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.

#SHA2015: Using Social Media at the SHA Conference

Over the past few years, SHA has built an online presence through the use of social media, and it began within the conference committee. With the addition of the blog, and the society’s developing use of Twitter and Facebook, we want to encourage you all to incorporate social media into your conference experience in Seattle. Since 2012, we’ve been using social media at our conferences, to great success particularly in the past few years. They are a great way to improve your conference experience, while also demonstrating the value of the SHA to archaeology and scholars of the past.

Before the Conference

Using social media before the conference provides a number of opportunities to make your experience in Seattle more enjoyable. Here’s some suggestions:

  1. Catch Up with What’s Happening: We have a Facebook PageConference Event Page, a Twitter Account, and official Twitter Hashtag.  Follow and Like Us, and read up on what to expect at the conference!
  2. Start Communicating: Twitter is a great way to meet other archaeologists. See who is tweeting with the #SHA2015 tag, and start conversations with them!
  3. Advertise your session by blogging and posting: Do you have a blog? Use it to share your session, the reasons why it is important, where and what time it’s being held. Post it on our Facebook wall and send a tweet with #SHA2015 and @SHA_org mentioned, and we’ll share it with our members!
  4. Share Your Trip: Let us know what’s happening on your trip to Seattle. Did you find a good travel deal? Need someone to share a ride with from the airport? Delayed? Lost? Send a tweet with the #SHA2015 tag and see if someone can lend a hand.

At the Conference

Once you arrive in Seattle, use @SHA_org and our Facebook page to communicate with the conference committee; we’ll be using it to communicate with you. Here are some things we’ll be using social media for:

What we’ll be doing

  1. Announcing special events: We’ll send out reminders about events including the awards banquet, student reception and so on, so you don’t miss anything! We’ll also live-tweet and post from the Business Meeting, so those of you leaving early on Saturday can follow along from the train.
  2. Special Announcements: If something is relocated, delayed, or cancelled, we will announce this via social media.
  3. Answering Questions: Send your questions to @SHA_org or the Facebook page
  4. RTing and RePosting: We’ll repost on Facebook and ReTweet on Twitter the things you share on the #SHA2015 hashtag. If you’ve taken a great picture, made an interesting comment in a session, or provided some good information, we want to make sure our followers see it!

What you can do

  1. Wear a Twitter Sticker: When you collect your conference bag, ask a volunteer for a Twitter Sticker. Then write your Twitter name on it, and stick it to your name badge or wear it separately. This way, other Twitter users will know you Tweet.
  2. Post YOUR Special Announcements: Has something happened in your session that is delaying things? Have you found a great restaurant or coffee shop you want to share? Spotted your book in the book room? Post these items and we’ll repost them so others can see them.
  3. Ask Questions: Use Twitter and Facebook to ask questions about the conference. Can’t find a room? Can’t remember what time the Awards Banquet is? Send a tweet to @SHA_org or post on the Facebook wall and we’ll get back to you.
  4. Take Pictures: we’d love to see and share your pictures from the conference, particularly from the special event.

In A Session

Twitter can be particularly useful when you’re in a session. It provides a backchannel of commentary and discussion, so people who couldn’t attend the session or conference can still follow along. It also gives presenters and chairs a chance to get some feedback on their presentation, and to communicate with the audience – leading to interactions and relationships that might not have occurred otherwise. Here are some tips to maximize the effectiveness, and civility, of Twitter. You can find more hints and tips here.

For Session organizers

  1. Use a Hashtag: It’s OK with us if you give your session its own hashtag; this way, it is clear what tweets belong to what section. We STRONGLY advise that you also use the #SHA2015 hashtag, so that people following it will see your session as well. Otherwise, it may not be noticed. So, pick something short to save characters!
  2. Make it Known: Make sure all your presenters know about the hashtag, and that you’d like to use social media during the session. Make sure that the audience knows as well; tell them as you introduce the session. Also, encourage your presenters to include their own Twitter name and the session hashtag on their introduction slide, so that people can use it during their presentation.

For Presenters

  1. Be Loud: include your Twitter name on your presentation slides, and say something in your introduction about how you’d like to hear feedback on Twitter. If you DON’T want anyone to broadcast your session, make the request at the beginning of your presentation.
  2. Respond: Be sure to respond to the comments that you get, and build relationships!
  3. Pay it Forward: Be an active tweeter during the session for your fellow presenters.

For the audience

  1. Be Respectful: Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t say to a presenter’s face; Twitter is, in general, a friendly place. Constructive criticism is certainly welcome, but remember you only have 140 characters. It’s probably best to send the presenter a private message saying you’d love to chat about their presentation rather than publicly dig into them. If a presenter requests silence on social media for their presentation, respect it and give your thumbs a rest.
  2. Introduce your Speaker: It’s courteous to send a tweet out introducing the presenter and their paper topic before starting to tweet their presentation: this gives those following some context.
  3. Cite: Use the presenter’s Twitter name, surname, or initials in all the following tweets so that their ideas are connected to them. Use quotes if you’re directly quoting someone from their presentation, and be sure to include their name. Remember: these presentations are still the presenter’s intellectual property, so treat it respectfully!

After the Conference

Just because a conference is over, it doesn’t mean the work is done! The same goes for social media; here’s how you can round out your conference experience:

  1. Write a Summary: Use a blog or Storify to give other archaeologists a glimpse into your experience, session or paper, and see what they missed. This also allows us to gather feedback about the conference so we can make it better next year! Be sure to post it on Twitter, use the #SHA2015 tag, and post on our Facebook page so others can see it!
  2. Post your Paper: Using a blog or academia.edu to post your paper is a great way to make it available to everyone. Or you could make a video; simply record yourself talking over your slides and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo (read more about this here). Then, share it with us!
  3. Build your Networks: Build longer lasting relationships by looking up the people you’ve met at the conference on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (oh, we have a LinkedIn Group, too, just for SHA members). If you find them, send them a message saying how nice it was to see them!

 

Plastic for the People: Printing the Past and Engaging the Public

By Bernard K. Means, Director, Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University

In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, we are continuing our work to create digital models of artifacts and ecofacts from historic and prehistoric sites for research, teaching, and, increasingly, outreach efforts by myself and the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) undergraduate students who work, intern, and volunteer in my lab.  Many of the items that we scan either are on loan to us from established museums or heritage locations, such as George Washington’s Ferry Farm or the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and avocationals with a passion for archaeology, notably the Westmoreland (Pennsylvania) Archaeological Society.  We also take our portable setup to culture heritage locations, and have developed particularly close relationships with Historic Jamestowne (Preservation Virginia) and George Washington’s Ferry Farm.

Animation of 3D digital model of a mummified opossum. Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

The digital models we create can capture the attention of scholars and lay people alike, particularly if animated in the full glory of their natural colors (virtualcurationmuseum.wordpress.com).  In my presentation in a co-creation session at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Austin this past April, the strongest reaction I got from the audience was when I showed an animated mummified opossum (Figure 1). How we obtained a mummified opossum demonstrates itself the power of outreach efforts.  Basically, a young boy’s parents followed our main blog and approached us about touring the lab with their son—and asked for help identifying what type of animal the boy’s grandfather had sent him (it was found in its desiccated state in the back of the grandfather’s garage).  We were able to quickly identify this as a juvenile opossum using our reference collection, and offered to scan the mummy for him. Within a week, we were able to return to young Lowell Nugent a printed, plastic replica of his opossum mummy—something he could safely bring in for show-and-share, as opposed to the odiferous (slightly) and fragile actual item.

Butchered horse tibia being scanned in the Jamestown Rediscovery laboratory. Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

Plastic replicas of actual artifacts have allowed us and our partners at culture heritage locations to engage the public in ways that would otherwise not be possible—or at least not prudent.  Particularly over the last few months, we have scanned a number of artifacts in the Jamestown Rediscovery laboratory and collections facility (Figure 2). These artifacts were selected not only for their research and educational value, but also for how the printed replicas could be incorporated into site tours and other public programs.  Among the items selected by Historic Jamestowne’s Merry Outlaw, Curator of Archaeology, and Jeff Aronowitz, Assistant Manager of Public and Educational Programs, were butchered animal bones from the Starving Time and an ivory compass used to tell time and determine direction. One of the animal bones is a butchered dog mandible, and painted replicas are regularly incorporated into site tours for members of the public to illustrate the perils faced by the fledgling colonists who established James Fort, particularly during the Starving Time of 1609-1610—when colonists ate everything on hand, including not only their dogs, but also their horses, and eventually resorted to cannibalism (Figure 3).  The ivory compass, manufactured in Germany, helps illustrate a tale told by Captain John Smith, where he used his own compass to astonish American Indians who had captured him and thus save his own life. The detailed painting of these plastic replicas by undergraduate students, notably Becki Bowman, Vivian Hite, and Mariana Zechini, and the 3d animations really bring these objects to life—as documented in this video produced by Historic Jamestowne’s Danny Schmidt (Figures 4).

Animation of 3D digital model of butchered dog mandible from Jamestown. Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory.


Vivian Hite used printed plastic replicas while talking to a school group at Geroge Washington’s Ferry Farm. Image courtesy of Laura J. Galke.

Painted and unpainted plastic replicas figure regularly into Vivian Hite’s role this summer as the designated Public Archaeology Intern at George Washington’s Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia (Figure 5).  Here, George Washington grew up, from the age of 6 to his early 20s, and archaeologists are laboring to uncover traces of the lives of George and his family, as well as those who came before (including an American Indian occupation dating back thousands of years) and those who came after (notably Union encampments during the Civil War).  The excavations at Ferry Farm attract visitors regularly throughout the day, as well as organized school groups and summer campers.  Vivian and others at Ferry Farm use the plastic replicas to tell the many layered stories infused into this historic landscape. People really enjoy touching an artifact from the past—even if it is twice removed from the actual thing, first as a digital model and then as a printed and (usually) painted replica.

One advantage of digital artifact models is that they allow pieces of the past to be re-contextualized and re-envisioned in forms that might be more familiar to those who are otherwise unfamiliar with archaeology. The simple addition of a digital disk to an artifact model can transform a “Frozen Charlotte” doll or butchered horse tibia into a chess piece, for example.

4th graders play chess with pieces inspired by archaeological items. Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, we have created a number of chess sets with pieces transformed from a wide range of artifacts recovered archaeologically at Jamestown, Poplar Forest, Ferry Farm, and Mount Vernon. A recent visit to a fourth-grade class at the Richmond Waldorf school demonstrated how the classes interest in chess could translate to an understanding of the historic past, as they uncovered the stories for each piece as revealed by archaeologists (Figure 6; Read more: http://ideastations.org/radio/news/vcu-lab-prints-3d-chess-pieces-historic-significance; https://www.richmondmagazine.com/articles/vcu-virtual-curation-lab.html).

The wide range of historic artifacts that we have scanned in the Virtual Curation Laboratory, dating from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to pieces of the Space Shuttle Discovery, have allowed numerous opportunities for co-creation by my students.  They have presented papers or posters at research venues on campus or at regional conferences—and published papers in the Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology, Pennsylvania Archaeologist, and the Quarterly Bulletin of the Archeological Society of Virginia. Printed plastic models have featured prominently in many presentations, particularly as painted replicas adhered in a detachable fashion with Velcro to the most recent posters.  Lauren Volker’s poster on Jamestown 1607-1610, created for an on VCU campus undergraduate student research poster symposium, now hangs proudly in the Jamestown Rediscovery lab (Figure 7).

Vivian Hite returns an artifact to the Virtually Curated Jamestown, 1607-1610, now hanging in the Jamestown Rediscovery laboratory. Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

In the coming months, I will be working with my students on a number of new endeavors designed to encourage more interactive public engagement.  VCU student Lauren Hogg, who has a strong interested in K-12 education, is working with me to create a “Make-Your-Own-Exhibit” activity using our plastic replicas—but more on that in a future post.

#WhyArchMatters: What You’re Saying

Last week, we launched our first-ever online petition to send a message to US Representatives Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith to continue supporting publicly funded archaeology. This has been part of a month-long effort to raise awareness about their threats to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) support of social science research, in particular their opposition to archaeological research.

You can sign the petition here.

As of Sunday morning, we have reached our first goal of 500 signatures. The response from the archaeological community has been overwhelming. But we want more: we’ve set a new goal of 1,000 signatures. To reach this goal, we need more than your signature, we need your help to communicate the importance of publicy funded archaeology to people outside the archaeological community. Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Share the petition on social media with your friends and colleagues. Be sure to tell them why archaeology is important to you and our country.
  2. Share the petition with the other archaeological organizations that you belong to, large and small, and encourage them to share it with their membership.
  3. Include a link to the petition in your newsletters or emails to the members of the general public who support your museums, historical societies, avocational groups, or archaeological organization. Tell them why publicly funded archaeology is important to the work that your organization does, and request their support.
  4. Email this to your family members, asking them for their support. Let them know that publicly funded archaeology supports the museums they visit and provides jobs for archaeologists just like you.
  5. Share the petition with your co-workers. Let them know how publicly supported archaeology helps your business or place of employment. Encourage them to sign and share.

A number of you have left comments with your signatures, letting us know #WhyArchMatters to you, and why it should be publicly supported. We wanted to share a couple of those comments with you:

As an archaeologist, historian, preservationist, and history buff, I feel passionately about studying, stewarding, and educating people about our fragile historic resources. Our heritage is a vital part of who we are, it helps define us as people and as a nation, and it can help guide us into the future. To squander the past is like cutting our legs out from under us. – Thane, Virginia

As a former public outreach coordinator for an archaeological research facility for several years, it was my job to engage a wide range of people from age 7 to age 100 in the fascinating history of our nation. Archaeology provides tangible, physical evidence of how people, from the President to the share cropper, lived their lives, and encompasses all ethnicities and income groups. Please continue to fund this important way to make history relevant to our citizens. Thank you. – Regina, California

As an archaeologist that works closely with descendants, heritage organizations, and the general public and as an educator at a public university, I’ve seen firsthand that archaeology can have a significant impact on diverse communities, including improving “American’s quality of life” through civic engagement and community projects. We MUST continue to support the humanities through public funding!! These projects ENRICH our communities and serve as touchstones of communal memory – They give current generations a sense of historical perspective and rootedness. They remind us all of how our nation came to be and what is unique about our local communities!!! – Jason, Utah

I am an archaeologist and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. I have recently submitted a proposal to NSF to fund my research on the resilience of communities after the collapse of a political institution. This research directly relates to my experience in Afghanistan and can be very relevant to modern situations. – Ronald, Illinois

Thanks to all of your for continued support!