Although archaeology has become increasingly concerned with engaging diverse publics, and has embraced the internet as a means of facilitating such engagement, attitudes towards Wikipedia have—understandably—been more ambivalent. Nevertheless, we argue here, Wikipedia’s popularity and reach mean that archaeologists should actively engage with the website by adding and improving archaeological content. One way to do this is in the classroom: this paper provides a detailed how-to for instructors interested in having students create new Wikipedia content. We provide a case study in Wikipedia engagement from an advanced undergraduate course on African Archaeology, assess a program (Wiki Education) designed to help, and suggest further avenues for future outreach. We conclude that Wikipedia’s utopian mission aligns with many of the goals of public archaeology, and argue that archaeology has much to gain by engaging with—rather than ignoring or even shunning—Wikipedia.
Of more direct relevance to archaeology, I recently updated the Poverty Point site Wikipedia page to add references, current research, and perform a substantive rewrite. (To view the pre-edited page click on the “View History” and click on the version for July of 2018.) I was initially somewhat concerned at being perceived as the “expert” who rewrote the efforts of an amateur or avocational archaeologist who had passion for the site, wanted to see Poverty Point represented on Wikipedia, but did not have access to current research. I am pleased there has been no negative reaction to my extensive edits.
The edits to the Poverty Point site page got me to thinking about expanding the project. For example, the Indian Mounds of Northeast Louisiana: A Driving Trail Guide lists 40 archaeological sites in public view with commemorative historic markers. The Trail Guide contains a map, and a 100-word basic description of each site. Wikipedia is an ideal resource to expand this information. Most of the sites listed in the Trail Guide do not have Wikipedia pages. Adding those site pages, and editing existing site pages will be an ideal complement to the Trail Guide.
I anticipate starting the project this coming fall, working with archaeology classes at higher education institutions in Louisiana and beyond. Interested in participating? Contact me at email@example.com and let’s talk!
Public or Applied Archaeology will play an increasingly important role in presenting and preserving cultural heritage of the United States in the coming period. As readers of this blog are aware, I advocate for demonstrating the public relevance of archaeology and museums. With a future certainty that discretionary spending will be increasingly cut, cultural heritage programs that best demonstrate their utility to the public, will stand the best chance of surviving.
Below are several links that show how this might work, first around the issue of metal detecting:
Maureen Malloy, Manager of Public Education at the Society for American Archaeology is the lead author on a paper that evaluates the SAA role in advising on the National Geographic Channels Diggers program. The reality cable tv show featured avocational metal detectorists, often considered by professional archaeologists as a significant bane to their existence. Maureen presented the paper, Diggers Evaluating Diggers: A Collaboration between SAA and the National Geographic Channel, at last year’s SAA Annual meeting in Orlando. In the paper, Maureen and her co-authors trace the evolution of Diggers, demonstrating the positive impact that professional archaeologists were able to bring to the show’s content. The paper effectively argues for an engaged presence as a means to increase attention and action on the archaeological concerns in such programming.
Matthew Reeves presented the SAA Webinar Working With Metal Detectorists: Citizen Science at Historic Montpelier and Engaging a New Constituency. Matt discusses the training program for the Montpelier detectorists and their work at the Montpelier site. The webinar is available for free to SAA members here. If you are not an SAA member but would like access to the webinar, drop me a note to see about making arrangements. Matt also recently published an article on the subject that provides considerable detail on the Montpelier project.
I would be remiss if I did not note the BBC comedy The Detectorists that is available on Netflix.
A couple of other recent links relevant to public archaeology include:
Elizabeth Reetz, chair of the SAA’s Public Education Committee, recently posted a PowerPoint file Effectively Communicating Archaeology to the Public In Three Minutes or Less that contains information about advocacy work in archaeology. Of particular value, Elizabeth’s presentation addresses a point raised in Maureen’s SAA paper – how archaeologists and the public often talk on two different levels with two different sets of vocabularies and expectations. Elizabeth’s presentation is a great way to kick off a discussion on launching an advocacy campaign. And speaking of advocacy, check the Resource Guide for the just published volume I edited with Beth Bollwerk, Positioning Your Museum as a Critical Community Asset. The Guide contains over 30 Advocacy links to better guide public engagement in cultural heritage work.
Finally Doug’s Archaeology recently posted a set of videos of papers on Community Archaeology from a recent conference of The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK. The papers address and evaluate a diversity of community-based cultural heritage projects.
What other resources will you use to demonstrate the relevance of your cultural heritage projects funded by the public we are meant to serve?
The past several years have witnessed broad cuts in cultural heritage programming in the United States, particularly on the local and state levels. At the same time, several cultural heritage programs are, if not thriving, at least sustaining their presence and activities. A program that has sustained and even expanded its presence over the past decade is the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN). I have long been a fan of FPAN and the many resources they provide for all forms of community outreach.
The Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) is a new direction for public archaeology programmes, dedicated to the express purpose of preserving the state’ s heritage through public education and engagement. It differs from other programmes, past and present, because it is focused solely on archaeological preservation through public engagement and because it is not housed within a larger programme with other research or heritage management responsibilities.
Here are some bullets that highlight my takeaways from the summary article:
FPAN was initially envisioned to expand on Dr. Judith Bense’s community archaeology in downtown Pensacola, taking the program state-wide.
After state legislation established the program, the University of West Florida provided funds to launch a steering committee and put meat on the bones of the legislation.
The legislation gave the steering committee a good bit of latitude in developing a program that was not a part of an existing organization. The steering committee was careful not to create a program that duplicated the efforts of existing organizations in the state. Ultimately they proposed a model where local universities or organizations would host or sponsor an FPAN regional center.
FPAN intentionally excluded “traditional archaeological research” as a major goal of regional centers. I find this exclusion particularly compelling as a means to focus public archaeology on a community’s needs and not on a regional directors interest, or even archaeologically driven “traditional research” questions.
Like most community based cultural heritage organizations, budgetary constraints over the past few years required restructuring at FPAN. But for “the public there is little change as we (FPAN) retain the same geographical regions and maintain offices and staff in each.”
FPAN also prides itself in becoming more proactive to meet Florida’s varied educational needs. Of importance FPAN centers revise and repackage individual tools they create for other programs or regions of the state – and from firsthand experience I can attest FPAN’s products serve as models outside of Florida, across the Southeast, and beyond.
FPAN also delivers workshops and programs that address expressed community needs for a true co-creative experience. Sarah Miller’s article “Cemeteries as Participatory Museums: The Cemetery Resource Protection Training Program across Florida” published in Advances in Archaeological Practice is an excellent example of this process.
FPAN also plays a strong advocacy role for archaeology on a regional and statewide basis and serves as a national role model for our discipline. (See Sarah Miller’s SAA webinar on advocacy, archived for SAA members).
To be accountable to the taxpayers who pay for the programs, FPAN also sees “. . . outcome assessment . . . as the next essential step needed to ensure and evaluate FPAN’ s contribution to archaeological preservation in Florida.”
As noted, a unique role FPAN plays is that their sole responsibility is public outreach and education in archaeology. They are not subject to soft money generation through CRM projects or driven by quantification of “traditional archaeological research.” In this way public archaeology is not a department within FPAN, public archaeology is FPAN, making quite clear the function of the organization. For FPAN, public outreach is not something that gets snuck in on the side, or if a staff member is particularly interested in community engagement. Public outreach is the reason for FPAN’s existence.
In this way, the organization does not keep two sets of books so to speak – one which it produces for the professional community and one for the lay audience. Both books are the same. This approach seems the strongest way to demonstrate relevancy and build community support for the cultural heritage disciplines.
Here is a link to the article below where I talk about the important role of avocational archaeologists in the recent designation of the Poverty Point site in northeast Louisiana as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I conclude that this type of engagement is critical for the future of archaeology.
In August of this year my colleague Elizabeth Bollwerk and I published a special thematic issue of the Society for American Archaeology’s Advances in Archaeological Practice titled Co-Creation and Public Archaeology. The practice of co-creation has proven a guiding force in my professional practice over the past few years. I initially came across the concept in Nina Simon’s synthesis and elaboration of an ongoing discussion in the museum community over the past couple of decades. Since that time I have developed my own understanding of the co-creative practice that prioritizes addressing the community’s expressed needs. In 2012, along with Natalye Tate, Elizabeth and I co-edited a volume of Museums and Social Issues on the co-creative theme. As someone who has worked as an archaeologist for the better part of my professional career, I am very pleased with the publication of this new peer-reviewed volume on the subject of co-creation by a leading organization of professional archaeologists in the United States. I believe an application of the co-creative practice will be key to the future of the discipline.
Below is the abstract to the Introduction Elizabeth and I co-authored with a true leader in the field of public archaeology, Carol McDavid.
This paper serves a dual purpose. First it is an introduction that aims to frame a set of papers that describe and discuss the process of co-creation in a variety of archaeological projects. We discuss the challenge of community engagement in public archaeology and offer co-creative practice as a method for improving our relationships with descendant communities and the general public. We begin by providing a definition of public archaeology and a brief overview of its evolution over the last few decades. Second, we discuss co-creation’s origins and utilization in the museum and business sectors, where the process is applied to address challenges similar to those archaeologists face. We then demonstrate how co-creation fits into the public/applied archaeological framework. We argue that co-creation must be both co (that is, share power in some way) and creative (that is, not just do the same things better, but do something new). Within this framework, we discuss how co-creation aligns with and informs current trends in public archaeology practice drawing from the case studies included in this issue. We conclude that co-creation has an important place on the collaborative continuum and can help our discipline become more responsive to the needs of our many publics.
And here is the table of contents for the volume that includes studies from throughout the Americas. I hope that you will find these articles helpful as you go about your professional practice.
Co-Creation as a Twenty-First Century Archaeology Museum Practice
pp. 188-197. Robert Connolly.
Survivance Stories, Co-Creation, and a Participatory Model at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center pp. 198-207. Kimberly Kasper and Russell G. Handsman.
Making the Past Relevant Co-Creative Approaches to Heritage Preservation and Community Development at Hualcayán, Ancash, Peru pp. 208-222. Rebecca E. Bria and Elizabeth K. Cruzado Carranza.
Co-Creation’s Role in Digital Public Archaeology pp. 223-234. Elizabeth Bollwerk.
Promoting a More Interactive Public Archaeology Archaeological Visualization and Reflexivity through Virtual Artifact Curation pp. 235-248. Bernard K. Means.
Co-Creation of Knowledge by the Hopi Tribe and Archaeologists pp. 249-262. T. J. Ferguson, Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, and Maren P. Hopkins.
Sleeping with the “Enemy” Metal Detecting Hobbyists and Archaeologists pp. 263-274. Matthew Reeves.
Cemeteries as Participatory Museums: The Cemetery Resource Protection Training Program across Florida pp. 275-290. Sarah E. Miller.
Building Capacity for Co-Created Digital Moviemaking through Youth Programs pp. 291-300. Teresa S. Moyer.
Turning Privies into Class Projects pp. 301-312. Kimberley Popetz
As a blue-collar kid, I grew up a trade union activist, believing that I had the vision for what the workers of the world needed. However, I was told more than once that all of my book-learning and vision might be great for speeches, but there was also the need for the real world bettering of lives, today – perhaps one of the reasons I ended up an applied anthropologist.
In 1990 I quit my industrial job and became a non-traditional higher education student, ultimately earning a doctorate in anthropology, then working as an archaeologist, college professor, and museum professional. I am pleased at how lessons I learned early in life transferred well to my postgraduate career.
In the same way I got my comeuppance as a trade union activist in the 1970s and 80s, I vividly recall as the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa in Southwest Memphis, US, attending a neighborhood meeting in 2008 and being told “Don’t tell me what your university is going to do for my community. The last time you were here for two years doing your research and all we got was a map on the wall.” Through my earlier life experiences, I came to appreciate that community outreach at Chucalissa could not be based on what I believed the community needed, but must start from the listening to the expressed needs and interests of the community. Nina Simon popularized this understanding of co-creation in the Participatory Museum. My colleague Carol McDavid traced this co-creation concept back to marketing strategies in the 1980s.
This August, Co-Creation and the Archaeological Record, co-edited by Elizabeth Bollwerk and I, will be published as a thematic issue of the Society for American Archaeology’s Advances in Archaeological Practice. The issue contains a dozen papers, including one by Carol, that explores the background and presents archaeological case studies of co-creation. The volume includes my article that discusses how a co-creative approach transformed Chucalissa’s relationship with the surrounding community. A highlight of the transformation was the creation of an African-American Cultural Heritage exhibit based on a community expressed need. The 2010 exhibit was co-created with nine area high school students. This summer students from Freedom Prep Charter School, just down the road from the Museum are updating the exhibit created by their peers five years ago.
In the same issue of Advances in Archaeological Practice my colleagues Rebecca Bria and Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza report on their multi-year move toward greater co-creation in the activities of the organization they co-direct Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) in Hualcayán, Peru. For the past three years I have worked with Rebecca and Elizabeth on these co-creative projects. (In fact, I write this post at 10,000 ft in the 400 person village of Hualcayán.) An example of this co-creation will occur on July 28, Independence Day in Peru, when the community will receive 100 copies of the La Historia de Hualcayán: Contada Por Sus Pobladores. The 50-page book by Elizabeth is based on a co-created oral history project launched last summer. I have posted before about the origins of that oral history project.
Eli and I met with Leodan Abando Alejo Valerio this past week to deliver advance copies of the book. As discussed in that earlier post, Leodan is ultimately responsible for the project. He was very pleased with the book and had a half-dozen projects in mind he wanted to work on in other small villages of the Huaylas Province. First, he wants to repeat the oral history book project in Huallanca the nearby small village where he is now assigned to teach. We agreed to play the same role as we did for the Hualcayán volume.
In Hualcayán, there is quite a buzz about the July 28th event. This past Thursday evening, Eli and I met with the Hualcayán President, Angel Hueza, who outlined the agenda for the Independence Day activities. The book presentation will occur after the singing of the Peruvian National Anthem but before speeches by the President and other community members. At the suggestion of the President, all the students who participated in the project will receive a diploma for their work. (I will post the details of this event in the near future.)
What does all of this co-creation have to do with archaeology at sites like Chucalissa and Hualcayán? I am completely convinced that all folks value knowing their past. For example, the boom in ancestry.com and genealogical research in general support this statement. In Southwest Memphis, at the annual Veterans Day events we host at Chucalissa, current and deceased area residents dating back to World War II are prominently featured on banner exhibits honoring their military service. This is a big deal as I have posted about before. As well, when I showed a Southwest Memphis community leader the mock-up of the Hualcayán oral history volume and noted that the students at Freedom Prep summer camps could launch a similar project, he enthusiastically approved – as did the Freedom Prep students and school administrators. In the same way, both Leodan and President Hueza see the oral history book as a central piece of a July 28th Independence Day celebration and a reclamation of Hualcayán history.
Such projects, based in an applied anthropology/archaeology provide a ready link for demonstrating the true cultural value of the archaeological record, and counter the PBS Antique Roadshow formula of “Is it real, how old is it, and how much is it worth.” In Southwest Memphis, the link extends to the remnants of a 1930s African-American Civilian Conservation Corps camp responsible for discovering the Chucalissa in the modern era. The remnants are located at the adjacent T.O. Fuller State Park. The link is also made in the current drive to reclaim abandoned historic cemeteries in the Southwest Memphis community. In Hualcayán, a link is formed from the modern community’s cultural heritage to the archaeological site with 4000 years of human occupation.
When we met with the Hualcayán President he noted that it was good the oral history book was not linked directly to archaeological research that can be contentious because of land access and preservation concerns. While seemingly at odds with archaeological research interests, I believe the President’s comments actually provide an opening for dialogue about the link between the modern and prehistoric periods. PIARA excels in this approach, sponsoring pop-up museums, site tours, a library, and opening a community museum. All of these projects continue to take on an increased co-creative component.
Co-creation allows for projects that truly meet the needs and interests of all participants and show the value of cultural heritage. There is room for growth and attitude adjustments from both the archaeologists and the neighborhood communities. The perspective of the student who commented “Hualcayán was so great in prehistory, but look at it today” is as problematic as the looter who reduces the archaeological record to an economic resource whether in the highlands of Peru or the US.
At my very first field school in 1986, my former mentor the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis threw out the challenge that if we could not explain to the public why their tax dollars should support the archaeological research we were conducting we might as well go home. That is, did our work have value on the public land where we excavated or to the taxpayer who funded the research? At both Chucalissa and Hualcayán, I can answer Pat’s mandate with a strong yes. For me the genesis of that yes, began as a trade union activist when I learned to appreciate the value of listening and learning from the people in whose interest I wished to serve. That affirmation is found in working with the community and not for the community, a cornerstone of co-creative projects.
After several years of planning, The Society for American Archaeology‘s (SAA) Archaeology For The Public Webpage was officially launched in 2006. The intent of the page was to share resources, best practices, and general information about the discipline of archaeology with both the professional community and the interested public. Since its inception, the volume and scope of the pages grew dramatically.
Patrice L. Jeppson, Carol McDavid, and Mary L. Kwas of the SAA Public Education Web Pages Working Group received the 2007 Presidential Recognition Award for developing the initial idea of the webpages and shepherding the process through to the official launch in 2006. Hundreds of individuals have also contributed content to the webpages since 2006. Maureen Malloy, in her capacity as the SAA Manager of Education and Outreach, played an integral role with the Working Group in maintaining and expanding the webpages. Today, she is charged with the Herculean task of the For The Public Webpages oversight.
The site has now grown to a complex tangle of over 400 linked pages. Many of the pages need substantive revision in content, function, and aesthetic perspectives. Three years ago students in my Applied Archaeology and Museums class at the University of Memphis began a preliminary review of the pages to track down dead links, evaluate content, and propose upgrades. By the end of the semester, we clearly understood that a major revision was needed to make the pages an effective tool for the 21st Century.
As an organization that relies primarily on the volunteer expertise of its membership, an inward search of the SAA was begun to facilitate the upgrade. In my capacity as chair of the Public Education Committee, I asked my colleague Elizabeth Bollwerk if she was interested in heading up a task force to tackle the project. She agreed and assembled a team of Public Education Committee members—Eve Hargrave, Eli Konwest, and Rebecca Simon –to form a task force to coordinate the work.
Over the past year Beth and her team inventoried all the For The Public pages and generated a series of recommendations. A key recommendation is to survey the public to obtain their input on the next steps in the For the Public webpage upgrade, which the task force promptly created.
Now is your opportunity to take part in providing that necessary input. The survey will take 10 – 15 minutes to complete and will remain open until July 22, 2015.
Here is an important point – the webpages are titled For The Public, therefore public input is critical. We are not just looking for input of SAA members or professional archaeologists, but everyone who has an interest in archaeology and seeks resources on same – including teachers, makers, scout leaders and members, archaeological mystery fans, avocational archaeologists, public officials . . . you get the idea – the broad public who has an interest in the discipline.
I will appreciate your completing the survey and forwarding this blog post or just the survey link to your network or relevant individuals.
Last week I participated in a forum about professional archaeologists working with “amateur” or “avocational” archaeologists. The session, “Cons or Pros: Should Archaeologists Collaborate with Responsible Collectors?” was organized by Michael Shott and Bonnie Pitblado at the Society for American Archaeology meetings held in San Francisco. In their introductory comments at the session both organizers emphasized the need for a cordial and respectful discussion, perhaps anticipating a polarized response to the question. This concern reflects a comment made by a professor of mine in graduate school who stated “There is no such thing as an amateur archaeologist. Would you go to an amateur brain surgeon?” To which my immediate response at the time and today is something like – Give me a break!
The session organized by Michael and Bonnie went off without a hitch. Solid and important questions were raised such as the ethics of working with collectors who obtained their materials through legal but less than desirable circumstances and the problem of repositories bursting at the seams with cultural materials mitigating against taking on more artifacts, regardless of context (see excellent comments by Robert Janes on this issue). But all participants in the session noted the important role that “amateur” archaeologists played over the years and recognized the need to fully embrace and acknowledge that contribution today.
The discussion caused me to reflect on several points:
A quote I have referenced several times over the years in this blog was from my first field school instructor, the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis who said something like “If you cannot explain to the public why they should be funding this site museum and excavations, then you might as well go home.” Pat’s comment flowed from her belief in the need for accountability in research on public lands and in recognition that almost all archaeology, whether through CRM, private foundation, or outright public financing, ultimately is funded through tax dollars paid, or not paid in the case of charitable contributions.
I published an article a couple of years ago on the surface collections from the Poverty Point site. The majority of the collection was made by Carl Alexander, an avocational/amateur archaeologist. Carl recorded the ridge and sector of the artifacts he collected over a 30-year period when the site remained in row crop, prior to purchase by the State of Louisiana in the early 1970s. In 2014 Poverty Point was designated a World Heritage Site. Today, Carl Alexander’s surface collections account for at least half of what we know about the material culture of the site. Interpretations based on his collections continue to be instrumental in guiding today’s professional research efforts.
During my tenure as the Station Archaeologist at the Poverty Point site I gave archaeology month presentations at the public library in Belzoni, Mississippi, just down the road from the Poverty Point culture Jaketown site. The first year I spoke in Belzoni I talked about the spatial distribution of artifact types noted by Carl Alexander at the Poverty Point site. I asked the farmers in attendance if they noted similar patterns where different types of artifacts were recovered at Jaketown. Heads nodded. The second year I spoke in Belzoni, the same farmers talked about the artifact distributions they noted over the previous year. Today, there is a small museum in Belzoni composed of collections donated by those farmers.
I first ran into Jerry Pankow sometime in the early 2000s. He had come to the Poverty Point site to discuss his “amateur” archaeology excavations at the Poverty Point culture Claiborne site in Hancock County Mississippi. Jerry and members of the Mississippi Archaeological Association diligently conducted excavations at this major Poverty Point culture site as bulldozers destroyed the site for a construction project. Jerry showed me his detailed field notes of 5 x 5 ft. units excavated through midden deposits at the site. He recorded cultural materials in arbitrary 5-inch levels, providing an excellent stratigraphic profile on stylistic and material culture change through time – a point of critical importance interpretively for the Poverty Point culture. In fact, these temporal markers were first documented by another avocational archaeologist, Clarence Webb, a pediatrician from Shreveport, Louisiana. When I first met Jerry he wanted to publish his notes. Jerry was quite insistent on how the material should be published and could not come to an agreement with any of the regional journals. He self-published a brief 35 page xeroxed pamphlet. While preparing my comments for the 2015 SAA meeting session, I discovered that in 2014, Jerry had expanded the original publication to double the length, again self-published but now available through amazon.com. I got a copy and am impressed. I am hopeful of getting hold of Jerry to convince him to publish his tabular data.
My experiences with avocational/amateur archaeologists lead me to several conclusions:
First, the contributions of avocational/amateur archaeologists for understanding the Poverty Point culture of the Southeast is a critically important part of the total corpus of knowledge that exists about that prehistoric culture today.
Second, concerns over looting of archaeological resources, the commodification of this country’s cultural heritage, and a lack of public funding for archaeological research are all concerns expressed by the professional archaeological community. We are well-served to embrace the avocational community who have a proven track record and can develop the grass-roots support to address these issues.
Third, the premier professional archaeological organization in the U.S. is the SAA – the Society for American Archaeology, not the Society for Americana Archaeologists. In noting this distinction we are reminded that the interests of the discipline are appropriately placed before the self-interest of the practitioners.
The latest issue of the Society for American Archaeology‘s (SAA) Archaeological Record Volume 15, No. 2, March 2015 contains a special section – Archaeological Practice on Reality Television – edited by my colleague and former SAA Executive Board liaison for the Public Education Committee, Sarah Herr.
The “From the President” column of the issue provides an excellent introduction and context for the reality television discussion. President Jeffrey H. Altschul is to be congratulated for taking on the reality television and archaeology topic in a way that proved quite productive. Too often, our professional disciplines only become involved when our turf is directly threatened and then in a rather holier-than-thou manner. Over a multi-year period Jeff has been intimately engaged in the reality television topic. As his SAA President’s term comes to an end, he has begun to see the fruits of that work.
His column details the multi-year conversations with the National Geographic Channel around their portrayal of value, broadly defined, of the material culture at archaeological sites. Jeff’s leadership in this area produced visible changes in the popular Diggers program, including the opportunity for archaeologists to comment and make recommendations on the rough cut versions of episodes.
The entire issue of the March 2015 Archaeological Record is relevant to the diverse publics interested in cultural heritage preservation and presentation:
Articles by Jim Bruseth, Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Carrie Dennett discuss the economic and other implications of the SAA considering a variety of Open Access options for the organization’s journals.
Sarah Herr introduces the section on reality television, providing some background for the discussion. Sarah also interviews John Francis, Vice President for Research Conservation and Exploration at National Geographic Society (NGS). Francis reviews the more than one century of NGS contributions to archaeology and specifically discusses the Diggers show and how he did not expect some of negative feedback. While agreeing to the need for substantive change in the show, he also encourages archaeologists to consider the challenge of holding an audience’s attention when reporting research and to develop an eye for storytelling.
Eduardo Pagán, the four-season co-host of PBS’s The History Detectives provides an excellent overview of the history and economic considerations of reality television. He concludes by stating “I remain hopeful that scholars and professionals in the field can discover ways of harnessing the power of television. We must reach beyond our classrooms to find effective ways of demonstrating and sharing what we do as scholars and professionals . . . “
Meg Watters writes about the reality show Time Team produced for 20 years in the UK and the more recent Time Team America in the US. Meg writes that “Time Team America‘s goal is to represent the diverse archaeological resources in the United States and to address global issues such as climate change or the movement of people.” A difference with Diggers is Time Team America’s focus on archaeological methods of research at each site that are also reported online. Watters notes that the Time Team America members follow the advice of John Francis to link science and storytelling. Watters notes that the archaeologists and other researchers at the sites investigated by Time Team America report the program has a positive impact on the public support for the site research. Watters concludes that for archaeology reality shows to succeed professionals must be more than consultants but involved in program development. She sees Time Team America as beginning that process.
Giovanna Peebles advocates using reality television to be part of the solution and not add to the problem. Giovanna chaired the SAA Task Force on metal detecting of archaeological sites on reality television. She notes that the “Task Force quickly identified three distinctive but related opportunities for the SAA to explore: improving communications and public education, enhancing relationships with metal detectorists, and working together with the producers of reality television shows.
articles by Matthew Reeves on working with metal detectorists, Richard Pettigrew on video production, and Jeffery Hanson on creating a preservation ethic.
This thematic issue of the Archaeological Record is an important read for all cultural heritage professionals and students. I am particularly pleased that the SAA charged Sarah Herr with pulling together the diverse group of experts for the issue. The volume speaks well of the SAA understanding of the need to engage with the multiple publics who through their tax dollars and other time and resource commitments make the work of cultural heritage professionals possible.
For the past 24 hours of this Day of Archaeology I spent the early morning in Caraz, Peru where I had arrived the night before after a 24-hour plane/bus trip from Memphis, Tennessee, US via Lima, Peru. I will be in Peru for the next month or so collaborating on several projects (cultural heritage and education development, lithic analysis of excavated materials from the Hualcayán archaeological site) as part of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) Team.
After breakfast at the La Terraza in Caraz, changing money, and marketing for supplies, my colleagues Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza, Co-Director of PIARA and Caroline Havrilla, a PhD student in the Biology Department at the University of Colorado rode to the village of Huaripampa for the Anniversary of the District of Santa Cruz celebration. Besides the opportunity to watch a parade, something that happens here in Peru and in New Orleans U.S., with equal regularity, we came to cheer on the students and faculty of the Hualcayán school in their participation in the celebration.
PIARA is active with the local Hualcayán school in the village of 400 (here are some details). This year we adapted several of the programs from the Archaeologyland on the Society for American Archaeology website and also archaeological presentations for student group visits to the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa where I serve as Director.
Elizabeth got a phone call that my one piece of luggage lost in transit had been found and would make it to Caraz in the next couple of days. I was quite relieved as all of the archaeological educational materials I brought were in that luggage.
After the celebration we rode back to Caraz, had lunch, did some more marketing, and then visited the Municipal Museum in Caraz. Elizabeth has been quite active with the Museum since its inception and last year organized an exhibit on the past five years of research at Hualcayán. Carlos, the lead staff person at the Museum. Besides seeing what was new in the exhibit since visiting last year, Elizabeth and I wanted to set up meetings with museum representatives to discuss a Museum Connect grant possibility with the Chucalissa Museum. The Museum Connect grants are facilitated through the American Alliance of Museum as true collaborations and equal partnerships between a U.S. museum and an institution outside the U.S. This perspective fits very well with PIARA’s approach to applied archaeology. We made arrangements with Carlos to return just before the July 22nd re-opening of the Museum to further discuss the possibilities.
After a bit more shopping for supplies, PIARA Co-Director Rebecca Bria arrived from Huaraz and we all prepared for the two-hour ride up the road to Hualcayán. We had a great conversation as Rebecca filled us in her recent 7-day trek with the American Science Climbers Program and a PIARA team. The trek surveyed some higher elevations in the Province recording information relevant to global warming and unrecorded archaeological sites.
We arrived in Hualcayán as the sun set. I spent the rest of the evening unpacking, catching up with folks and getting ready for tomorrow.
I enjoy that today was a fantastic mix of activities in how I have come to envision applied archaeology.