SHA 2013: Call for Papers closes in four weeks!

Belgrave Road, Leicester, during Diwali

There are now only four weeks until the Call for Papers for the SHA 2013 conference in Leicester closes, on 10th July.The conference committee in Leicester has already received many proposals via the online submission site, here, but we could always do with more!

If you are looking for further like-minded participants for your proposed symposium, do feel free to circulate details on the many listservs, and on the SHA 2013 Facebook page. A little earlier in the year we advertised a number of sessions that were seeking presenters here, and here; if you would like your proposed session advertised on this blog, please do get in touch.

It’s never too early to plan your trip to Leicester; all of the information you need to organise your visit to the city is on the conference web page, including a guide to travelling to Leicester, and the various accommodation options once you get here. If you are a student, you will probably want to apply for the Ed and Judy Jelks Student Travel Award. Parlez-vous français? Then take a look at the Quebec City Award, for students at French-language universities. Later in the summer we will have information on how you can volunteer to help out at the conference, and on free floorspace options.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at Leicester in January 2013!

[CC BY-NC-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Wikifying Historical Archaeology

In February historian William Cronon admitted his deeply rooted skepticism about Wikipedia as a scholarly resource.  Cronon, the President of the American Historical Association, acknowledged he had originally had misgivings about an online resource penned by the masses, and he recognized that he and many other scholars were hard-pressed to see Wikipedia as much more than a shallow and often flawed introduction to a modest range of topics.

Yet this year Cronon was compelled to confess that Wikipedia is now one of the single most comprehensive research sources on the face of the planet, and as I write today it has 3,961,053 articles traversing literally every possible subject from musicians’ biographies to historical events.  The pages are updated almost instantly; current events are updated in nearly real time, and each time an elder musician or movie star draws their last breath their Wikipedia entry appears to be edited before the body has cooled.  Wikipedia includes thoughtful if brief entries on astoundingly specialized topics, including entries on the simulated Nazi invasion of Winnipeg, the Bredon Hill Hoard, or the traditional Icelandic dish of Svio.  Wikipedia’s History Portal is systematically organized by period and culture groups for those seeking broader entry points, and many entries have links to peer-reviewed scholarship.  Nearly any search engine will identify a Wikipedia entry as the very first possibility out of scores of other web pages, and it is among the single most visited web pages in the world.  Strong Wikipedia entries provide a succinct introduction to a subject, reliable background on it, and links to resources containing more detail.  Some subjects are not completely amenable to Wikipedia-style linear outlines, but many of the subjects scholars examine can be very thoughtfully introduced in a Wikipedia entry.

What Cronon recognized is that it is foolish for scholars to ignore such a rich resource, because many people wade into scholarly topics and perspectives through their introductions in Wikipedia pages, and many times we need only a reliable overview of a topic.  When he wrote in February, the American Historical Association—the largest and oldest professional historians organization in the US—had a superficial Wikipedia entry, but now it has a thorough entry that includes an astounding set of links to Wikipedia entries for nearly every single AHA President since 1884, which has included George Bancroft, Woodrow Wilson, C. Vann Woodward, and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich among its number.

In February the Society for Historical Archaeology did not even have a Wikipedia page, and we now have a brief entry on which we can build a more thorough introduction to the SHA and historical archaeology.  The historical archaeology entry is likewise exceptionally lackluster from a discipline that has produced so much insight into a half-millennium, and an enormous number of Wikipedia entries could be strengthened by contributions from historical archaeologists and material culture scholars.

Many of the scholars who founded our discipline remain largely invisible on Wikipedia, as well, which is especially disappointing since many of them are still active in SHA, many have former students who could very ably represent the discipline’s first practitioners, and we have some fabulous oral histories with some of the SHA’s founding figures.  There are now entries for a handful of these figures, including Ed Jelks, John Cotter, and J.C. “Pinky” Harrington among others, but certainly many more influential scholars could be introduced to a broader audience through relatively brief Wikipedia entries that would lead students, avocationalists, and even some professionals to the work of these earliest historical archaeologists.  Developing wikipedia entries for all the Harrington Award winners would be a fabulous class project for somebody out there.  Of the 27 winners, virtually none has a respectable wikipedia entry directing readers to each scholar’s work and scholarly importance.

Some archaeological sites have thorough Wikipedia entries, with 36 entries for archaeological sites in Virginia alone, including the sites we would expect like Mount Vernon and Jamestown, but also a few lesser-known but fascinating places like the Falling Creek Ironworks.  Many more entries for historical sites could productively incorporate archaeological analysis of those spaces to balance out the conventional historical pictures or architectural histories that dominant Wikipedia.  Indeed, a vast range of Wikipedia subjects have material culture if not concrete archaeological implications that remain largely unaddressed.

It would not be that hard to make historical archaeological insight a central feature of many more Wikipedia entries.  SHA probably does not need to be intent on coordinating a host of archaeological wiki contributors, but there is good reason for us to take Wikipedia seriously and recognize all the potential it has for historical archaeology and the SHA.

SHA 2013: Exhibiting at the Archaeology Market Place

Are you involved in a local, national, or international archaeology society? Are you the publisher of an archaeological magazine or journal? Do you work for a national heritage body, commercial archaeology unit or consultancy?

One way that your organization can get involved in the Society for Historical Archaeology’s annual conference at the University of Leicester on 9th – 12th January 2013, is by exhibiting your products, services and publications at the conference’s Archaeology Market Place. Formerly known as the Book Room, the Archaeology Market Place will include exhibits of products, services and organizations in the archaeological community. This is both an opportunity to support the conference, and to advertise your services to a new, receptive audience.

The 46th Annual Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology will include an estimated 500 scholarly presentations on all aspects of historical archaeology, and many more delegates, representing organizations from across the world. The conference theme is Globalisation, Immigration, Transformation – reflecting both the vibrant multicultural history and contemporary character of the city of Leicester, but also acknowledging the transformation of historical archaeology into a global discipline. Centrally located in the heart of the English midlands, Leicester is well connected by air, rail, and motorway links, and an international audience is assured.

Information about exhibiting at the SHA conference Archaeology Market Place can be found in the Exhibitor Prospectus, here. Manned tables for companies, publishers and for profit organizations (includes one full conference registration and one exhibitor staff registration) cost $500, and only $300 for University presses, sister organizations, museums, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Un-manned browsing tables are also available.

We hope that you will join us in Leicester, England 9th – 12th January 2013, at the University of Leicester.