Historical Archaeology at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Greetings from Virginia! Though the #SHA2016 Annual Meeting is some months away, we are assisting the social media committee in presenting the archaeological outlets that the Washington, DC metro area has to offer. Archaeology plays a major role towards interpreting George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and we are pleased to take this opportunity to briefly introduce our program and some of our recent projects.

George Washington called Mount Vernon home for 45 years, and though two wars and a Presidency often called him away from his estate, Mount Vernon was his life’s work. Washington transformed a modest farm house into the mansion we see today, significantly altered the grounds around his homelot to create a formalized ornamental landscape, and successfully farmed an 8,000 acre plantation. A period of estate decline following Washington’s death in 1799 sparked a nation-wide effort to preserve Mount Vernon, spearheaded by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA) who bought the mansion house and the surrounding 200 acres in 1858.

View form the Central Passage towards the Potomac. Photo Cred: Karen Price

While archaeological investigations at Mount Vernon have occurred since the 1930s, the majority of collections are from the professional archaeology program established in 1987 and a survey of the property conducted in 1984 and 1985. Excavations have yielded over a million artifacts providing a rich assemblage to study the intertwined lives of the plantation community: enslaved individuals, hired white workers, and Washington family members. Since the department’s inception we have excavated significant sites within Mount Vernon’s historic core including the south grove midden, a large concentration of trash associated with the Washington family from c. 1735–1765, and the House for Families cellar, the main slave dwelling used from c.1760—1793 located at Washington’s Mansion House Farm. Archaeological excavation and research has contributed to the re-discovery and reconstruction of George Washington’s whiskey distillery, a major operation which may have been the largest one of its kind in the United States by the close of the 18th century.

A visitor to the Estate. Photo Cred: Karen Price

Our archeology team is part of the Preservation Division of the larger Mount Vernon Department of Historic Preservation and Collections. Esther White directs our division, with archaeological fieldwork under the supervision of Deputy Director for Archaeology Eleanor Breen and Assistant Director for Archaeological Research Luke Pecoraro. Karen Price is our lab manager and photographer, and Leah Stricker serves as the field crew chief. Within the division is Deputy Director for Architectural History Thomas Reinhart, assisted by his staff of architectural conservator Steve Stuckey, and preservation technicians Elizabeth Rival and Caroline Spurry. Our staff also includes Eric Benson, who manages our GIS and viewshed preservation efforts. With our small staff we work together to fulfill the goals of our department to maintain, research, and manage the valuable historic resources at Mount Vernon.

The Mansion and Bowling Green after snowfall. Photo Cred: Karen Price

Current fieldwork will return us to the south grove this summer to fully investigate the transformation of the space form a work yard to a formal landscaped area, and we will continue an ongoing program of public archaeology in the estate’s slave cemetery. Our survey of the slave cemetery is an attempt to better understand the layout and number of individuals interred in a plot located just 200 feet south of the Washington family tomb. Our field and labwork keeps us busy year-round, and we regularly post updates via our FaceBook page—Historic Preservation at Mount Vernon—and invite you to follow us. An intensive evaluation of the finds from the south grove midden including high-quality artifact photographs was launched in web form recently and can be viewed here: http://www.mountvernonmidden.org/. Our website provides a great resource for these sites and programs in addition to the other activities going on at Mount Vernon: http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/archaeology/.For those of you who want to join us in the field this summer, check out our field school in historic preservation – http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/archaeology/volunteer-or-intern-with-the-archaeology-team/.

 

Famed 19th-century orator Edward Everett once remarked “A visit to the National Capital is but half made unless it includes the home and tomb of Washington.” When you make the trip to attend next year’s annual meeting, we hope that you will take some extra time for a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#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!

 

Have You Ever Googled Yourself?: Online Personal Branding for Archaeologists

This is a guest post by William A. White, SHA Member, author, and PhD student at the University of Arizona.

I held down the button on my iPhone until I heard a quiet tone. I clearly enunciated a question: “Siri. Who is Bill White the archaeologist?” A robotic female voice replied: “Checking my sources.” A short pause. “Here’s what I found on the web for who is Bill White the archaeologist,” Siri replied.

With one hand, I scrolled down the list of information in Siri’s response on my phone while I was holding my son, Cyrus, with my other arm. “Daddy, that’s you,” my son said when he saw my picture in the query result. Looks like Siri found the correct Bill White, archaeologist.

It may seem like the height of vanity to query yourself using Siri—Apple, Inc.’s knowledge navigator that comes with every iPhone since the 4s. I mean, asking a robotic smartphone program to search the internet for information about yourself seems really similar to when the evil queen in Snow White asks a mirror on the wall, “Who is the fairest one of all?”

In reality, it is very important to know what kind of things the internet is saying about you. Online search engine queries are a good way to discover what information exists about you on the internet. When you ask about yourself on Siri or Google, what do you see? Your contributions to a local community archaeology project, your profile on the Department of Anthropology’s webpage, or your latest political rant on Facebook? Or something worse?

This summer, I attended a webinar attended titled “How to Build Your Personal Brand Online”. The webinar was sponsored by the University of Arizona’s Human Resources Division and was led by two amazingly experienced social media advisers: Christine Hoekenga and Jaynelle Ramon. Hoekenga is a freelance writer and the Social Media Coordinator for the University of Arizona’s Office of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences. She’s been published in High Country News and Technology Review and is an online content strategist (Learn more on her personal website http://christinehoekenga.blogspot.com/). Ramon is the Web Content and Social Media manager for the UA Alumni Association. She is also the writer and copy editor for Arizona Alumni Magazine. This webinar was a great introduction to online persona management for folks that may not realize how important this is for career development and promotion.

Controlling your online persona is an increasingly important element to job searching and employment in all industries. Recent polls cited by Hoekenga and Ramon revealed:

  • At least 39% of companies use social network sites to research job candidates,
  • 43% of hiring managers who researched candidates via social media saw something that caused them not to hire a candidate (Facebook posts, anyone?),
  • Surprisingly, only 19% saw something that caused them to hire a candidate; however,
  • 56% of hiring managers are more impressed by candidates that have personal websites, while only 7% of job seekers have their own site.

These are the statistics for a number of industries. I do not believe these numbers accurately reflect the situation in archaeology because our field is still very tight knit and many archaeology jobs are still filled based on personal recommendations from friends and colleagues. However, I will admit the archaeology job market is competitive and will only get more competitive in the future. In a jobs workshop I attended at the 2014 Society for American Archaeology Conference in Austin, I learned that universities in the United States grant about 8,300 anthropology B.A.s, 1,000 M.A.s, and 440 PhDs. Not all of these folks will go into archaeology, but it gives you an idea of the sheer quantity of degrees granted every year. At SAA2014, I also learned that top-tier universities get between 40 and 50 applications for every anthropology professor position. Other universities get well over 100 applicants for each position.

These numbers tell me anyone that wants to work in archaeology had better use everything in their power to become well-known and well-connected long before they think about starting their job search. Conducting some extensive personal branding is one way to make yourself known and network extensively with other archaeologists.

Personal Branding for Archaeologists

This webinar inspired me to create a blog post series called Personal Branding for Archaeologists on the Succinct Research Blog. In a series of seven blog posts, I covered a number of personal branding techniques archaeologists can use to increase their visibility on the internet, connect with other archaeologists and potential employers, and demonstrate their personal experience and expertise. I also created an eBook called “Social Media Strategy for Archaeology Job Seekers” that outlines three strategies archaeologists can use to brand themselves as professional archaeologists.

I have complied the text from the blog posts and the social media guide into one document that is available for download by clicking Personal Branding For Archaeologists.

The body of this eBook has seven main parts:

Part I: Why Should Archaeologists Care About Branding— You need to care about what Google tells potential employers because they are going to look you up on the internet before they even think about hiring you. You need to make sure they only see good things. Personal branding allows you to highlight your skills, knowledge, and abilities in a positive site and differentiates you from the other 10,000 recent anthropology graduates.

Part II: Low-Hanging Fruit: LinkedIn— Harnessing the search engine optimization (SEO) power of LinkedIn is the easiest way to brand yourself as a professional archaeologist. LinkedIn is also a great place to connect with other archaeologists.

Part III: Listen to the Twitter of Little Birds— Contribute to conversations about archaeology with archaeologists around the world via Twitter. Use this platform to let the world know your perspectives and connect with archaeology communities of practice.

Part IV: Control the Message: Build your Own Website— Building your own website allows you to create an online portfolio. Projects and accomplishments are the new resume. Use a website to demonstrate your skills to the rest of the world.

Part V: Blogging your Way to Infamy— A blog allows you to address relevant questions in our field using your own voice. Blogging has the potential to replace the working papers of old and allows others to comment on your ideas and theories. It is also a great way to get published.

Part VI: If a Picture Says 1,000 Words, What Does a Video Do?— Archaeology is a very visual field. Use photo- and video-based social media to spread the word about your work and life. This is also another way to connect with other archaeologists.

Part VII: Crafting a Social Media Campaign— Online personal branding can be a daunting, time-intensive project but it doesn’t have to be. With the right planning and strategy, you can craft your image as a professional archaeologist in a few hours each week.

I have been working on my online personal brand for a couple years now and still have not gotten my name in the top 10 Google search results. There are simply too many politicians, former athletes, and neo-Nazis with that same name for me to compete with. However, a lot of good things about me come up if you Google “Bill White archaeologist”. That’s exactly how I want it to be.

Online personal branding is important for all archaeologists, but it is especially important for early careerists and archaeology students. Nobody in archaeology knows who you are in the beginning— before you’ve published a laundry list of articles, book chapters, and reports. You can paint a positive picture of yourself as an archaeology professional if you take advantage of the interconnectivity of the internet. You can also use the internet to connect with a vast network of archaeology professors, cultural resource management specialists, and government archaeologists around the world. Most importantly, you need to act as soon as possible to make sure the search engines are showing the world what you want them to see: your finest accomplishments and best achievements.

About the Author

Bill White, III is an archaeologist, author, PhD student at the University of Arizona, and the creator of the River Street Digital History Project. He is also the Research Publications Director at Succinct Research— a company dedicated to helping cultural resource management professionals learn what they need to forge fruitful careers.