#SHA2016: D.C. participates in #dayofarch!

Good afternoon SHA members!  We hope this post finds you taking a much needed break from the field or lab! 

As you may know from our previous post, July 24th was the international Day of Archaeology (#dayofarch), virtually hosted by the Day of Archaeology Project! To reiterate, the Day of Archaeology Project encourages the archaeological community to celebrate and promote archaeology on a global scale, via social media.

For the past few years, D.C. has participated in #dayofarch, hosted by Archaeology in the Community (AITC).  This year, the D.C. Day of Archaeology festival was held at the historic Dumbarton House, in Georgetown, and had a wonderful turnout of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia organizations, firms, and school departments.  #dayofarch participants and volunteers set up displays, games, exercises as well as coordinated visits to the local Yarrow Mamout Archaeological Project, in order to celebrate and promote archaeology in the D.C. area.  Please check out AITC’s Facebook for photos of the event!

If you are curious about other participants in #dayofarch, run a search on #dayofarch via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.  Anyone who posted to the hashtag “#dayofarch” will pop up in a search on one of these social media outlets.  Or, visit the Day of Archaeology Project website for all of the #dayofarch blog posts- from around the world-here!

And, if you are curious about past #dayofarch contributions, check out this awesome map, depicting the growth of the Project since 2011!  Hover over your region/country/city of choice and see what contributions were posted!

Hope you join #dayofarch, next year!

 

Being on Diggers: Advice and Reflections from Montpelier

By: Matthew Reeves and Terry Brock

On Monday, July 20th, the Montpelier Archaeology Department appeared on the National Geographic Channel’s Diggers television program. This program has been an issue of contention for archaeologists and metal detectorists alike, but efforts by SHA and other archaeological organizations to work with National Geographic and the National Geographic Channel have led to a show that melds archaeology and metal detecting together. As participants in these conversations, and as advocates for the collaboration of archaeology and metal detecting Montpelier decided to put ourselves forward as one of a handful of archaeological sites willing to have a show filmed at our site. In this blog, wanted to provide some tips and strategies we used to ensure the filming was successful (you can watch the entire episode below).

First and foremost, we found that the production team, from the exective producer down to the film crew, wanted to cooperate with the goals we had for filming. In terms of the actors, Ringy and KG are both very intelligent folks who are skilled metal detectorists with an earnest interest in material culture, sites, and bringing the joy of discovery to the public, all elements we have in common. And finally, the newly hired archaeologist, Dr. Marc Henshaw, is a fantastic guy with great experience who serves as an excellent liaison between the film team and the project. With this said, we found the following guidelines as essential for a successful production.

Establish and Maintain Ground Rules

Lecture

Ringy (blue sweatshirt) and KG (Green sweatshirt) attending one of the four lectures during the Expedition Program. Participating in all elements of the Expeditions was one of our caveats for participating in the show (Photo Courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation).

Establish with the field film crew the ground rules. We had three areas we wanted to reinforce:

  1. that Ringy and KG would be shown as working within a larger team of archaeologists and metal detector participants–teamwork would be a tangible outome. We filmed this show during one of our Metal Detector Expedition Programs, and had the expectation that they would participate in the lectures, tours, and other elements of that program, including building relationships with our staff and participants. They did just that.
  2. that our crew would do their best to present the grid in a visible manner-in this case, we not only staked the grid with wooden stakes, but also pulled flagging tape between the stakes to have it prominently displayed.
  3. that Ringy and KG would only work in areas that we designated–no side trips anywhere outside the gridded area–we emphasized the only place we do metal detector survey is where we have a grid established–anywhere else is a strict break in protocol.

With these parameters clearly established, the film crew and the actors knew exactly what to expect—and this guided what the field producer looked for in terms of entertainment and improv from the guys–and in the end built methdology and teamwork into the shows storyline.

Prepare the Site

For preparation for the shoot, pick a site where you know you can get results in a short amount of time–that way you control the content of the project and the show. This is the reason we chose the stable–we knew we would recover artifacts related to tack material (horse shoes, nails, buckles, etc) and had a high chance of finding enough material culture to establish patterns. While the survey was real and the info we gained was new, we chose an area we had very high confidence in, and had poked around before.

Emphasize Context by Finishing

TotalStation

During the Expedition, staff used our total station to map all the samples taken during the Expedition, allowing us to have results by the end of the program. The total station was also set up directly behind KG during the entire show, ensuring its presence in most of the footage (Photo Courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation).

Make sure that you can process the finds to the point to show the importance of provenience: in the field, we made sure we were able to complete an entire 60’ x 60’ survey block and had time to shoot the points in with the transit, data enter the field catalogue of items, and plot these on maps by the end of the week. This was of critical importance since the assessment needs to happen while the film crew is still on site, in our case, this happened the Saturday morning following the final day (Friday) in the field. Having a plot map with the patterns already established meant the assessment was more than just a glorified artifact display, but presented the data behind all the work carried out to record location.

StableSurveyResults

Preliminary results showed a void in the area surveyed, providing us with solid interpretations about the location of the stable by the end of the program, and allowing us to emphasize the importance of context and distributional data (Photo Courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation).

Communicate and Be Flexible

The Digger’s production crew clearly wanted to capture the elements we discussed—they just needed to get the results while they were in the field. Also, what is shot in the field has to well thought out enough to make sense to the editors in the office—these are two different teams, and the only communication that occurs between the field and office is the executive producer—so capturing quality shots, quotes, and messages in the field that flow together into a larger story is absolutely essential. In the end, know that getting results from about 3–4 days in the field that are suitable for a prime-time reality TV show entails a lot of work and preparation. Once the film crew arrives you have to be on top of your game with very little margin for error. For the production shoot we held at Montpelier, the staging of the work and results would have been impossible without having a trained and dedicated archaeological staff to assist through the process.

Over Emphasize Your Message

title

Staff and Expedition Members were briefed on talking points. Here, one participant is taped talking about his work on the site (Photo Courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation).

The final item to realize is that while the production team is allowing review of content during production, there it is almost impossible to shoot new material once the film crew is done with the shoot. As such, make sure your message is caught on film—both in anecdotal clips in the field and definitely in the assessment. Review this message with your staff, and make sure it is said over and over again, whenever anyone is on camera. We talked with our staff and Expedition members about what we wanted to message, so that they were prepared when the camera was in their face. In the case of the final assessment, it occurred to me during in the middle of shooting how to play Ringy and KG off one another to make the point regarding negative data. What this required was complete immersion in the final product—both in terms of us (as archaeologists) and the production team.

Prepare Yourself and Your Staff

OnCamera

Learning how to collaborate with metal detectorists is vital preparation for the TV show. Here, Frank Juarez, left, is partnered with Seth Van Dam, an archaeologist from Ft. Drum Army Base, who attended the program to learn about our survey techniques (Photo Courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation).

This is critical. We could not have done all the work we did without having a sizeable staff that is well trained in metal detector survey, in addition to a full expedition program that included 9 additional metal detectorists and 6 visiting archaeologists. We have been working with metal detectorists for years through our public programs, and even employ two metal detector technicians on our staff. We had no concerns about using metal detecting as a survey tool, the efficacy of our methods, our ability to work with KG and Ringy once they arrived on site, or with how to excavate, record, bag, flag, tag, and catalogue objects: our methodology is tried and tested, and our staff executes it regularly. The only thing that was new to us were the TV cameras. We made sure to prepare our staff and expedition members for appropriate messaging, language, and other elements so that they were all ready to be on camera.

If you haven’t built relationships or worked with metal detectorists before, then the television program could be a lot of learning for you and your staff all at once. We’d strongly encourage you to attend one of our upcoming Metal Detector Expeditions to learn our methodology and also how to work with members of the metal detecting community, particularly if you are interested in doing the Diggers Program. We have designed these programs to provide a space for archaeologists and metal detector hobbiests to collaborate, and, more importantly, to learn how to collaborate. Having confidence in the methods and understanding the community you are working with will ensure that you can focus on getting your message through.

Working with the Diggers program was an incredibly rewarding experience, as have all our Expedition Programs. In truth, it has made our Expedition Programs better. For example, having results at the end of the week is not ever something we have done before: we believe the entire Expedition learned more about context by seeing the results of the survey at the end of the week then by us explaining what we would be using the data for in the future. From a larger perspective, it is our hope that participating in the Diggers show has allowed the public to also learn about what archaeology is, and what the collaboration between metal detectorists and archaeologists can look like when done through empathy, collaboration, and hard work.

Diggers Done Right

They’re back!

Yes, the King and Ringy, that duo you love to hate will be kicking off the third season of Diggers, July 20th on The National Geographic Channel. What? They’re still in business!? All the other such shows – Savage Family Diggers, Dig Fellas, and Dig Wars, have all gone by the wayside. Curiously, Diggers has actually been a hit for the NGC. Even with that ratings success, things will be a bit different this season.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the National Geographic Society wants to win back its brand and they have turned to professional archaeologists for help. In cooperation with Half Yard Productions, the producers of Diggers, both the SHA and the SAA assembled panels to review the rough cuts of each of the episodes for season 3. These panels made comments, on what they saw and these were often incorporated into the final episodes. They also compensated the panels for their time and effort. The SHA panel put this money ($3000) into the student travel fund.

So, what has changed? First, they have eliminated the dollar value assessments of the artifacts that are recovered. This has been one of the main objections from the archaeological community and we told the production company that it was a deal breaker if it stayed. Still, this was a huge concession on their part since valuation of the finds is the “payoff” on popular shows such as Pawn Stars, Antiques Roadshow, and Storage Wars. We will see how much it is missed by the non-professional audience.

Second, they have hired a new on-screen archaeologist, Marc Henshaw. Marc has a PhD in Industrial Archeology and Heritage from Michigan Tech. He owns his own archaeological consulting firm, Nemacolin Archaeological Services and writes an archaeological blog www.archaeologydude.com where he shares his insights into the everyday life and mind of a professional archaeologist. Accordingly, he subscribes to a holistic stakeholder approach to archaeology. His blog proclaims “that if you can’t make the archaeological sites important to the community, they will never be worth anything to that community either from a heritage standpoint or a preservation standpoint.” Seems like the right guy for the show and there is a chemistry developing between he and metal detectorists.

Third, archaeology is becoming a bigger part of each episode. Marc gets a respectable amount of airtime serving as the straight man to the antics the diggers. He is often shown discussing the research strategy, recording provenience and relating the significance of the finds at the end of each program. There are frequent text reminders that they have permission to search on private property and it is made explicit that the artifacts remain with the landowners or local museum/historical society.

Finally, they have sought out real archaeologists to partner with when possible. This has proven to be no small feat as most archaeologists were understandably reluctant to have them or the disruption of their cameras, on their sites. Still they managed to work with a few archaeologists this season and these proved to be the best episodes. In fact, the season begins with the boys volunteering at Montpelier and being shown the cooperative ropes by our own Matt Reeves (who has shared about his public metal detecting programs here before). It is worth watching.

Is it a good show now? That depends upon what you want. It is entertaining, the backstories and graphics are good, and they visit some interesting places. The boys are still over-the-top silly, but apparently that is part of their charm. And honestly, many of the shows on PBS have bought into the cult of personality (e.g. History Detectives, This Old House, Secrets of the Dead). Diggers may not be your favorite show, but at least I don’t think you will hate it now. If you do, there’s always CSPAN.