Why Archaeology Matters: A Petition

Gov Affairs

Over the past month, the Society for Historical Archaeology and the archaeological community have been actively engaged in voicing our concern for the recent op-ed published by US Representatives Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith in the USA Today. SHA President Paul Mullins drafted a letter to Cantor and Smith, and our push to encourage people to share their thoughts about #WhyArchMatters was a surprising success. We’ve also asked for your stories and experience with NSF funding, a process that has yielded a number of responses that will aid in our efforts to further engage the federal government regarding why archaeology matters, and how public funding supports archaeological research.

We’ve also been working behind the scenes to establish a way for you and the people you serve to be even more engaged in communicating your opinion about the importance of publicly funded archaeological research. Today, we’re announcing the beginning of our first SHA Change.org petition.

By visiting the petition and adding your name, you will join us in telling Representatives Cantor and Smith that we believe archaeological research matters and should be funded by the US Government. But we need you to do more than just sign this petition: in order for this effort to be successful, we need you to take this petition into your own communities. Share it with the people who visit your museums, who you engage with through your research, or who volunteer at your labs. Post it on Facebook and Twitter and send it out through email, and let the communities you work with know how publicly funded research supports the work that you do, and how that work, in turn, benefits them.

We also want to draw your attention to a similar petition drive being led by our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance. The National Endowment for the Humanities is also facing proposed budget cuts of 49 percent, and the National Humanities Alliance has begun a campaign to petition Congressional leaders. We encourage you to support their cause, since NEH funding has been a critical source of funding for historical archaeology projects, as well.

Your support is important to archaeology and to SHA. Thank you!

Sign the SHA Petition to encourage Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith to continue Supporting publicly funded Archaeological research

Historical Archaeology, the NSF, and Why Archaeology Matters

As many of you know, last week the SHA responded to Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith’s USA Today letter advocating NSF funding regulations.  There was a rush of tweets on the issue, many tagged #WhyArchMatters; SHA’s social media sounded our collective anxieties; and a host of bloggers including the SHA Blog, AAA Archaeology Division President Rosemary Joyce, and the Society for American Archaeology echoed many of our collective concerns about the ways archaeology is being characterized in these public discussions.

The issue of NSF funding is certain to re-emerge with the end of the government shutdown, and it raises bigger questions about how we articulate the value of historical archaeology beyond our scholarly circles.  The SHA needs your help on both counts documenting the value of NSF-funded historical archaeology research.  We want to underscore specific social and economic values of historical archaeology that need to be articulated to members of Congress and the general public.

Today a form is posted on the SHA Blog that asks you to provide us some specific examples of the value of NSF-funded historical archaeological research. The form asks for

  1. a description of your project;
  2. a description of the specific thing your project taught us about the past; and
  3. how your project directly benefited your career, your institution, and most importantly, the community or communities associated with your project – socially and economically.

Instead of providing talking points to legislators and people who are interested in archaeology, we would prefer to provide them concrete examples of the benefits of what historical archaeologists do, especially with the taxpayers’ money.  If we do not make stronger cases for all the ways historical archaeology shapes communities financially and socially we risk having others misrepresent the discipline.

We will have a Saturday lunchtime session at the January SHA Conference that will identify an action plan for engaging the US Congress and the public on why archaeology matters and the importance of NSF and other federal funding.  I will report back on that on the SHA Blog in the next couple of weeks, but I certainly hope all of you who can make it to the meeting will join us.

These are simply first steps toward effectively sharing our scholarship beyond historical archaeology circles.  Some of this communication needs to be with legislators and their staffs, many of whom have never met a historical archaeologist and simply need to know what we do.  Some of this discussion also needs to be for our public constituents who support heritage preservation and are interested in sharing the research their taxes made possible.  The SHA has been firmly committed to public archaeology for much of the past half-century, so we have laid a solid foundation.

 

Response to Eric Cantor and Lamar Smith

Many of you know that Representatives Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) last week published a piece in USA Today advocating tighter controls of National Science Foundation funding.  Their piece seized on several archaeological research projects as symptomatic examples of ill-conceived scientific research priorities.  Representatives Cantor and Smith did not single out historical archaeology, but their aim is squarely on social sciences, and many historical archaeologists have been fortunate to receive NSF support.  NSF funding has significantly impacted the discipline, transformed many scholars’ careers, and supported many archaeological projects benefitting communities throughout the country.

Today the SHA has written Cantor and Smith responding to their piece in USA Today.  Cantor and Smith’s piece is perhaps a rhetorical assault on social sciences, but some legislators are intent on radically changing the NSF in particular, if not all federal funding of the sciences.  The potential for such changes at the highest levels of federal funding could have dramatic effects on historical archaeology.

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