Fort McHenry Public Archaeology Day at SHA 2012

 For the last two years, I have been lucky enough to bring my family along on our cross-country trips to the SHAs.  My husband and daughters get to visit with family and do some sight-seeing while Mom is off doing conference-y things, and we all meet up on Saturday to enjoy public archaeology day together. Each year at the SHA Conference, the conference committee organizes a day for the public, to offer local archaeologists an opportunity to interact with the public, and the public a chance to learn about the archaeology that happens in their communities. This year, it was held at the Fort McHenry National Monument.

Ellie: “I think that archaeology makes you learn a lot, and I like it a lot!”

Now, given the fact that I LOVE this kind of thing (education + archaeology = awesome), my husband and children have visited many, many public archaeology events.  They have been to sites, helped wash artifacts, helped screen excavated dirt, and they have just about every “Archaeology for Kids” book in publication.  The girls are, in essence, experts in engaging public archaeology exhibits.

There were several booths set up in a side room in the visitor’s center at Fort McHenry, and several more were located in a heated tent outside (which turned out to be completely unnecessary, as the weather was sunny and warm and absolutely perfect). Among those displays we were able to visit were The Lost Towns Project of Anne Arundel County, NPS American Battlefield Preservation Program, the Prince George’s County and the Montgomery County Departments of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Archaeology in the Community, The District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office, Monocacy National Battlefield, the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (representing both the State Museum of Archaeology and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory), and the George Washington Foundation. Let me apologize in advance if I have missed any presenters, as I was there with my children and did not have much chance to linger and fully appreciate all the displays. Please drop your links below if you’re not represented in this list!

Abbie: “I liked the artifacts you could touch and the puzzles.”

In going back through the many flyers and brochures I picked up from the presenters, I noticed a few different flyers discussing “How to Report an Archaeological Find” with contact information for state archaeologists in Maryland and additional information on teacher training and children’s archaeology programs.  What a great venue in which to communicate such important information! There was also a free archaeology tour for SHA members, but I was unable to attend. If any readers participated in the tour and would like to comment below, I would love to hear more about it.

Almost every exhibit had a professional display describing their site and/or agency, and a few of the exhibitors had hands-on activities.  For the most part, my girls went immediately to the tables with some sort of interactive display.  The Lost Towns Project of Anne Arundel County and the Prince George’s County Department of Parks (part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission) had excellent artifact assemblages for the kids to handle, and the latter had both artifact photos and feature photos that had been turned into puzzles for the kids. 

The girls got so into the spirit of it all that they couldn’t wait to show me a brick they had discovered outside the visitor’s center!

The girls also enjoyed the display by the DC Historic Preservation Office.  The artifacts displayed were off-limits for handling, but the display incorporated questions on large cards that acted as a guessing game for the kids.  Ellie told me later “I like guessing the artifacts!”

When I asked them afterwards what their favorite part of the day was they both gave me the same answer: “I liked being able to dig with a spoon and find artifacts in a can!”  Montgomery County Department of Parks (part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission) had really wonderful interactive activities.  Both girls LOVED their “Archaeology Site in a Can” activities, and their ‘excavations’ revealed fascinating artifacts including projectile points and historic-period ceramic sherds.

The girls get their hands dirty.

I was super-impressed when the girls figured out (on their own, with no help from Mom!) that their sherds from each can would cross-mend.  Like I mentioned, these girls have become real experts at kid-friendly archaeological activities!

The other big hit of the day with my girls was a seed identification activity, also presented by the Montgomery County group.  The girls had to sort through a mix of sand and seeds to find and identify six different types from the ten listed with examples on the display.

Identifying Seeds.

Now, as a mom, I am totally thrilled when I see my girls really excited and interested in such educational activities.   As a member of the Public Education and Interpretation Committee, I would also be interested in hearing from other attendees about what they thought about the day.  Did you attend the Fort McHenry Public Archaeology Day?  What did you best enjoy?  What would you like to see more of as a member of the public? As an archaeologist, what more can we do to make these days as accessible and educational as possible?  Please leave your feedback, insights, and opinions in the comment space below!

Author note: See some more photos of our day at our flickr site.

 

Friday Links: What’s new in Historical Archaeology

It’s time to see what’s happening in Historical Archaeology once again. This week, our photo is from Valerie Hall, a graduate student at Illinois State University, of her children at SHA’s Public Archaeology Day, looking at the display from the Jefferson Patterson Maryland Archaeology Lab. You can read her post about their visit here! 

But now, it’s on to the links. As always, please share your links in the comments below!

Headlines

Conservators are working to preserve Civil War era graffiti in a former war hospital in Virginia.

The Society for Historical Archaeology was pleased to present Award of Merit to Historic St. Mary’s City this year.

Fiona Reynolds discusses the value and importance of cultural heritage to the economy, and government’s responsibilities to it.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation archaeologists have uncovered the Dyotville Glass Works (nice videos of their excavations).

DePaul students excavate at a home that was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Resources

Looting Heritage is a new website that tracks and maps reported looting sites across the globe.

The Blogs

The Plowzone asks some questions about historical archaeology and New Humanism.

The MSU Campus Archaeology Program has released a new online exhibit.

Middle Savagery describes the physical effects of a long season out in the field.

Mount Vernon’s Mystery Midden’s Luke Pecoraro discusses the importance of clothing, and its representation in the historical and archaeological record.

And finally, a video about the Texas A&M Program in Nautical Archaeology, featuring some graduate research:

Photo Copyright All rights reserved by diggrrl on Flickr.

Public Education and Interpretation at 2012 Conference

With the annual conference just a few short weeks away it’s time for me to grab a highlighter and mark up the preliminary program.  Without a strategy in place too many opportunities are lost and I find out later all the papers, posters, and panels I should not have missed.  I put together a Top 10 list for public archaeology recommendations at SHA 2012.

Pre-Conference Workshop 2011 Activity

1.  Pre-Conference Workshop   Can They Dig It? Proexcavation Techniques for Archaeologists Working with Local Communities.  Facilitators Jay Stottman and myself (Sarah Miller) are putting the final details together on exercises and activities to spark deliberation over excavating with the public.  Participants will design their own proexcavation program and report on the before, during and after activities as we highlight tips and tools along the way.  Really looking forward to it! (Wednesday, January 4)

 2.  Historic Londontown and Annapolis Tour: The tours look so great this year, but if I had to chose one as a public archaeologist, I’d pick the Historic Londontown and Archaeology of Annapolis tour.  For years I had a calendar from the Anne Arundel County’s Lost Towns Project…pick one up for me if you go on this tour, such wonderful interpretive tools they used in showing how you can derive house structure from the postholes and features unearthed by archaeologists (and the public!).  The second stop on the same tour brings you to the front door of the Archaeology in Annapolis Program lead by the one and only Dr. Mark Leone.  (Wednesday, January 4)

 3. PUBLIC DAY!!   This year’s theme “Gallantly Streaming” will feature activity tables and exhibits from over 15 local and regional archeology programs.  The event is free and open from 11:00am-2:00pm at Fort McHenry.  Check out posters, interactive activities, and interpreters. Topics will include the struggles and triumphs of Maryland’s African American communities, Native Americans, colonial history, Civil War archaeology, historic shipwrecks, and plantations told through posters, interactive activities, and interpreters. (Saturday, January 7)

4. Solving Problems in the Public Interpretation of Maritime Cultural Heritage Symposium: I had a chance to talk to Della Scott-Ireton this week about this symposium which runs all day Thursday.  The presenters are leaders in the Maritime archaeology field and any of these papers should be well worth the public archaeologists time.  The maritimers in general have done a wonderful job integrating public archaeology into nearly everything they do, and it shows at the conference.  Proof is in this session–don’t miss!  (Thursday, January 5)

Look for PEIC Flier!

5. Public Education and Interpretation Committee Wake up, wake up!  The PEIC  meets early Friday morning from 7:45-8:45 am.  This committee welcomes new members and is eager to discuss K-12 education, displays and interpretation, social and traditional media, or just plain digging in plain sight.  Breakout session planned to brainstorm materials and topics for the Public Archaeology toolbox, blog and newsletter topics, and session ideas for 2013.  Please come, bring a friend!  (Friday, January 6, Room TBA)

6.  Roundtables:

Promo used for teacher conference.

There are two chances to join in public archaeology discussions over lunch on Saturday.  Terry Brock will facilitate discussion at his table focusing on Social Media, disseminating archaeology to diverse audiences through a variety of tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and the blogs.  Across the room pull up a chair at my Public Archaeology table where we can discuss archaeology education, particularly marketing to educators and gaining the audiences you want. (Saturday, January 7)

 

7. Toward an Archaeological Agora Revisited: Using Collaborative Approaches in Facilitating Public Participation and Creation of Archaeological Knowledge and Understanding Symposium:  I’ll admit it, last year I Googled the word agora during the session (it means meeting place, to congregate).  I loved each and every paper, particularly Pam Cressey and Douglas Appler’s paper on the City of Alexandria’s program and ways of making an unmarked African-American burial ground tangible to the public eye by placing luminaries to represent the number of known burials interred.  This year’s version is chaired by John Jameson and Harold Mytum, a definite must see with integrated terrestrial and maritime papers.  (Thursday, January 5)

Derek the Dredger Resources

8. General Outreach-Related Sessions:  Scheduled for Friday are the following two general sessions.  In the morning you’ll find me in the Maritime Heritage Management and Outreach session.  Since I learned about Derek the Dredger from Ian Oxley I make a point to see anything in which he’s taking part. In the afternoon Lessons from the Field: Public Outreach and Education session features PEIC member Laura Segna and other interesting PubArch papers.  Fresh from the PEIC meeting at 7:45 that morning there should be a good turnout.

Archaeology in Alexandria Presentation

 

9. Fifty Years of Community Archaeology on the Potomac: Lessons from Alexandria:  Alexandria is arguably the ultimate example of a community-supported city archaeology program.  I first met co-chair Doug Appler when he came to St. Augustine to do research on city permits, and of course I am in awe of the work by Pam Cressey.  Discussion is not to be missed, led by SHA outgoing President William Lees (full disclosure: also my boss!).  If you work in communities with archaeology ordinances this symposium should have a lot to offer on how to craft community involvement.  (Friday, January 6)

10. Reversing the Narrative Parts I and II:  An epic session unfolds Saturday with the who’s who of theoretical practitioners of public archaeology.  Paul Shackel and Barbara Little bookend this session, what more could you want? (Saturday, January 7)

What did I miss?  Give a plug for it below in the comments section and we’ll try and help get the word out.  Take some of my advice and have a good/bad story to tell?  Let us know what you saw and what you did in the PubArch frame of mind at SHA.

*Note: post written before program finalized.  Times and dates subject to change.  Individual papers and posters not available at the time of posting, please add below!