About Terry Brock

Terry is a PhD Candidate at MIchigan State University, and is currently conducting his dissertation research at Historic St. Mary's City in Southern Maryland. He is currently the Chair of SHA's Technology Social Media Subcommittee. You can visit his personal blog at Dirt or read his posts at the Inside Higher Ed Blog Gradhacker.

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.

House Armed Services Committee Passes NHPA Amendment

On Wednesday evening, Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) proposed amendment to the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House Armed Services Committee. The amendment – based on language proposed by Rep. Issa (R-CA) (H.R. 135) – would allow heads of federal agencies to block or revoke National Register listings for reasons of “national security,” a term not defined in the proposal.

The amendment passed 35-27, largely along party lines, with two exceptions: Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) voted against and Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) voted in favor. Rep. Turner (R-OH), Co-Chair of the Historic Preservation Caucus, initially expressed concerns about the amendment, but ultimately did not cast a vote. Reps Davis (D-CA), Tsongas (D-MA), and Bordallo (D-Guam) all spoke against.

SHA’s Government Affairs counsel Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC worked closely this week with partners at NCSHPO, the Trust and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in an effort to defeat the amendment. Despite the cooperation with these partners – as well as great support from SHA members, many of whom reached out to their Reps’ offices to voice their opposition – the amendment is now part of the House NDAA and will head to the House floor. We anticipate this could happen by the third week in May.

SHA is continuing to work with our partners to identify a House member willing to offer an amendment to strip this language from the bill. We will also focus on the Senate, as we did last year; last year’s Senate (when it was majority Dems) did not include a similar amendment in its version of the FY15 NDAA. We will work to make this happen again.

Please keep an eye on SHA emails and social media next month, as we expect to ask members once again to reach out to their Representatives. While we do not have a confirmed date for the floor vote, we expect the House to take up the NDAA sometime during its next session, from May 12 to 21. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact Eden Burgess (eden@culturalheritagepartners.com) or Terry Klein (tklein@srifoundation.org).

Help Celebrate Our Past: Work with the SHA History Committee

Did you know the SHA turns 50 in January 2017?

Members of the SHA’s History Committee are very excited about this landmark anniversary, as it is our responsibility to document and share the history of the SHA. In the past, we have done this primarily by recording and publishing oral histories of past SHA presidents, Harrington Award recipients, and other significant contributors to the society and discipline. We continue to fulfill this important responsibility. But we are also buzzing with ideas of how to share more of the SHA’s history in celebration of the society’s upcoming 50th anniversary. The possibilities and opportunities are virtually endless, but we need interested and enthusiastic individuals to help us envision and implement them.

For example, we recognize the great potential of social media to share the fascinating history of the SHA and promote the upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations. But we need an able and willing individual to serve as our liaison with the Social Media Committee – someone who can represent the History Committee’s interests and coordinate our social media efforts.

Other ideas for how the SHA’s history can be shared and celebrated include:
• Working with the society’s publications team to create a special publication on the history of the SHA for the society’s 50th anniversary. This volume would include previously published oral histories, as well as papers and articles that specifically discuss the history of the SHA and the discipline. Ideally, this special anniversary publication would be paired with, and promoted by, a celebratory session at the 2017 conference in Dallas, Texas (see below).
• Hosting and organizing a special session at the 2017 conference. Speakers for this session would highlight the history and future of the society and the discipline.
• Working with the National Anthropological Archives, where the SHA archives are stored, to curate a small exhibit of significant SHA documents and artifacts for display at the 2017 conference.
Collecting “mini” oral histories from those attending the 2015 and 2016 conferences and sharing these as part of celebratory events at the 2017 conference.

If you want to be involved in these and other exciting endeavors to celebrate the SHA’s history for the upcoming 50th anniversary, we invite you to attend this year’s History Committee meeting. The meeting will be held at 12:00 noon on Saturday, January 10 in the Kirkland Room (3rd floor of the Sheraton Seattle Hotel).

Please come and participate in the exciting work of the History Committee. Together we can experience “history-in-the-making” as we document and share the significant history of the SHA and celebrate the society’s 50th anniversary.

If you have additional ideas, suggestions, or questions, please contact Ben Pykles, chair of the History Committee, at pykles@gmail.com.