Meet a Member: Todd Ahlman

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).

An Interview with Dr. Todd Ahlman, the Director of the Center for Archaeological Studies at Texas State University where he manages archaeological research for the university and other public and private clients.

Fieldwork or labwork?

Both. Besides the fact that I get to work outside, the instantaneous discovery that occurs in the field is exciting and refreshing. In the lab, I enjoy getting an in-depth look at the material culture and putting all the pieces together to better understand past human behavior.

 What would be your dream site to work at?

Every site is a dream site because I get to do archaeology. I mean really, I have a dream job.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading the Encyclopedia of Caribbean Archaeology edited by Basil A. Reid and R. Grant Gilmore III and published by the University Press of Florida. It is a great summary of the diversity in the Caribbean.

 What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a football player for the Minnesota Vikings, a doctor, or president. I actually figured out at age 15 that I wanted to be an archaeologist. Indiana Jones had no input into my decision; it was just a love of the past and things. My old brother has told me he knew it was fate because I was always intrigued by the ceramic and glass sherds we found while playing as kids. There have been a lot of people along the way who have influenced my path of becoming an historical archaeologist, but being an archaeologist is what I’ve always wanted.

 Why are you a member of SHA?

This is a good question and one I ask myself every year before I join. I am mainly a member for the journal, but I’ve found our journal has become less cutting-edge theoretically and topically in the past 5-7 years. That being said, the content in the journal is still the best for those interested in historical archaeology and that’s why I am still a member.

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

I joined SHA sometime in the early or mid-1990s, not long after I started graduate school.

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

18-19 years

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

The one article that has been most influential to me isn’t one that I’ve read, but one I published in the journal in 2009. It was a four year odyssey to get it published and if it wasn’t for some prodding by Joe Joseph, it may not have been published. What it taught me was to never give up when it comes to getting something published. As long and frustrating as the process may be, you must stay positive and push forward.

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

The journal is the biggest benefit on a long-term basis, but I think the conference is the most beneficial to the society because we get to meet our colleagues face to face.

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!