Maryland Historical Trust and the “Archeological Synthesis” Project

As part of our #SHA2016 series on Washington D.C. archaeology, below we repost a wonderful archaeological project undertaken at the Maryland Historical Trust by Research Archaeologist Matthew D. McKnight. The mission of the Maryland Historical Trust is to preserve and interpret the legacy of Maryland’s past through research, conservation, and education of their historical and cultural heritage. The  “Archeological Synthesis” Project is an important online resource for anyone interested in Maryland archaeology, and it shows the great work being done by archaeologists in the D.C. area:

Maryland’s “Archeological Synthesis” Project

by Matthew D. McKnight, Research Archeologist, Maryland Historical Trust

Are you a student, weekend researcher, or preservation professional with an interest in Maryland archeology? Are you a professional archeologist looking to conduct some background research on a specific artifact or site type? Have you been confounded in the past by lack of access to so much of the CRM “gray literature”? If so, the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) has a new online resource that may be of interest to you.

On Maryland Day (Wednesday, March 25th, 2015) the MHT’s Office of Archeology launched a new online tool to provide members of the public with greater access to data obtained through tax-payer funded and publically mandated archeological research. Funded by generous support from the MHT Board of Trustees and the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Program, the Maryland Archeological Synthesis Project has been underway since late 2007, reviewing the nearly 50 years of archeological site reports generated in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and similar state and local legislation. The overall goal of the project has been to characterize this data for as wide an audience as possible and produce a number of online and print products to make the information more accessible. Two volumes on Maryland archeology (one on prehistory and one on Colonial archeology) are still in the works, but the first major public offering of the Synthesis Project is now available on the web at https://webapps.mdp.state.md.us/apps/synthesis/.

This Archeological Synthesis Database is a first-of-its-kind online catalog of archeological sites within the state where Phase II and Phase III test excavations have taken place. Focusing on compliance-driven research, the database is linked to MHT’s Site Survey files, but is also tied to synopsis reports and cover sheets generated by reviewing larger excavation reports. The synopsis reports contain capsule summaries of the overall site reports, organized so researchers can quickly pull out the most relevant information needed for determining if a particular site is of interest. Cover sheets deal with the history of archeological activity at a site, specifically the justifications for fieldwork, research objectives, and potential for future research. Best of all, the entire database is keyword searchable. Simply type in your research topic or an artifact type and get back a list of sites that may be of interest. More robust searches can even be carried out on variables like soil type, archeological research unit, county, etc.

Two versions of the database are available online. One portal is open to the general public; the other is available to professional archeologists who meet the US Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Professional Qualifications. Search functionality and the universe of sites within the database are identical in both versions. However, geographic locations and site setting information within the Public Access version of the database are intentionally vague to protect site locations. The Professional Access version of the database includes detailed site location information and is only available to authorized archeologists who have obtained a Medusa account with archeological data privileges.

After considerable public expense to undertake archeological work, test results should not be buried on a library shelf. The only way to advance archeological research is to build upon past experience, but the data from past work needs to be readily available. This project begins to rectify both long-standing problems while giving back to the public a view of the State’s rich archeological heritage. You can read more about the Maryland Archeological Synthesis Project at http://mht.maryland.gov/archeology_synthesis.shtml.

Check out the Maryland Historical Trust blog post on the “Archeological Synthesis” Project at: https://mdhistoricaltrust.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/archeological-synthesis/

 

 

 

Register for the SHA’s First Student Ethics Bowl

This year the SHA annual meeting has new exciting opportunities for students. For the first time, The SHA and its Student Subcommittee, aided by the Ethics Committee, are sponsoring their own Ethics Bowl. We warmly encourage all undergraduate and graduate students to participate in fun rounds of friendly competition. Students are welcome to form their own teams, composed of three or four students. Individual students are also encouraged to register and we will coordinate them into teams.

Teams will be given this year’s cases in advance so they can prepare their position. The issues posed range from underwater to terrestrial contexts and are based on current challenges students will face if they have not already. We recommend resources for preparing responses to the case and students will have access to “coaches” if they need some input.

The Bowl game mirrors real life – one always has to expect the unexpected. During play, game-changing cards will be introduced. These impact all players. The card contains new information about the case and provides complications all players will need to negotiate. So, quick thinking will be a plus! Regardless, the spontaneous nature of these curve balls will make for some additional fun.

Judges have been selected by the SHA Ethics Committee and represent senior member from terrestrial and underwater backgrounds. Winners will be selected according to the intelligibility, depth, focus and judgment of their analysis of the cases, the game changing cards and answer to the judges’ questions.

Join us for the founding of a new SHA tradition for SHA students. The forum is a fun way to participate in the annual conference, meet new people, prepare for real-world archaeology and participate in a little friendly competition. You may even expand your understanding of issues vital to your future success in the field.

The registration deadline has been extended to December 1st.

For additional information and to receive the registration form for this event, please email shaethicsbowl2014@gmail.com.

We look forward hearing you debate!

Cette année, le colloque annuel de la SHA propose aux étudiants de nouvelles opportunités très intéressantes. En effet, un Ethics Bowl, ou concours éthique, y fait son apparition pour la première fois sous l’égide du « Student Subcommitee » et du « Ethics Commitee » de la SHA. Nous invitons vivement tous les étudiants de premier cycle et des cycles supérieurs à participer à cette compétition amicale. Les étudiants peuvent former leur propre équipe, constituée de trois ou quatre étudiants. Les étudiants peuvent également s’inscrire à titre individuel et ils seront ensuite placés en équipes.

Les équipes recevront les mises en situation préalablement à la tenue de l’événement afin de préparer leur argumentaire. Les cas touchent des situations réalistes relevant autant de l’archéologie subaquatique que de l’archéologie terrestre. L’accès à des ressources et à des mentors sera offert aux équipes si elles en éprouvent le besoin.

Cette activité est qu’elle est à l’image de la réalité puisqu’elle ne permet pas de prévoir l’imprévisible. En effet, durant les échanges, des « game changing cards » seront introduites dans les discussions. Ces cartes contiennent de nouvelles informations à propos de la mise en situation de manière à ce que les participants reconsidèrent leur argumentaire. Conséquemment, les participants devront demeurer vifs d’esprit, ajoutant ainsi plus de défi!

Les juges ont été sélectionnés par le SHA Ethics Committee et sont des archéologues reconnus issus tant des milieux terrestres que subaquatiques. Les équipes seront notées en fonction de la clarté, de la profondeur, de la justesse et du bon jugement exprimé dans leur argumentaire. Par ailleurs, elle seront évaluées sur leur habileté à s’adapter aux nouveaux éléments apportés par les « game changing cards » et à répondre aux questions des juges.

Joignez-vous à nous pour ce qui se veut être une nouvelle tradition étudiante dans les colloques de la SHA! Ce forum est une opportunité amusante de participer au colloque annuel et de rencontrer des collègues issus de différents milieux tout en participant à une compétition amicale. Vous pourriez même améliorer votre compréhension de différents enjeux qui pourraient éventuellement avoir des échos dans votre carrière!

La date limite d’inscription est le 1 décembre.

Pour obtenir plus d’information ou pour demander le formulaire d’inscription, veuillez vous adresser au shaethicsbowl2014@gmail.com.

Au plaisir de vous voir prendre part au débat!

Webinars: A New Frontier in Archaeological Training

The SHA’s Academic and Professional Training Committee (APTC), working with the Conference Committee, offers a range of training and professional development opportunities at the annual conference. We have workshops, roundtables, and fora covering many topics, most developed in response to member interest and needs. To augment these, the APTC plans to try year-round training (not during the conference). You have the opportunity to be part of this on July 17.

This past winter, members of the APTC started kicking around the idea of putting together a set of webinars to offer training and instructional opportunities for the SHA during the year between the conferences. These would supplement the annual conference workshops, which will remain unchanged.

Image courtesy of David Roethler

Webinars (a portmanteau of “web” and “seminars”) are on-line sessions where attendees can interact (audio at least, also video if people have cameras in their computers) and, depending on the software involved, view the moderator’s desktop together. Webinars are increasingly common in business and other fields, and they allow  people scattered across the globe to meet to discuss business, undergo training, or just catch up, all at minimal cost.

The APTC would like to see members of the SHA interested in hosting or attending such web-based training sessions step forward with ideas for webinars. These could range from technical material like database management, curation techniques, or remote sensing applications to theoretical, topical, or regional topics. Professional development topics such as job hunting or transforming your dissertation into a book (thanks, Myriam Arcangeli [@Terrailles]) would also work. The field is very wide open.

Some Things to Consider

One of the benefits of this medium is the low cost. In its initial stages, we would run the webinars through systems such as Google Hangout (with up to 10 seats) or Blackboard Collaborate (for more). With no room to rent, no travel to subsidize, and only the host’s fees (if there are any) to defray, we envision these to be among the most cost-effective development tools available.

There are, of course, a few obstacles. Depending on your preferred method of content delivery (audio only, audio and video, chat), you place different data and computing demands on participants. If an attendee is on a dial-up connection, they may not be able to stream video. Also, some of the webinar delivery systems require downloaded content that, while not usually excessively resource-hungry, may require some lead time for users to get approved and installed (I’m looking at you, Department of Defense archaeologists).

Webinars and the Student Member

As webinars let people log in from wherever they can get internet coverage, they do not require the travel funding that can be a big impediment to attendance. This is particularly true for college students. We are particularly interested to get feedback from students about what kinds of webinars they would be interested in attending.

The scheduling flexibilities of webinars will allow us to focus on applying for graduate schools, preparing for conferences, and other topics that would be more useful earlier in the year than the conference allows. The APTC will be working with the Student Subcommittee of the APTC to develop student-oriented opportunities.

Getting the Ball Rolling

If you have an idea about a topic, you can e-mail me at cdrexler@uark.edu, tweet me (@cgdrexler), or stick an idea in the comments section.

If you’d like to host a webinar at some point in the future, send me a note and I’ll get you an invite to our first webinar on July 17, from 2-3 pm (Eastern). This inaugural webinar will focus on… webinars! We’ll focus on topic ideas, get some background on content development, and discuss the use of the technology. Drop me a line if you want to participate!

Acknowledgements

Amber Graft-Weiss and Terry Brock contributed to a lively Twitter discussion on this topic that helped develop and refine where we would like the webinars to focus. Shelley Keith, of Southern Arkansas University, advised on materials related to webinar content development.