Public Service Announcements and Archaeology: Protecting WWII-Caves in Saipan

By: Jennifer McKinnon

East Carolina University and Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research

The words public service announcements (PSAs) and archaeology are rarely uttered together. In fact, a quick search finds very few examples of archaeology or cultural heritage PSAs. Yet PSAs can be an effective way of reaching out to a very large audience to promote protection and preservation of heritage. A recent project that explored community consensus building for the protection of WWII-related caves on the island of Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands utilized radio and television PSAs for the purpose of sharing a message of protection and preservation of caves with the local island community.

In recent years, with more visitors, more development and more spelunking and exploration, natural and human-made caves that hold remnants of both ancient Chamorro culture and WWII history are being more heavily impacted. This activity was brought to the attention of the local community and archaeologists when videos and photographs of cave exploration, artifacts and rock art began appearing on blogs, Flicker and YouTube. This concerned local community members and as a result, a project was created to assess community interest in protecting these resources. Funded by an American Battlefield Protection Program grant, the project consisted of community meetings, landowner consultation and interviews, archaeological survey of caves on private and public lands, development of radio and television PSAs and ultimately the creation of a preservation plan with input from the community.

Why PSAs? The idea of a public service announcement came to me while I was on the island for another project and got a catchy little jingle in my head – “Don’t give snakes a break.” I don’t know the first time I heard it on the radio, but it certainly impacted my subconscious because there I was singing it as I was driving down the road. Had I seen a snake, I probably wouldn’t have given it a “brake.” Brown Tree Snakes are an invasive snake that wiped out indigenous bird populations on Guam, and Saipan has worked hard to prevent and eradicate its presence. In fact, a PSA project raising awareness about brown tree snakes had remarkable results in eradicating them from the island. Bumper stickers, radio jingles, TV commercials, and special events were all part of the plan to raise awareness.

Sooo….when thinking of how we could get the message out to local landowners about how important the caves were to their history as well as that of the wider world, PSAs seemed the best option. Print options like brochures or mailings are limited in that they are generally viewed once and when they are distributed or out of print, they no longer exist. PSAs on the other hand can be aired and thus viewed over and over again, reinforcing the content’s message. When aired during peak time slots such as the evening news, they can become even more effective. For a Pacific island that relies on television primarily for its news, PSAs serve to reach the widest possible audience. In addition, radio PSAs can reinforce and even reach a younger generation of stakeholders.

The creation of PSAs were only one part of the larger cave heritage project but their development built upon all aspects. Landowners who came to the meetings to voice their opinions were invited to participate in the PSAs. They also opened their properties to the archaeological team who visited various caves to get a picture of what types of caves exist, what history they may hold and what is impacting them. Finally, many community members participated in interviews during which they related their and their family’s stories about caves use during WWII. Ultimately the message, “Our History, Our Stories” was chosen as the tagline for the PSAs to reflect the multiplicity of connections the community had to caves. Caves on the island of Saipan provided shelter to the ancient culture when they arrived thousands of years ago, they were the canvas on which the ancient peoples communicated  through rock art and served as their burial grounds. During the war, families used the caves for shelter from bombs and bullets and today they still serve special purposes such as places of commemoration and memorialization. As community member Fred Camacho relates, “This has become part of our family album, and we have the obligation to protect it.”

View all of the PSAs at Ships of Discovery’s YouTube Page.

SHA’s New Professional Membership Category

by Kimberly Pyszka

Graduating and beginning your career as a professional historical archaeologist can be stressful – writing and defending your thesis or dissertation, applying for jobs, looking into student loan repayment options, and likely moving once you do find a job. Financially, this time of transition can be unstable and honestly, a bit scary. On top of everything else you realize that you no longer qualify for SHA’s discounted student membership rate. For many recent grads, including myself, the costs of renewing as a “Regular” member may seem daunting. You may even make you think twice about renewing your SHA membership at a time when membership benefits are the most valuable to you.

But don’t fear or throw out your membership renewal notice! Beginning in 2014 SHA began providing an alternative for recent grads, as well as others who are entering the profession for the first time, to help them bridge the financial gap between the Student member rate ($80 annually) and the Regular member rate ($135 annually).To quality for the “New Professional” member rate ($105 annually) you must have graduated and/or gained employment in historical archaeology within the past five years. New professionals can take advantage of this special rate for up to two years.

So if you’re a recent grad and/or joining the ranks of professional historical archaeologists, we encourage you to take advantage of this new membership category!

Seattle: A Changing Landscape

SHA 2015 Seattle is only a little more than three months away. While you’re writing your papers, designing your posters and making travel plans, we’ll be introducing you to Seattle past and present and giving you some tips on how to enjoy the city during your visit. Kicking things off are some neat images that bridge the divide between past and present, giving a glimpse at among other things, the dramatic landscape modifications the city saw early in the 20th century and the impact of local, national and world events on the city and it’s people.

http://www.quirksee.org/2014/09/18/cross-time-photos-show-snapshots-of-seattles-past-and-present-side-by-side/