall into the long ago and far away category.

Levi Jordan Plantation and New Philadelphia are two examples where the virtual presence will be instrumental in generating the exposure and support for movement toward a real-time presence in whatever form that might take.

Your thoughts?

Educational Holiday Gift Giving

This week I received an email from one of our volunteers and supporters at the C.H. Nash Museum – Gwen Calleo a pre K-3 teacher at the Ridgeway Early Learning Center in Memphis.  Gwen’s email perfectly illustrates the important points Maureen Molloy makes in her blog post about Public Archaeology that I recently shared.  In her email Gwen wrote “I am not sure if I ever shared a “light-bulb” moment I experienced volunteering at Chucalissa.   I was working with another volunteer, college student, and we were discussing how the samples were taken.  I never felt comfortable recording information from the bags because I know I did not have the background to understand what I was writing.  This student began explaining to me how the ground is laid out during an excavation.  Although I had seen pictures, I never made the correlation to graphs / grids/ axis’ until that moment.  For the first time, I understood the “z” axis.  The moment was good and bad.  Bad, because if I had met him a few years before, I possibly would not have failed calculus II.  Twice.  The good news was I realized now that I could explain, roughly, “z” or 3D to four year olds.  Not only could I explain it but I could show it to them if I were able to obtain the resources.”

To help Gwen provide similar “light-bulb” experiences for her students, I ask that you consider supporting her fundraising project at Donor’s Choose to get the needed supplies for her classroom.  I am a big fan of Donor’s Choose as a means of providing materials for the grossly underfunded public education system in the United States.

A resource to give funds to equally needy museums is through Shop for Museums.  At their website you specify the museum you wish to donate a percent of your online purchases from hundreds of online outlets such as Amazon, Target, and Barnes and Noble.  The news media reported over 1 billion dollars in sales on “Cyber Monday” this year.  There are about 1200 museums registered at Shop for Museums.  The low-end of the donations made by online companies for Shop For Museum purchases is 2 percent.  If all the online sales just from Cyber Monday were purchased through the Shop for Museums site, each of the 1200 registered museums would receive a check for over $16,000.00!  I have used the Shop for Museums website for a couple of years now without a glitch.  I urge readers to consider Shop for Museums to support your favorite cultural heritage institution – at no cost to you.  Of course, we listed the C. H. Nash Museum at Shop For Museums.

Finally, consider mailing your favorite museum a check specified for community outreach or educational programming –  or drop some extra cash in a museum’s donation box during your next visit.  At the C.H. Nash Museum, we accept online donations that we use specifically to enhance our educational programming with visiting school groups.

Consider supporting your favorite cultural heritage or educational institution this year with a holiday gift!

Public Archaeology from Project Archaeology

This week I am sharing a post from Project Archaeology blog written by Maureen Molloy.  Maureen is the Manager of Education and Outreach at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA).  In Maureen’s guest post she traces some of her experiences in Public Archaeology over the past 25 years.  Over that period Maureen has worked in a diversity of museum and archaeological park settings, including at the National Museum of Natural History and with the National Park Service.  She created innovative educational materials in archaeology such as the 30-hour course Archaeology and Multicultural Education for the Maryland Department of Education and co-edited the volume Archaeologists and Local Communities:  Partners in Exploring the Past published by the SAA.

Maureen also now serves as the Chesapeake Region Coordinator of Project Archaeology Coordinator.  Project Archaeology “is a comprehensive archaeology and heritage education program for everyone interested in learning or teaching about our nation’s rich cultural legacy and protecting it for future generations to learn from and enjoy.”

I have yet to meet Maureen in the flesh, though we have corresponded via email and on the phone about matters related to public education in archaeology.  Maureen’s blog post provides an excellent understanding of where Public Archaeology has come from and where it can go.

My Favorite Free Downloads for Archaeology, Museums, & Outreach

There are many resources relevant to Archaeology, Museum and Outreach now available on the internet as free downloads.  Below are some of my favorites  as they relate to the general focus of this blog and are not already referenced by everyone and their brother/sister.  Here goes:

  • The New Media Consortium Horizon Project has just published their 2011 Museum Edition as a free pdf download that “is a co-production with the Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts (MIDEA) and examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in education and interpretation within the museum environment.”  The report begins with an executive summary followed by “Time to Adoption” discussions of different technologies. For example, under the Mobile Apps heading are the following discussions: Overview, Relevance for Museum Education and Interpretation, Mobile Apps in Practice, and Further Reading.  Of particular value, each technology discussion includes links to many live examples. This publication is an excellent resource for investigating the potential of digital outreach.
  • The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide published by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2009 is one of my favorite think pieces.  The 30-page free pdf download has nine discussion themes such as building sustainable institutions, evaluating program impact, and sharing authority with the public.  Each theme contains real-time examples and discussion questions that are as relevant to the small county museum as to the professional organization evaluating their outreach program.  I am using this document as the basis for the final exam in my Museum Practices graduate seminar next week.
  • In a similar vein the Center for the Future of Museums site has several excellent reports on current and future trends.  The 2008  Museums and Society 2034 discusses demographic, economic, communication, and cultural forecasts.  Each section includes proposals on how museums must evolve to meet these shifting trends.  The 2020 report Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums focuses specifically on ethnic demographic trends in the United States and the need for museums to shift their orientations to serve the evolving public.  Both reports are available as free pdf downloads.
  • The Society for American Archaeology’s Archaeological Record is a fantastic resource for exploring different outreach themes of the discipline.  I previously posted about the Careers Issue of the Record.  Other themed issues of interest include a history of archaeology in the media and applied archaeology curriculums,  Published five times per year, the magazine is available as a free pdf download.
  • Kevin Smith at Middle Tennessee State University provides a prime venue for archaeology outreach with the Tennessee Archaeology journal.  Each issue is available as a single free pdf download.  Although I am certain formats will continue to evolve through time, the journal is in the vanguard in providing a readily accessible public resource for the types of archaeological reports that either never make it beyond conference proceedings or are buried in hard to find regional journals or Cultural Resource Management Reports.  Tennessee Archaeology is a step forward in the discipline’s need for public accountability.
  • For one stop preservation and conservation needs you cannot beat the National Park Service for their Tech Notes and the three-volume National Park Service Museum Handbook, all free pdf downloads.  The latter is of particular value as a comprehensive “reference guide on how to manage, preserve, document, access and use museum collections.”  I find these publications ideal to assist interested lay persons in preserving family heirlooms and other privately held cultural heritage objects.  The straightforward style of these reports provides an excellent opportunity to educate the public on stewardship issues.
  • The Visitor Studies Association provides free pdf downloads including articles from their bi-annual peer-reviewed journal Visitor Studies.  The VSA is the “premier professional organization focusing on all facets of the visitor experience in museums, zoos, nature centers, visitor centers, historic sites, parks and other informal learning settings.”
  • The proceedings from the 2011 Museums and the Web Conference held in Philadelphia this past April are accessible on-line in a variety of formats.  With sessions covering topics such as data storage, gaming, organizational changes, e-book publishing, the proceedings provide current thinking on a range of museum online issues.  Some of the online resources are typical conference paper texts, others link to Slideshare PowerPoint files, and others link to institutional websites that host not just the presentation but related materials as well.

The above list just scratches the surface of available online downloadable resources for Outreach efforts in archaeology and museums.  What other downloads have you found particularly useful?