Meet a Member: William Moss

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

William Moss has been the Chief Archaeologist of the City of Québec since 1985. He served on SHA’s Board of Directors for two terms and was president in 2005. He organized the Society’s annual conference on two occasions, first in 2000 then in 2014.

Who influenced your decision to become an archaeologist?

I was inspired to become an archaeologist by Francis Pryor following three seasons on the Fengate Site in Peterborough, England. Francis had a vibrant love for life and an insatiable curiosity about the past. And he wasn’t averse to getting his hands dirty. I liked that!

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)?

The first site I worked on was a volunteer dig on the ruins of a medieval château in Merpin-Vieux-Bourg, near Cognac, France, in 1973. The last —which I have been working on since 1980— is the city-as-site of Québec City, another great project!

If you could go back in time for only 10 seconds – where, when, and why?

It would be during 1543, but I would have to get there to specify the exact moment. I would like to see the first sparks of the burning of the Cartier-Roberval establishment, Charlesbourg Royal, in what is now Québec City. How did the conflagration start? Was it accidental or intentional? If the latter, was it Jacques Cartier or the Sieur de Roberval who gave the order and, if so, why? Or were the native Stadaconians behind the blaze? Seeing this precise incident would resolve issues about relations between the French and Native Americans in the early modern world.

What are you currently reading?

I can’t read one book at a time, I always have a couple on the go! Presently, they are “The Making of British Landscape” (Francis Pryor, 2010, Penguin) and “Archéologie de l’Amérique coloniale française” (Marcel Moussette and Gregory Waselkov, 2014, Lévesque éditeur). Both are extensive voyages through time and space, the synthesis of vast quantities of information by people who have thought long and hard about what they have learned during their exemplary careers.

Why are you a member of SHA?

I am a member of several professional associations, but I have always considered SHA as the most important for me. The Society has kept me in touch with a dynamic international community. I have also come to have many friends in the community. SHA is very convivial both intellectually and socially. I have greatly enjoyed serving the Society and I have always felt my contribution has been appreciated.

At what point in your career did you first join SHA?

I joined the Society when I obtained my first regular employment as an historical archaeologist with Parks Canada. I was a grad student at Université Laval at the time.

How many years have you been a member (approximately)?

Since 1980, so for almost 35 years.

Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you?

The proceedings of the 1987 plenary session published in 1988 were extremely interesting for me (Nicholas Honerkamp, “Questions that Count in Archaeology; Plenary Session, 1987 Meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference on Historical and Underwater Savannah, Georgia” 22(1)). I particularly appreciated Mark Leone’s “The Relationship Between Archaeological Data and the Documentary Record: 18th Century Gardens in Annapolis, Maryland” (22(1):29-35)). It closely tied in to a site I was analyzing, the Dufferin Terrace. It allowed me to understand minute phenomena observed in Québec City that, when compared to sites in Maryland, presented a coherent picture of élite behavior in the British colonial world. It also highlighted shifts of behavior as Québec moved from the French to the English Régime. It thus helped me to seat my understanding of the city in a wider international and cultural context.

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

Having organized two annual meetings for SHA (2000 and 2014), I have to say the conferences! Conferences are the embodiment of the people and the ideas that make SHA so appealing.

SHA’s New Professional Membership Category

by Kimberly Pyszka

Graduating and beginning your career as a professional historical archaeologist can be stressful – writing and defending your thesis or dissertation, applying for jobs, looking into student loan repayment options, and likely moving once you do find a job. Financially, this time of transition can be unstable and honestly, a bit scary. On top of everything else you realize that you no longer qualify for SHA’s discounted student membership rate. For many recent grads, including myself, the costs of renewing as a “Regular” member may seem daunting. You may even make you think twice about renewing your SHA membership at a time when membership benefits are the most valuable to you.

But don’t fear or throw out your membership renewal notice! Beginning in 2014 SHA began providing an alternative for recent grads, as well as others who are entering the profession for the first time, to help them bridge the financial gap between the Student member rate ($80 annually) and the Regular member rate ($135 annually).To quality for the “New Professional” member rate ($105 annually) you must have graduated and/or gained employment in historical archaeology within the past five years. New professionals can take advantage of this special rate for up to two years.

So if you’re a recent grad and/or joining the ranks of professional historical archaeologists, we encourage you to take advantage of this new membership category!

Meet a Member: Allison Bain

Here’s the latest in our series of entertaining interviews with a diverse array of your fellow SHA members. Meet a member for the first time or learn something about a colleague that you never knew before. This blog series also offers current members an opportunity to share their thoughts on why SHA membership is important (Camaraderie? Professional service? Exchange of ideas in conference rooms and beyond? You tell us!). If you would like to be an interviewee, please email the Membership Committee Social Media Liaisons Eleanor Breen (ebreen@mountvernon.org) or Kim Pyszka (kpyszka@aum.edu).

Allison Bain is a professor of archaeology at Université Laval in Quebec City, Québec, Canada. She specializes in environmental archaeology and is currently working on projects in Québec, Labrador, Iceland and Barbuda. She also co-directs Université Laval’s field school in historical archaeology.

What’s the most interesting artifact you’ve ever found?

In the summer of 1993 I worked on Martin Frobisher’s late 16th century ore mining site on tiny Kodlunarn Island in the Canadian Arctic. With my team, we found a complete wicker basket buried in the permafrost which had been left by the English as they hoped to return and start a colony. The basket was in a part of the site we called the Ship’s Trench and it was found with other provisions including a barrel of peas and ship’s biscuit. Working on traces of 16th century English mineral exploration in a region populated by only few Inuit families every summer was a great experience and this project really changed my vision of historical archaeology. Today the restored wicker basket is in the Canadian Museum of History.  http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/frobisher/frpro01e.shtml

Who influenced your decision to become an archaeologist?

Great question, it was my high school Latin teacher. I went to a pretty average public high school but it still offered Latin which I took for 4 years. I found it far more interesting than history as we studied the past via language, poetry, art and archaeology. She encouraged me to take a summer course in archaeology (see next answer) and I was hooked.

What is the first site you worked on? What is the last one (or current one)?

The first site was the Seed site, a Huron village just north of Toronto in 1983. It was part of the Boyd Archaeological field school which trained 100s of students in high school. My current project is the Intendant’s Palace site in Quebec City. This is the Université Laval field school in historical archaeology and it has wonderfully complex stratigraphy and continues to both surprise and challenge us every year.

Fieldwork or labwork?

Both! A great part of my job is teaching our field school in historical archaeology and I am also in the field occasionally with other projects. As soon as the snow starts to melt after a long Québec winter, I look forward to getting outside with our students. I also have a research lab devoted to environmental archaeology and time at the microscope is also wonderful.

Why are you a member of SHA?

I am a member of the SHA to stay connected with historical archaeology, it is a great venue. I look forward to every bulletin and journal as well as the conferences, though I cannot make it every year. The members of the SHA are a very diverse group…geographically, politically and methodologically, but membership gives us a community.

At what point in your career did you first join SHA?

Graduate school, specifically during my doctoral studies.

How many years have you been a member (approximately)?

Joined in 1998 and still going strong!

Which article from Historical Archaeology has been the most influential to you?

During my doctoral studies I undertook archaeoentomological and archaeoparasitological analyses on a huge 19th century latrine in Quebec City (currently the Auberge St. Antoine). Joan Geismar’s 1993 article « Where is nightsoil? Thoughts on an urban privy » (volume 27(2) – download it for free here!), was immensely helpful in helping me think about about my site. At the time I had never excavated a 19th century urban site, had just learned French and had just moved to Quebec City. Coming across this article was like a little light going on!  I had the pleasure of telling Joan this story at a conference a few years ago.

Which benefit of belonging to SHA do you find the most beneficial?

I would say that the journal is the most beneficial aspect of membership for me, but the conferences are also important.