Public Archaeology Happenings in Seattle: What not to miss!

by Sarah E. Miller, PEIC Chair

Do I say this every year?  There seems to be more public archaeology at #SHA2015 than ever before.  Without a strategy in place, there’s a lot that can be missed.  Follow the guide below which will lead you to #PubArch happenings at the conference.  This post is organized by PEIC sponsored sessions (1-5) followed by excellent additional offerings beyond the PEIC (6-10) in order from the conference program.  I provided lots of links in headings and text, so use ‘em!

Print PubArch cheat sheet to keep in badge holder!

Join the #EnvArch discussion now on Facebook or join for panel discussion Thursday afternoon.

1. Panel: Are we missing the boat?  Archaeological Response to Disasters and the Potential for Community Engagement

THUR 1:30-3:30 pm  Redwood A Archaeologists and conservators working with the local community unite in this panel to address environmental impacts to archaeological sites including hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, sea level rise mudslides and more.  To encourage discussion before and after the conference the EnvArch Facebook Group was created with introductions by panelists and case studies linked on the feed.  Come with your own case studies, best practice questions, and queries for future training.  Theater holds 125 so help up fill it up!

2.  Public Education and Interpretation Committee Meeting

FRI 8:00-9:00 AM Diamond A  Join other public education and interpretation minded archaeologists at the PEIC meeting Friday morning.  Full agenda of topics including future conference sessions and reports on National Council of Social Studies, Archaeologists for Autism, International Archaeology Day, and future collaborations with the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse (SHA, SAA, and AIA join venture).  Some sessions start at 8:30 but please come for the minutes you are able.  As always, wake up calls are free! (dm @semiller88)

Look for PEIC fliers at registration.

3.  Hit Them Where They Learn: Educational Policy and Archaeologists as Architects

SAT 10 AM-12 PM  Issaquah Room  Steve Dasovich has assembled a fine panel featuring Larry Zimmerman and PEIC members Bernard Means, SHA Board Memeber Della Scott-Ireton, and PEIC Chair Sarah Miller to tackle not just increasing K-12 archaeology education opportunities, but refining strategy by understanding policy.  This panel builds on a previous post to the blog (Archaeology Education at the Crossroads) featuring both Steve and Sarah’s experiences at the St. Louis National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) conference in 2013 and recent trends in increasing professional development of heritage educators.  What Steve noticed at NCSS was that all teachers are using archaeology in their classroom, they just misunderstand what archaeology is and need assistance labeling what they are often already doing as archaeology.

4.  Three Minute Forum: Can Lightening Strike Twice?  Thrice?  Sharing Tips and Tricks for Engaging the Public

SAT 1:30-3:30 PM Ravenna B  Ideas to take home! In rapid-fire form public archaeologists from all corners of the country will bring in their activity show-and-tell with Q&A discussion to follow the presentations.  Activities can be used in classroom but are especially useful for festival tables and other informal audience veues.

5.  Archaeology Day at the Burke

SAT 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM Burke Museum  Hosted in partnership with SHA, the Center for Wooden Boats, Edmonds Community College, the National Park Service, and the Suquamish Tribe, the Public day is always a great opportunity to learn about local sites and get new activity ideas to take home.  Post your “scuba selfie” to @SHA_org and let them know how important it is to reach out to local communities.

Public Archaeology Day at the Burke.

Click here for more information about Archaeology Day!   

***Beyond the PEIC organized sessions there are some excellent symposiums and panels with emphasis on sharing archaeology with the public.***

6.  Inspirations from Public History: Recommendations for Collaboration and Community Outreach Drawn Across Disciplinary Boundaries

THUR 9 AM-10:45 AM  Metropolitan A  Public archaeologists: don’t reinvent the wheel in terms of theory and practice!  We can look to what are colleagues are up to and borrow from them.  The “them” in this case are Public Historians.  How can we make stronger connections with these specialists (public history educators, park historican, museum managers, oral historians) and what lessons can we learn from their experience.

7. Punk Public Archaeology

THUR 10:30 AM-12 PM  Cedar A  Best. Title. Ever.  Just for the name alone, you gotta go.  Experience the cross sections between DIY aspects of punk and how public archaeology functions.  Beyond the playful title I’m intrigued by the organizers’ association with punk rock to political change and how this plays out for heritage educators.

***Let me preface- I do not envy you the choice you have to make Thursday afternoon.  I’ll be in #EnvArch panel so will miss most of these, but you can be there and tweet for others who can not be present themselves***

8.  Bringing back the Community: Archaeology of an Early 19th Century Community at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County Virginia

SAT 1:30-5:00 PM Grand Ballroom A  It’s fun to follow #DigMontpelier throughout the year on FacebookTwitter, and their blog (Archaeology Department Heads to Seattle).  If you’ve never been to James Madison’s Montpelier, take advantage of this opportunity to learn from these 12 papers about five different Montpelier sites.  Multiple analysis–ceramics, labor, small finds, floral and faunal–will lead to their approach in interpretating these data sets to the public.

The Montpelier Archaeology Director Matt Reeves is also involved in symposium early Friday morning, “Building Consensus: Archaeologists and Metal Detectorists working towards a Common Goal.” This is an important session given the tension archaeologists and metal detectorists experience, particularly due to reality shows of years past.  I’m looking forward to constructive conversations and all the points of view they are bringing to the table with this forum: Doug Scott, Wade Catts, Michelle Sivilich, Linda Stine, SHA President Charlie Ewen, metal detectorist, and Montpelier’s Expedition Member Scott Clark. Look for the National Trust’s Preservation Magazine article next month to feature the Montpelier metal detecting project.  The session will be held at 8:30 am Friday morning in Ravenna A.

9. Engaging the Public: Involving People Underwater, On Land, and Online in Maritime Archaeology

THUR 1:30-4:15 PM Willow A As an archaeologist on land it’s always a good idea to check in with our colleagues from the sea.  Their unique perspective into training and working with avocationals, citizen science approach to survey, and promoting history that is too often loved to death always presents a high level of best practices, often with great humor.

10. Management Challenges, Public Relations, and  Professional Issues

THUR 1:30-4:30 PM Metropolitan B One of the most important things the public learns from #PubArch programs is often overlooked, that there are these people called archaeologists and they have jobs and they are part of a large industry.  In addition to providing stats on our profession by the numbers, this session also includes environmental issues that will be brought up during the #EnvArch panel, such as James Gibb’s paper on environmental archaeology and public policy as well as Morgan MacKenzie’s paper on Hurrican Sandy and the New Jersey Waterway Debris Removal Project. Oh to be in two sessions at once!

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Don’t see the session you are in listed?  Give it a plug below!  Don’t forget to join and contribute to #PubArch discussions on Twitter.  The Heritage Education conference hosted by the Archaeology Institute of America in New Orleans unfortunately coincides with SHA.  Let’s bring these subjects to audiences outside of Seattle and continue to develop the profession of public archaeology.

Text: Sarah E. Miller, PEIC Chair

Images: #EnvArch thumnails emergency collections, Iceland digOcklawaha flooding, Washington mudslide, Historical Ecology for Risk Management, PEIC flier by Sarah Miller, Public Day flier by staff of the Burke Museum.          

Building Massachusetts Archaeology Month

Massachusetts Archaeology Month (MAM) is a popular public program in New England.  Recently I have heard of an alarming trend – the suspension, downsizing, or proposed cancellations of similar Archaeology Month celebrations in other states.  I am interested in what aspects of our program have kept it appealing to Massachusetts residents for more than 20 years, and ways that we can engage other states to participate in their own way.

Massachusetts Archaeology Month began in 1992 as Archaeology Week.  Hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, this initial celebration had 47 public archaeology events across the state. Calendars of events as well as posters were mailed to institutions, educators, and individuals throughout New England.  Initially hosted in June, Archaeology Week was moved to October in 1995.  Due to an overwhelming amount of participation in the first few years, we expanded the program in 2004 to be a full month of events, solidifying the pattern of monthly celebrations that we continue today.   This first extended Massachusetts Archaeology Month saw over 100 events.  Subsequent years have maintained this high-level of participation with an average of 90-100 events in 40-50 cities and towns across Massachusetts.

Despite having hosted over a thousand Archaeology Month events, the quality of programs that are offered continues to remain high.  Events are hosted by local partners, not individually coordinated by the Massachusetts SHPO.  Partners who host events include universities, museums (from small, house museums to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts), local historical societies, government agencies (at local, state, and federal levels), CRM firms, libraries, archaeological groups, and more.  Each of these partners submits their event information to be listed in the state-wide calendar of events.  Events appeal to a wide audience, including those from different age groups, educational backgrounds, previous knowledge of archaeology, learning styles, geographical locations, and interests.  These special, targeted events have included walking tours of archaeological landscapes, site visits, lab tours, museum trips, lectures, hands-on learning for children, archaeological fairs, bike tours, canoe tours, demonstrations, discussions, and so much more!

We solicit for events early — often before the ground has even thawed in the spring.  We have found that keeping an updated mailing list of potential event holders and asking them early in the planning stages helps people dream up, plan, and develop high quality, well thought events in time for October.  That said, we are definitely on the early side, and many people still prefer to be listed in our website only, having missed the deadline for the printed calendar.

So after all of these years, how do we maintain the large number of events scheduled for Massachusetts Archaeology Month?  Why do venues want to list their events with us?  What are we offering in return?  A combination of benefits encourages groups to host events.  The most obvious benefit for an event holder is the advertising that we offer for their event (and subsequently for their organization).  Each year we send out thousands of calendar of event booklets, posters, and postcards.  We produce a press release to media outlets large and small across the region.  The opportunity to list an event as part of the larger MAM celebration often nudges organizations to host events that they might not have otherwise scheduled, so they can participate in this larger program.  Often the association with their event and Massachusetts Archaeology Month allows them to gain support from other local partners.  We receive participation from several local CRM companies because the timing (post-field season) makes it easy to schedule public presentations (sometimes required through mitigation). Finally we offer limited “matching” services to help coordinate venues looking for speakers and vice versa.

Looking ahead, there are always ways to improve.  The world is moving toward a more web-based future and so should we.  It is infinitely easier to update the calendar of events (to be more accurate and more inclusive) if we start to emphasize the website and start to phase-out printed calendars.  A notable exception here is that printed calendars work very well as references for institutional use (libraries, schools, museums).

Social media (such as Facebook or Twitter) is another useful tool for the future.  These forums make it easier for people to coordinate events with friends and colleagues, to share information about their plans, to post up to the minute event information, and to share photos from events.

I hope that the success and enthusiasm for Massachusetts Archaeology Month has sparked interest and hope in states that are losing their Archaeology Month program, or perhaps that have never had one.  Other states might choose the coordinating institution to be something other than the SHPO.  A historical society, state archaeological society, or university might spearhead the effort instead.  Additionally, moving archaeology month to a web-based calendar with social media advertising (still coupled with traditional press releases) is a cost effective option for states or groups hoping to re-invigorate their programs with little to no funding.

The effort to organize such a state-wide celebration will be rewarded.  State Archaeology Month programs can be sustainable through local participation, engaging and educational for the public, cost effective, and a great asset.

Do you have an Archaeology Month program in your state?  Have you recently eliminated it from your arsenal of educational tools?  What does Archaeology Month mean to you?

Public Service Announcements and Archaeology: Protecting WWII-Caves in Saipan

By: Jennifer McKinnon

East Carolina University and Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research

The words public service announcements (PSAs) and archaeology are rarely uttered together. In fact, a quick search finds very few examples of archaeology or cultural heritage PSAs. Yet PSAs can be an effective way of reaching out to a very large audience to promote protection and preservation of heritage. A recent project that explored community consensus building for the protection of WWII-related caves on the island of Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands utilized radio and television PSAs for the purpose of sharing a message of protection and preservation of caves with the local island community.

In recent years, with more visitors, more development and more spelunking and exploration, natural and human-made caves that hold remnants of both ancient Chamorro culture and WWII history are being more heavily impacted. This activity was brought to the attention of the local community and archaeologists when videos and photographs of cave exploration, artifacts and rock art began appearing on blogs, Flicker and YouTube. This concerned local community members and as a result, a project was created to assess community interest in protecting these resources. Funded by an American Battlefield Protection Program grant, the project consisted of community meetings, landowner consultation and interviews, archaeological survey of caves on private and public lands, development of radio and television PSAs and ultimately the creation of a preservation plan with input from the community.

Why PSAs? The idea of a public service announcement came to me while I was on the island for another project and got a catchy little jingle in my head – “Don’t give snakes a break.” I don’t know the first time I heard it on the radio, but it certainly impacted my subconscious because there I was singing it as I was driving down the road. Had I seen a snake, I probably wouldn’t have given it a “brake.” Brown Tree Snakes are an invasive snake that wiped out indigenous bird populations on Guam, and Saipan has worked hard to prevent and eradicate its presence. In fact, a PSA project raising awareness about brown tree snakes had remarkable results in eradicating them from the island. Bumper stickers, radio jingles, TV commercials, and special events were all part of the plan to raise awareness.

Sooo….when thinking of how we could get the message out to local landowners about how important the caves were to their history as well as that of the wider world, PSAs seemed the best option. Print options like brochures or mailings are limited in that they are generally viewed once and when they are distributed or out of print, they no longer exist. PSAs on the other hand can be aired and thus viewed over and over again, reinforcing the content’s message. When aired during peak time slots such as the evening news, they can become even more effective. For a Pacific island that relies on television primarily for its news, PSAs serve to reach the widest possible audience. In addition, radio PSAs can reinforce and even reach a younger generation of stakeholders.

The creation of PSAs were only one part of the larger cave heritage project but their development built upon all aspects. Landowners who came to the meetings to voice their opinions were invited to participate in the PSAs. They also opened their properties to the archaeological team who visited various caves to get a picture of what types of caves exist, what history they may hold and what is impacting them. Finally, many community members participated in interviews during which they related their and their family’s stories about caves use during WWII. Ultimately the message, “Our History, Our Stories” was chosen as the tagline for the PSAs to reflect the multiplicity of connections the community had to caves. Caves on the island of Saipan provided shelter to the ancient culture when they arrived thousands of years ago, they were the canvas on which the ancient peoples communicated  through rock art and served as their burial grounds. During the war, families used the caves for shelter from bombs and bullets and today they still serve special purposes such as places of commemoration and memorialization. As community member Fred Camacho relates, “This has become part of our family album, and we have the obligation to protect it.”

View all of the PSAs at Ships of Discovery’s YouTube Page.