A Museum Program Niche

Following up on last week’s post about a people engagement niche, I want to take a look at creating a program niche.  Over the past few years at the C.H. Nash Museum, we have gone through a transition in our programming.  Thirty years ago, our programs focused on a reconstructed prehistoric village with a rather regimented Native American performance coupled with an exhibit of human remains.  Time, economics, accountability in presenting indigenous voices, along with the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, dramatically altered those programs.  My predecessor as Museum Director, Dan Swan, in 2005 pondered after the removal of the last vestiges of the dilapidated replica village “Without the reconstructed village, what is the value of the Chucalissa site?”

As I posted before  addressing that question has been a focus of our work over the past several years.  We first looked around at what other Museums did well.  The Pink Palace here in Memphis has an exceptional “traveling trunk” exhibit to the schools.  We thought about creating something similar.  Just across the River in Arkansas, the Parkin Archaeological Site offers a week of Black History program each February.  A similar offering seemed a good way to relate to the 95% African-American Community that surrounds the Chucalissa site.  Fortunately, we did not get past the thinking stage on any of these projects.  Instead we considered our own niche – our SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).  For the past three years, we begin each fall semester with a week-by-week chapter review of Stephanie Weaver’s Creating Great Visitor Experiences that helps us to investigate these concepts and to refine our niche.  Here are some of the things we have come up.

Context – Chucalissa is situated on 100 forested acres that are adjacent to another 1000 acres of the T.O. Fuller State Park.  In a recent survey of our monthly e-newsletter readers, respondents suggested we develop more programs on our natural environment.  In 2008, the Southwind Garden Club created a state certified arboretum at Chucalissa.  This summer members of the Westwood community will plant traditional foods in an urban garden at Chucalissa.  This past Saturday we launched our Traditional Medicinal Plant Sanctuary funded through Green Fee at the University of Memphis.  Of note, the Memphis Botanic Garden (MBG) also recently created a medicinal plant garden.  In conversation with MBG Garden Curator, Chris Cosby, we discussed how Chucalissa and MBG gardens might complement and not be redundant to each other.  As Chris noted, at Chucalissa, our plants are in their natural context and allow an appreciation of the micro-environments that support the different species.  At MBG’s made environment this appreciation is not as apparent – a great example of living into our mutual strengths and opportunities.

Resources – As a regional repository for the past fifty years, the C.H. Nash Museum has accumulated a considerable educational collection of historic and prehistoric materials.  Educational collections result from the past practice of the museum accepting donations of unprovenienced artifacts from surface collections or other unknown sources.  Although we no longer accept such donations, in the past we accumulated 30 or so cubic feet of collections with no research value but plenty of educational worth for exhibits and programs.  These educational collections allow us to use real artifacts in our hands-on archaeology lab and in other offerings, such as our stone tool program.  This opportunity is unlike any other in our region –  again, a niche that we can live into.

The Chucalissa Site – One of our greatest strengths is that our Museum is located on the grounds of a temple mound complex built by Native Americans 1000 years ago.  The greatest weakness our Graduate Assistants identified last fall in assessing our current programs and exhibits was our museum’s lack of interpretation of the site.  That is, we do a good job of interpreting both prehistoric and modern Native American cultures, in general, but our Museum presents little specific to those people who lived at Chucalissa.  At the same time, we curate collections from a 50 year archaeology program at the site on which to base those presentations – obviously, a niche that we can fill best.

In the Memphis area, within a 2-3 hour drive there are perhaps a dozen or so museum venues that interpret the prehistory of the region. In one respect, savvy marketing dictates that the dozen venues not be cookie cutter models of each other to effectively cross-promote all venues.  However, more importantly by developing our individual niches we can live into our individual strengths and opportunities.  For example, until five years ago, the trail system at the Chucalissa was not much more than an afterthought in site interpretation.  We considered our off the beaten path location as a deterrent in attracting visitors.   Today, we envision our “rural oasis 20 minutes from downtown Memphis” as an asset and an important part of our niche.

What are the unique niches that your venue fills?

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?

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?

Are Museums Missing Out on Social Media?

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

At the American Association of Museum meetings last month, multiple sessions made clear the growing use and importance of social media in museums’ day-to-day functioning and outreach efforts.  Many institutions are investing considerable resources in their social and virtual media presences.  My recent visit to Smithsonian Institution venues in Washington D.C. affirmed this direction.  For example, at the National Museum of American History website, one can spend hours blogging, interacting, and virtually roaming through collections not on exhibit in real-time.  The same is true of the National Museum of the American Indian’s website.

The internationally based New Media Consortium website contains Horizon Project reports on emerging technologies. One report is a 2010 shortlist for Museums that provides a good overview of potential of social media in museums along with case studies.

Museums increasingly rely on social media and other digital resources to deliver on their mission of public outreach and education.  The web abounds with evaluation tools including simple Facebook insights, Google analytics, and many more to assess the demographics and experiences of those who use the social media resources.

But are museums successful in actually reaching their intended audiences with social media tools?  A survey published by Museum Next provides some interesting data on this question.  I was particularly intrigued when looking at the results broken down by user age.  The table below draws on data from the Museum Next website.

Social Media Use Relative to Museum

Here is some of what stands out to me.  The breakdown by age of those individuals who use social media is not surprising, only confirming conventional wisdom: Young folks use social media a lot but older people do to.  The percentage of individuals who are actually fans, subscribe to, or “like” social media pages declines dramatically with increased age.  But here is where things get interesting.  A solid 70% or greater of all age categories report visiting museums or galleries, but only a small percentage of those people are aware of museums that have social media pages and even fewer follow those pages.  If all those individuals who

  • subscribe/like social media in general and also attend museums
  • were aware of museum specific social media pages
  • and subscribed at the same rate to museum social media pages as they do other social media pages
  • then the followers of museum social media pages would instantly increase by 400%.

I am not a statistician (nor do I play one on TV) and I realize that my assertion relies on a couple of assumptions, but the clear sign is that museums do not presently maximize the potential of social media for individuals who both now follow social media and visit museums.

We have a lot of work to do in connecting social media using visitors who come through our museum doors with the social media and virtual presence in which we are currently investing our resources.

How do you promote your social media resources to your visitors?

Google Art and the Virtual Museum Game

It’s been a while since I have posted anything about virtual museums, so here goes with a couple of new offerings and a couple that have been around . . .

Google’s Art Project went online February 1.  The reviews have rolled in that address issues of gendertechnical aspects, accessibility, and those with limited enthusiasm for the concept.  ArtInfo links to a good range of that discussion.  Besides seeing works from institutions I will never likely visit, I am impressed that the Project allows me to examine paintings in considerably more detail than I would in the museums.  I am hard pressed to understand the difference between coffee table art books sold in museum book stores/gift shops and the online Google Art Project.  Both publications are repros that represent the image beyond the original form in the museum gallery.  The latter incorporates contemporary technology.  Neither replace the real visit.  I will never forget the time as a teenager rounding the corner at the Chicago Art Institute and seeing Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles face-to-face.  But my friends in Turkey who will likely never visit Chicago should be allowed something as close to that experience as possible.

The Hampson Virtual Museum has over 400 downloadable 3-D clips of ceramic vessels and stone tools from the late prehistoric Nodena phase sites of Northeast Arkansas, US.  This virtual offering is a truly impressive site with considerable contextual information on the materials present.  This feature is missing from the Google Art Project.  An important feature of the Hampson website is the ability to download the 3-D clips of this phenomenal artistry of the Native American cultures  for later research, educational, or other viewing purposes.  The virtual display of these vessels will certainly be grist for much discussion on the display of objects often considered the private and sacred cultural heritage of Native Americans.

As a kid growing up in Southwest Ohio, I recollect the occasional pilgrimage to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton for an air show that culminated in a display from the Thunderbirds.  The visits also included a walk through hangars that functioned as museum exhibits.  Today,  The National Museum of the United States Air Force boasts a virtual presence of panoramic views of their modern facilities and a technology ala Google Street View to explore some groupings of aircraft.  The webpage has podcasts of guest lectures and museum audio tours for on-site visits.  Though less visually spectacular than either the Google Art or Hampson Projects, the site is a an impressive resource on aviation history and the USAF.

Perhaps one of the coolest ideas on virtual museums is to create your own.  Rebecca Black brought the Museum Box site to my attention during our Museum Practices class this past fall.  Here you can load your own images, text, video files, and links, in rotating cubes within a compartmentalized box layout.  I scrolled through some of the museum boxes created to date.  I found that lots of schools are using this site for class projects of varying quality and complexity.  For some museum box is clearly just an assignment to get done, like some perspectives on life in general, yet other students and users are clearly inspired to create very cool displays.  Check this one out for possible classroom projects.

And finally, the world would not be complete without the Museum of Online Museums – thanks to Nancy Cook for bringing this one to my attention.

The long and short is that the ability for museum representation in the virtual world is becoming increasingly real.  The above sites represent a range of offerings from the complex to the basic and from simple observation to the fully engaged.  The more Luddite reactions against the virtual presence are on the wane in the same way that adages about “if humans were meant to fly they would have been born with wings” withered away.  Now is the time to consider how this technology may help our institutions to carry out our missions of outreach and engagement.

Your thoughts?

Volunteers & Career Choices

Ron Brister at the Pink Palace Family of Museums' Coon Creek Science Center

I read a post this week on how early museum visits can impact career choice.  This got me to thinking again about our museum mission.  Once I overheard a museum staff member mention that there was an eight-year-old boy whose parent wanted to bring them to the museum for a behind the scenes tour because the child wanted to be an archaeologist.  The staff member lamented they felt such a tour was a waste of time because “at eight the kid would probably change their mind a half-dozen times before they settled on a serious career choice.”  The statement shocked me, to say the least.

I have always counted myself fortunate because my first field experience as an archaeologist was directed by the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis.  Pat was adamant about public education in archaeology.  Pat told us straight up that 10% of our grade was going to come from our presentations to visiting tourists at the Fort Ancient site in Warren County, Ohio.  She designated one student as the tour guide each day.  When visitors made their way to the units, you jumped out and presented the detail on the research project.  Pat always eavesdropped on your presentation and offered a critique after the fact.  The tour was a big deal to her.  And there were a lot of eight-year-old kids in attendance.

I have a standard line I rattle off about if it weren’t for the visitor, our museum would be a repository or a research center – that it’s the visitor that moves us into that different space.  And I also know I can get quite selective about how I engage with visitors.  As a museum director whose primary function is not on the floor, I can be pretty selective in how and when I engage visitors.  I do enjoy our Volunteer Day activities where I try to actually practice what I preach.  I always get some pretty phenomenal lessons in this experience from volunteers, students, and staff.

Take Ron Brister, who was part of the field crew at Chucalissa in the 1960s and then went on to a phenomenal 30- year career as Collections Manager for Memphis’ Pink Palace.  Ron is now retired and has returned full circle back to Chucalissa as a volunteer.  Ron is a critical source of knowledge in organizing our 50 years worth of accumulated “records” that range from excavation field notes to 40-year-old student papers on botanical analysis at the site.  But one of the most visible role’s that Ron plays is as tour guide and informal lecturer to the assembled group for our Volunteer Day activities.  Each Volunteer Saturday, Ron provides an impromptu presentation and handouts on some aspect of the cultural materials that the volunteers are processing, whether the difference in lithic raw materials, stone tool form, or ceramic types.  As well, Ron leads a tour of the open excavation trench where visitors can view 500 years of Native American prehistory. The excavation trench is now closed to regular public viewing because of  preservation concerns.

Here is my takeaway for all of this that ties back to my last couple of posts.  I am somewhat embarrassed to say that Ron had to propose to me his Saturday Volunteer Day role – I did not immediately link his skill with our need.  Now on Volunteer Day instead of the Director, breezing through the room for a quick impromptu presentation and tour of the excavation trench, Ron fills that role in a much more thorough and relaxed manner.  As well, Ron is considerably more qualified than me to do lead those activities.

This ties back to my Volunteers as Mission post from a couple of weeks back.  Ron is integrated as a volunteer not just because we have stuff to do, but because our Mission mandates that we offer participatory opportunities at our Museum.  Ron is passionate about our Museum and the Chucalissa archaeological site.  If we did not have a “need” Ron would still want to participate and our Mission mandates that we accommodate that want.  For me this translates into focusing on volunteers as mission.  I need to move from “we need to paint the inside of our Museum Hall, who can we get to do that?” to “we have 80 some odd folks who volunteered in the past six months at the museum, how do we keep them engaged?”

And here is where it comes back to the career choice I started out this post with.  As you can see from the photo above, Ron clearly enjoys working with others.  He gets and completely appreciates that when he is leading the excavation trench tour with the Volunteer Day group, that often includes an eight year old child,  he may very well be talking to someone who 20 years from now will remember when he led them into this dark and dusty trench that contained 500 years of Native American house floors stacked on top of each other, and they were hooked.

My suspicion is that there are many more Ron Brister’s out there if we slow down and look.  I will end this string of posts by simply noting that I believe the successful museums of the future will treat their volunteers as the same precious resource as the cultural materials hanging on the walls, inside the exhibit cases, and on the repository shelves.

Your thoughts?

Public Outreach in North Carolina Archaelogy

The Research Laboratories of Archaeology lives within the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  A pretty highfalutin sounding title and not necessarily a place one might immediately go looking for public outreach or teacher resources in archaeology.  Regardless, the site has a lot to offer. The Who We Are page lists the most recent accomplishments of the RLA and all deal with production or publication of educational materials geared at the K-12 level.

One of the most compelling resources is the Intrigue of the Past lesson plans geared to the 4th – 8th grade levels.  The five sections include Fundamental Concepts, The Process of Archaeology, North Carolina’s First People, Shadows of People, and Issues in Archaeology.  Chapters within the sections range from the culture history of Native Peoples, ethics, rock art, artifact analysis, archaeology as a career, to name a few.  The set of lesson plans are comprehensive and for the most part hands-on or participatory in nature to engage student involvement.  The total package of lesson plans is a useful guide for similar projects in other institutions or regions.

Other unique offerings on the site include a 2009 on-line course for teachers, Archaeology and North Carolina’s First Peoples taught by Theresa McReynolds through the Continuing Education Program at the University of North Carolina.  As described on the link “This online course explores the science of archaeology and 12,000 years of North Carolina’s human past. Participants will be introduced to inquiry-based activities that can be adapted to meet their own teaching objectives.”  The course runs 8 weeks and requires 5-7 hour per week commitment.  The course sounds like an excellent model to equip public school teachers with archaeology basics for classroom instruction.   Hopefully, this course will be ongoing.

The RLA site also has locally produced videos that explore different archaeological concepts such as stratigraphy.

Perhaps the most engaging part of the site is the electronic excavation of the 18th Century Native American Occaneechi site.  Though somewhat static and without the bells and whistles often associated with on-line edutainment today, the scope, detail, and value of the excercise are impressive.

The site has a set of links to other resources, a slide show on the 2009 Archaeology Day, links also to academic course offerings, field schools and recent research projects in the state, although this latter link is somewhat dated.

Of note, the Collections Page contains a series of pdf files of catalogs for artifacts curated by the RLA along with associated records such as black and white photos and color slides – something many state facilities are moving toward, but few have accomplished.

The site can be a bit confusing to navigate.  For example, with the link to the on-line course noted above, I am not certain how I got there the first time but the only way I refound the page was by going back through my browser history.  It seems that there are multiple links leading to the same thing – not a huge issue but a bit confusing.  There are no links or discussion of descendant voices save a few several year old articles on Cherokee Potters.

The RLA page is an impressive resource for North Carolina and a model of creative ideas for the rest of us.

SunWatch Indian Village & Public Outreach

In today’s post we have a Q & A with Andy Sawyer, Site Manager of the SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park, near Dayton, Ohio.  I have long been impressed that SunWatch runs an effective outreach program and now leads the way in the inclusion of descendent voices in the programming of the site.  I asked Andy to share a bit about himself and the SunWatch program.

Tell us a bit about your own background and your overall responsibilities at SunWatch.

I am an Anthropologist who specializes in Archaeology.  I have a BA in Anthropology from Miami University and an MA from the University of Denver. In my career as a student and practicing archaeologist I have had the opportunity to work in many parts of the US.  Prior to coming to SunWatch I worked for several years in Cultural Resource Management throughout the western US.  At SunWatch I am responsible for the day to day operation of a partially reconstructed 800 year old American Indian village and museum that covers the lives of the American Indians who occupied this region almost 300 years before Columbus reached the shores of the “New World.”

What do you consider your most successful recent effort to bring the surrounding community to SunWatch?

One of the things about a small museum such as ours is that we do not have the space or the funding to bring in many traveling exhibits.  Thanks to the support of local donors, however, since 2007 we have offered an annual presentation series that covers topics of local and national interest on archaeology and issues important to the American Indian community.  Our first series in 2007 averaged 42 people per presentation and in 2009 we averaged 92 people per presentation.  We just started our fourth presentation series a few weeks ago and the attendance was 94.  These series have given us a chance to offer something new to the visitors.

That’s a pretty impressive increase in attendance. How do you account for the success?

We have focused on unique topics and have been lucky to have supportive donors that have allowed us to keep new subject matter on the table.  We also have “word of mouth” promoting as we have numerous regulars to the series over the last few years that share with folks they know and bring new people out. Also, I really think targeting the groups that have an interest in specific presentations or topics is a good strategy.  And of course, offering these programs free of charge doesn’t hurt either.

What has been your experience in being inclusive of descendent voices at the SunWatch Village?

Our experience over the last several years has been incredibly positive.  As you are likely aware, archaeologists and American Indians have not always had a good relationship, in fact in some cases it has been just outright confrontational.  When I first suggested to our organization that I wanted to contact the most visible American Indian group in the Dayton area about collaborating on events they were a bit skeptical.  In the past this American Indian organization had been critical of activities at SunWatch on multiple occasions. Part of the issues, I think, in the past was a lack of communication.  I contacted them, invited them in for a talk, and we are going on our 4th year of hosting their Pow Wow and collaborating on other events including a clothing and school supplies drive for various reservations.  So from my perspective it has been an entirely positive experience.

How do you currently use Social Media at SunWatch Village?

About a year ago we started a Facebook page for SunWatch which was our first, and still only venture into using social media outlets.  So far it seems to be a good way to get information about SunWatch and our upcoming events out to our “Fans” who have signed up.  It also seems to be a good way for our “Fans” to spread the word.  Many of our fans share our updates with their Friends helping to spread the word even further.  Some of the organizations that help us organize events, such as the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans and the Miami Valley Flute Circle, both American Indian based groups, also have their own Facebook or MySpace pages. So when these groups post info about events on Facebook they are also helping expose more people to SunWatch.

What do you anticipate will be the future role of social media at SunWatch Village?

Since we are still relatively new to this, and social media is relatively new itself, we are not sure exactly what role this will play for us in the future.  For now though it seems to be a promising way for us to reach those who are already aware of us and perhaps many more that are not… yet.

Any wise words of wisdom on how you promote SunWatch Village that other museums or archaeologists might find helpful?

Identify your audience(s).  As a non-profit we have a limited budget especially when it comes to promotions.  Part of what we have tried to do is identify people who we already know will have an interest in our events and finding ways to let them know what is going on.  The groups that we have identified include local historical societies, archaeological interest groups, Native interest groups, and others.  These organizations typically have newsletters and/or e-mail lists through which they can let their membership know about upcoming events of interest so they can help us promote our events to their members.  Last year our presentation series was on Archaeoastronomy so we contacted local astronomy organizations to let them know about the presentations and we had a great response.  This year our first presentation was on shipwreck archaeology in the Great Lakes, so we contacted a local Scuba group, and we started off with a bang again.  While we still use more traditional advertising/marketing strategies, targeting our efforts in this way helps us make sure we get the word out to people who we know are interested.

You can email Andy or visit SunWatch village on-line at www.sunwatch.org or on Facebook.  Be certain to check out SunWatch Village when you are traveling through Southwest Ohio.  In fact, Southwest Ohio has a bounty of Native American cultural resources from the prehistoric era including the Fort Ancient site and Miami Fort – both open to the public.

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology has long been a leader in Public Outreach and Education in Archaeology.  Their website hosts a tremendous list of resources.  For example, one of their recent publications Poverty Point Expeditions , is a classroom workbook and available online from the Division.  Written by educator Debbie Buco, the workbook uses archaeology based at the Poverty Point site for lesson plans in a wide range of subject areas including natural and social sciences and the humanities.  The lesson plans are complete with step-by-step instructions, worksheets, materials and time estimates needed for completing the projects.  Each lesson is tied to the Louisiana State Curriculum Standards.  Over the past several years, the Division also produced the books Classroom Archaeology (Middle School), Adventures in Classroom Archaeology (K-12), and a picture book for elementary school children Louisiana Indians from Long Ago.

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology is also a leader in creating virtual on-line versions of all their books and pamphlets.  Perhaps most exciting is the recently published Indians Mounds of Northeast Louisiana: A Driving Trail Guide.  The guide can be downloaded as a pdf file.  The culmination of an eight-year project, the guide contains 4 driving trails in the northeast quarter of the state that lead visitors to several dozen publicly visible prehistoric earthwork sites.  Each site is described through a topographic map, cultural affiliation, and other pertinent information.  The Guide provides the public with an understanding of the regional significance, accomplishment, and legacy of American Indians for the past 5000 years.  The conical and flat top mounds that dot the Louisiana landscape take on added meaning as a cultural resource truly worthy of preservation.

The Louisiana Division of Archaeology website also includes information on Archaeoloigy Month programs, traveling exhibits, the preservation of cultural resources, the Regional and Station Archaeology Programs, and links to numerous other sites of archaeological, Native American, and preservation interests.

The publications listed above may also be ordered directly through the Division by completing this form