First Conference: Leicester Through New Eyes

On the eve of the Society for Historical Archaeology conference in 2013, having never attended the annual meeting before, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I remember sitting in my advisor’s office at the University of Idaho a few years back, him telling me, “You know, you should really think about going to the SHA conference. It’d be a really good opportunity if you’re thinking about studying historical archaeology.” I must admit, at the time I was a little skeptical.  Sure, I believed my advisor when he said it was a good way to network, see what type of work is being done, and not to mention travel to some interesting places, but was it really necessary to attend an international conference early in my undergraduate degree? I put off going to the conference that year and the next. The topic of the SHA conference kept popping up in conversations, and again at field school this past summer, when a fellow student raved about her experience in Baltimore last January. I finally decided to take their advice and in early January I found myself headed across the pond for Leicester, paper and presentation in hand. My impression after four whirling days of SHA 2013: I should have done this last year as well.

My first SHA conference was an incredible experience, and lived up to the reviews others had given me. It really was beneficial, and probably would have been equally beneficial earlier in my undergraduate as well. First of all, it was a fantastic networking opportunity.  I left the conference with a fist full of business cards for future contacts in possible future job opportunities, internships, and open offers to answer any future questions.  The research presented covered a wide variety of topics within historical archaeology, was a fantastic way to see all the different avenues one can pursue within the field, and, to top it all off, getting the opportunity to explore a new place and meet so many new people is quite a bit of fun.

For those students looking to attend their first SHA conference, I’d like to offer tips that were useful in my experience:

  • First, when considering which sessions to see, make a plan before hand. So much research is presented at the conference, it’s impossible to fit it all in, and choosing beforehand may make it easier to fit in more presentations. Also, I encourage you to attend sessions that lie outside your direct area of interest. As a student whose main interests are in underwater archaeology, I found myself tempted to only attend underwater and maritime sessions, as there were plenty of them to keep me perfectly occupied throughout the conference. Yet, when I did attend sessions on other topics, I found that some of the most interesting presentations were on subjects not related to my closest interests.
  • Mainly though, I encourage you to take advantage of sessions and receptions that are specifically for students. The Past Presidents’ Student Reception and the Student RAP Session, for example, were extremely beneficial. They provide an informal setting to talk to professionals already in the field, making them an excellent place for networking and getting more involved, both in SHA and the field itself.

All in all, I would encourage any undergraduate student considering a career in historical archaeology to attend the conference, even early in your undergraduate degree. Personally, I certainly see advantages in attending the conference regularly, and plan to continue attending in years to come.

I hope to see you all next year!

What strategies and tips do you have for first-time conference goers? Leave a comment below with your advice!

 

Hands-On History

Over the last several years, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM) has enjoyed a productive relationship with Huntingtown High School in Calvert County, Maryland. In previous years, the school’s archaeology classes produced cell phone tours for the park, with the students working on the projects at every level, including conducting oral history interviews, developing tour themes and scripts, recording the tours and writing press releases.

Rockingham hunt pitcher from the privy.

This year, JPPM decided to take on a different type of project, with the newly-formed “Historical Investigations” class. The students are analyzing the contents of a mid-19th century privy from Baltimore’s Federal Reserve site (18BC27). Archaeologists excavated the site in 1980, but since the artifacts were never studied or a final report prepared, the students are working with an assemblage that has never before received any attention.

This particular privy was filled with broken plates, spittoons, chamber pots, medicine bottles, and a torpedo bottle once used to hold carbonated beverages. One spectacular find from the privy was a large Rockingham pitcher depicting a boar and stag hunt, made around 1855 by a Baltimore pottery firm.

Teacher Jeff Cunningham and a student mend a creamware chamberbpot, while another student works on a sponged cup.

The students completed cataloging the artifacts (2,200+), mended the ceramics and glass from the privy and determined minimum ceramic and glass vessel counts. Each student chose a particular artifact to research in depth, creating illustrated essays that were both posted on JPPM’s website and produced as posters for display. In addition to writing a standard archaeological report on the privy, the students also created an exhibit of their findings that are currently on display at a local public library.

Two of the students are justifiably proud of the exhibit on display at the local branch library.

It was exciting to work with students on a project that provides them with real-world experience in a supportive setting, conducting the type of analysis normally done by professional archaeologists. Even better, is watching the students get a thrill from each new artifact and the information it holds.

What types of engaged work are you doing with local high schools? Share your experiences with us in the comment section!

Help the Society for Historical Archaeology make an impact on the Hill

Join us for a Webinar on Thursday, July 25.

Congress’ summer recess is fast approaching. What does that mean to SHA and to you? August is a great time to invite Representatives and Senators to visit local archaeological, historical and architectural sites, and to learn about the importance of cultural heritage education and preservation.  It is also a chance for us to advocate for funding for SHPO offices, curation efforts and Section 106.

Please join SHA’s government affairs counsel Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC on Thursday, July 25, at 1 pm EDT for a 30-minute webinar: “Making Our Voices Heard During August Recess.” Cultural Heritage Partners attorneys Marion Werkheiser and Eden Burgess will teach you how to reach out to local Congressional offices, prepare for visits, deliver SHA’s message, and make an impact that lasts. Join us and get empowered!

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/750123079

Title: Making Our Voices Heard During August Recess
Date: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDT [1 hour scheduled to allow for Q&A]

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.