Twitter as a Cultural Resource Outreach Tool

This past November, along with my colleagues Sarah Miller, Christy Pritchard, and Steve Dasovich, I attended the National Council of Social Studies conference in St. Louis  to staff the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse exhibit.  On the opening morning of the conference, Sarah began to send out tweets about the event (#NCSS2013).  As a relative novice at Twitter, I raised with Sarah that I did not quite get the concept tweeting conferences.  I understood using Twitter to share links, event notices, and other announcements but the conference tweeting did not make sense to me.  Sarah immediately responded with a mini-tutorial on the multiple uses of the 140-character social media tool.  I was impressed and asked if she could share her thoughts in a blog post.  She graciously agreed.  

diver sarah
Sarah Miller, Florida Public Archaeology Network

by Sarah Miller

Social media is a hard sell for heritage professionals not already engaged in on-line activities for their personal life, especially so for Twitter.  One reason to consider social media is its ability to reach new audiences and build a following to create buzz.  For this, Twitter is ideal because of its instant access and user demographics.  Research continues to show that Twitter appeals to underserved audiences in my field (public archaeology): adults 18-29, African Americans, and urban residents.  Here’s a few suggestions on how to use Twitter to promote historical resources in your area and encourage growth in your own professional development.

  •  De-mystify what you do.  If you receive public funding, it is implied that there be public benefit to the work you perform.  While most outreach takes the form of public events, that doesn’t mean time behind the scenes is off limits.  Twitter allows you to update minute to minute your activities, from the glamorous to the mundane.  Giving the public insight into your daily activities as a professional, in my case an archaeologist, is a service in and of itself to the discipline.
  • Highlight current research and events.  It’s easy to forward on information to the public by pasting in URLs to flier and event calendars, as well as reposting research.  Consider recycling your own research products.  For example, when we do a conference paper or poster, we post our findings to the blog and send out to our social media outlets.  Tagging significant partners or themes, such as #slr for sea level rise or #ethics, encourages conversation across disciplines.  On the flip side, social media numbers (including Twitter followers) demonstrate potential audience numbers for promotion of events for grant applications and funding.
  • Open up communication.  Having a Twitter account lets your followers know they can easily get your attention by tagging your handle or sending you a direct message.  Taken further, you can also live tweet events or chats many of your followers may not be able to attend.  We regularly live tweet lectures on a designated account (@FPANlive).  The feed is then archived on our Storify account, making it easier to share with on-line audiences, or even forwarding on via email to public not engaged in social media.  One area we hope to expand is in offering live chats with other professional archaeologists working or visiting Florida.
  • Engage with other professionals.  The conferences I most look forward to attending are those with a strong social media component.  Take for example the recent Society for Historical Archaeology conference held in Quebec, Canada.  Months before the conference conversations began on Twitter using the #SHA2014 hashtag.  During the conference I used Twitter to find those who share a common interest.   Archaeology in the Community (@AITC_DC) tweeted “Come talk public archaeology with us!”  So I did (also known as a tweet-up).  Unfortunately, due to the Arctic Blast, many attendees were stranded at airports or had to turn back.  For many, social media was the only lifeline into the conference.  The Society has a social media plan in place and does a great job providing guidance as to how to use social media for its maximum benefit (2013 conference link and 2014 conference link).

    Sarah Miller (center) with Steve Dasovich and Christy Pritchard tweeted the proceedings from the National Council of Social Studies conference for the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse.
  • Build Community.  Social media is only fun when others play.  By nature it is collaborative and encourages partnership between individuals and organizations.  If you’re finding it hard to get followers and want more comments, be sure you are following others and also commenting.  Some of our go to public archaeology partners are results of threads that began on Twitter and are marked using the #PubArch hashtag.  I immediately know that they are engaged with the same audience I’m seeking, what kind of communication they produce and promote, and have a way to network information when truly necessary to an exponentially larger audience.  Another tip: on Fridays people use #ff (follow Fridays) to recommend likeminded peeps to follow.  If someone you follow sends out  a #ff, check out who they recommend.  Find someone you like?  Give them and others you chat with the courtesy of a #ff post.

If you need help getting started, sign up for a Twitter account and start a conversation with me @semiller88.  I recommend you first search topics you’re personally interested in to get an idea for how people share information, and importantly the tone they use to express themselves.  Then look up your professional interests, such as #archaeology or #pubarch (public archaeology) hashtags to see what others are posting to these subjects.  Make note of local museums, newspapers, organizations that also have accounts and be sure to share their posts or tag when you mention them.  Start slow with a goal of 4 tweets a day, add pictures, and after a month challenge yourself to live tweet an event you already planned on attending.

Remember, social media is only fun when others play!

Flyer for recent Florida Public Archaeology Network workshop on social media
  • Twenty Tweeps to Get You Started
  • Kris Hirst @archaeology
  • NPS Archeology @NPSArcheology (note: now a variety of great NPS accounts!)
  • Society of American Archaeology @SAAorg
  • Society of Historical Archaeology @sha_org
  • National Archaeology Day @arcahaeologyday
  • American Archaeology @tac_org
  • LivingArchWeekend @LiveArchaeology
  • Terry Brock @brockter
  • Lorna Richardson @lornarichardson
  • Nicolas Laracuente @archaeologist
  • Ed Gonzalez-Tennant @gonzaleztennant
  • Lynne Goldstein @lynnegoldstein
  • Paul Mullins @mullins_paul
  • Succint Bill @succinctbill
  • Webby @archeowebby
  • Mandy Ranslow @mrshlltwnmauler
  • Cort Sims @cortsims
  • Myriam Arcangeli @Terrailles
  • Ralph Mills @archaeologyman
  • Robert Connolly @yagumboya

Sarah Miller is Director of the Northeast and East Central Regions of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.  You can find her on Twitter: @semiller88, @fpannortheast, @fpaneastcentral, and @fpanlive (okay, and @beerarchy too) or via email at

Classroom Resources in Archaeology

bikeThis past weekend I helped staff the exhibit table of the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse at the National Council for Social Studies conference in St. Louis.  Most attendees were middle through high school teachers.  Although light on the gadgets and wizardry often used at such events, our exhibit saw a consistent flow of interested teachers.  The “I Dig Archaeology” buttons, CD of lesson plans, topical and age-graded handouts of internet resources were well received by the participants.

Some of my most engaging conversations were with teachers who, independent of any contact with the professional archaeological community, were bringing the discipline into the classroom.  For example, drawing on field schools from their undergraduate days, two teachers talk about how they had gotten their respective principles to allow them to dig up part of the school yard and create mock excavations.  Contrary to the horror stories archaeologists often tell about such activities turning into treasure hunts to find cool stuff, the processes included the careful excavation, mapping, and interpretation of recovered cultural materials, like the experience posted about last year from Harding University.

With that in mind, I wanted to post links to some of my favorite online resources for bringing archaeology and cultural heritage into the k-12 classroom:

  • In 2013, one of the most vibrant and engaged public archaeological outreach programs belongs to the Florida Public Archaeology Network.  The resource page on their website is loaded with classroom based lesson plans and activities.  The 2011 Beyond Artifacts contains over 120 pages of classroom activities and lesson plans both on archaeology in general and specific to Florida.
  • The Society for American Archaeology hosts an Archaeology for the Public webpage with some 300 or so resource links.  One of my favorites is ArchaeologyLand that contains a set of activities that can be used as individual lessons in the classroom or as a suite of offerings in a fair-like setting.
  • The Archaeological Institute of America provides lesson plans that focus on the classical sites and archaeological methods.  These offerings are often quite in-depth and utilize video and other internet instructional resources.
  • Project Archaeology offers leadership training and a set of programs tied to curriculum standards.  For example, their Investigating Shelter volume ” . . . consists of nine comprehensive lessons guiding students through the archaeological study of shelter including a toolkit of archaeological and scientific concepts . . .”

The above resources are outstanding examples of bringing the discipline of archaeology into the classroom.

What are your favorite classroom resources?

National Archaeology Day Celebration Activity Ideas

In preparation for National Archaeology Day at the C.H. Nash Museum we discussed the activities we wanted to make available to our visitors. In particular, we wanted to have effective programming for the young kindergarten through 8th grade (K-8) school age visitors.  Here we consider effective as those programs that will engage, educate, and entertain our young visitors about the importance of cultural heritage presentation and preservation.  The internet has a myriad of resources that meet this need, ranging from the simple to complex.  Here are a few:

  • One of my favorites, ArchaeologyLand, I experienced for the first time this past year at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting.  Drawing on skills of several educators, ArchaeologyLand was pulled together as a unit by Carol Ellick.  ArchaeologyLand focuses on themes of preservation and interpretation.  The program requires no high-tech equipment or skills.  All of the activities can be adapted to specific cultural regions.  In fact, this fall a student in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis will adapt ArchaeologyLand for a community outreach program in Peru about which I previously posted.
  • Another excellent resource is Poverty Point Expeditions by Debbie Buco, (though I might be biased as I consulted on the project).  Contextually based on the material culture of the Poverty Point site, Expeditions uses archaeology to teach a range of humanities, natural and social science skills.  Although some of the activities are more complex than ArchaeologyLand, none rely on highly technical skills or equipment.  Classroom Archaeology by Nancy Hawkins is also available as a pdf download from the Louisiana Division of Archaeology website.
  • The 2011 edition of Beyond Artifacts is available as a pdf download on the resource page of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. Besides a plethora of activities from simple to complex, Beyond Artifacts also has an extensive list of electronic resources on education in archaeology.
  • . . . and for a broad listing of possibilities, be certain to visit the Archaeology for the Public page of the Society for American Archaeology.
  • Finally, if you are looking for activities for the higher education or adult level, check out the book Archaeology to Delight and Instruct: Active Learning in the University Classroom edited by Heather Burke and Claire Smith.  “This collection of imaginative exercises designed by 20 master instructors on three continents, include role-playing, games, simulations, activities, and performance, all designed to teach archaeological concepts in interesting and engaging ways.”  I routinely use exercises from this book in my undergraduate and graduate level classrooms.  And I have one that we will give a try with the older crowd on National Archaeology Day at Chucalissa!

So  . . . if you are looking for a last-minute addition to your National Archaeology Day program, there is certainly something in the above links to suit your needs.

What are your favorite activities for effective public outreach in archaeology?