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?

SHA 2015 Seattle: Food and Drink Blog

Besides plenty of stimulating intellectual discourse, what do archaeologists need to make their conference experience complete? Why good food and drink of course (perhaps not in that order)! Luckily there could hardly be a more convenient location than downtown
Seattle to put some of the best there is from coffee to cocktails and accompanying nosh right within walking distance. There are tens if not hundreds of options in the general vicinity and while there are many a solid chain, we thought we’d let you know about some unique-to-Seattle options for a more authentic experience of the city.

Breakfast/Coffee

The Sheraton is located just blocks from the famed and historic Pike Place Market, so head in that direction at breakfast or lunchtime and you’ll be sure to find something to suit your tastes. That said, it can be quite the busy spot for obvious reasons (like it’s nearly the top tourist attraction in the city) so don’t be surprised by crowds or lines. January being the off-season though, things should be calm enough to enjoy wandering about and you should actually be able to get food in a timely manner.

Ok, so Starbucks is ubiquitous pretty much everywhere, but nowhere more so than here in its hometown. If you want a “unique” Starbucks experience, Pike Place is home to the mega chain’s original location.

For a non-Starbucks coffee experience at Pike Place, try Seattle Coffee Works.

Monorail Espresso, closer to the Sheraton near the corner of Pike and 5th is a walk-up window serving up what’s raved about as some of the best in the city. Cash only.

Café ABoDegas on 6th between Union and University has freshly made breakfast sandwiches and pastries. Lunch too.

Lunch

Back at Pike Place, there is just about every type of cuisine to choose from come lunchtime.

To take advantage of the readily available fruits of the sea, try Pike Place Chowder. The lines is usually among the longest here, but join the other tourists, their offerings live up to the hype.

Beechers Handmade Cheese offers soups sandwiches and their famous mac and cheese along with a huge selection of, surprise, artisnal cheeses. You can even watch it being made right on site.

Back up near the Sheraton, Umma’s Lunchbox is a much raved about Korean buffet inside the Rainier Square shopping mall located below the iconic Rainier Tower.

Drinks/Dinner

For a pint at the end of the day, the Tap House Grill on 6th between Pike and Pine has 160 beers on tap, good place to sample some of the craft brew the Northwest is renowned for.

For really outstanding cocktails, venture to the other side of Pike Place. Tucked away facing onto the Harbor Steps leading down to the waterfront is the Zig Zag Café. Lots of ambiance and excellent food too.

For that special dinner made up of unabated views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains (on a clear day, fingers crossed) and all the kinds of Northwest seafood including more types of oysters than you perhaps knew existed, venture down to the waterfront to Elliott’s Oyster House.

Coming up, we’ll provide you with more info/recommendations if you’re interested in striking out further afield in the city during your stay.

Gender and Minority Affairs Committee Diversity Field School Competition

GMAC Diversity Field School Initiative

This year the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee (GMAC) is hosting its second annual Diversity Field School Competition. In an effort to continue making the field of historical archaeology more inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, and socio-economic background, the competition will recognize those who have shown a commitment to increasing diversity in the field and encourage further discussion of the topic. Applicants are required to submit a short essay on diversity, a summary of their field school, and some form of multimedia (photo, pamphlet, video clip, etc.) that highlights diversity in their field school. All awardees will be acknowledged at the 48th Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology and recognized on the SHA website, while the first place winner will receive special commendation. GMAC encourages submissions from all SHA members and conference attendees. The Application Form is available online and completed applications—as well as additional questions—may be directed to GMACdiversityfieldschool@gmail.com. For more information, please refer to the Submission Guidelines.

Toward A More Diverse SHA

The idea for the Diversity Field School Competition developed out of a series of larger discussions within the SHA about viable ways to increase diversity within the organization. At the 2011 SHA conference, GMAC members determined that increasing diversity was an important step toward social justice and helping the SHA reflect the diverse communities historical archaeologists serve. These calls for greater diversity were reinforced by subsequent GMAC panels and initiatives such as the GMAC Student Travel Award and diversity training for SHA board members. Last year former SHA president, Paul Mullins, announced his commitment to “make diversity an increasingly articulate part of the SHA mission and our collective scholarly practice.” Additionally archaeologists abroad are discussing the issue of diversity, particularly after the recent release of the Archaeology Labour Market Intelligence: Profiling the Profession 2012-2013 report which identified 99% of archaeologists working in the UK as white. As a result we hope this competition helps to not only recognize those who have shown a commitment to diversity, but also open dialogue about ways to increase the presence of archaeologists from the many underrepresented groups.

We encourage you to also visit the SHA Events website for more information about other SHA competitions, events, and workshops. Hope to see you all in Seattle!

Interested in becoming a part of the conversation? Let us know how archaeologists can work together to increase diversity in the field.