Public Archaeology Happenings in Seattle: What not to miss!

by Sarah E. Miller, PEIC Chair

Do I say this every year?  There seems to be more public archaeology at #SHA2015 than ever before.  Without a strategy in place, there’s a lot that can be missed.  Follow the guide below which will lead you to #PubArch happenings at the conference.  This post is organized by PEIC sponsored sessions (1-5) followed by excellent additional offerings beyond the PEIC (6-10) in order from the conference program.  I provided lots of links in headings and text, so use ‘em!

Print PubArch cheat sheet to keep in badge holder!

Join the #EnvArch discussion now on Facebook or join for panel discussion Thursday afternoon.

1. Panel: Are we missing the boat?  Archaeological Response to Disasters and the Potential for Community Engagement

THUR 1:30-3:30 pm  Redwood A Archaeologists and conservators working with the local community unite in this panel to address environmental impacts to archaeological sites including hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, sea level rise mudslides and more.  To encourage discussion before and after the conference the EnvArch Facebook Group was created with introductions by panelists and case studies linked on the feed.  Come with your own case studies, best practice questions, and queries for future training.  Theater holds 125 so help up fill it up!

2.  Public Education and Interpretation Committee Meeting

FRI 8:00-9:00 AM Diamond A  Join other public education and interpretation minded archaeologists at the PEIC meeting Friday morning.  Full agenda of topics including future conference sessions and reports on National Council of Social Studies, Archaeologists for Autism, International Archaeology Day, and future collaborations with the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse (SHA, SAA, and AIA join venture).  Some sessions start at 8:30 but please come for the minutes you are able.  As always, wake up calls are free! (dm @semiller88)

Look for PEIC fliers at registration.

3.  Hit Them Where They Learn: Educational Policy and Archaeologists as Architects

SAT 10 AM-12 PM  Issaquah Room  Steve Dasovich has assembled a fine panel featuring Larry Zimmerman and PEIC members Bernard Means, SHA Board Memeber Della Scott-Ireton, and PEIC Chair Sarah Miller to tackle not just increasing K-12 archaeology education opportunities, but refining strategy by understanding policy.  This panel builds on a previous post to the blog (Archaeology Education at the Crossroads) featuring both Steve and Sarah’s experiences at the St. Louis National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) conference in 2013 and recent trends in increasing professional development of heritage educators.  What Steve noticed at NCSS was that all teachers are using archaeology in their classroom, they just misunderstand what archaeology is and need assistance labeling what they are often already doing as archaeology.

4.  Three Minute Forum: Can Lightening Strike Twice?  Thrice?  Sharing Tips and Tricks for Engaging the Public

SAT 1:30-3:30 PM Ravenna B  Ideas to take home! In rapid-fire form public archaeologists from all corners of the country will bring in their activity show-and-tell with Q&A discussion to follow the presentations.  Activities can be used in classroom but are especially useful for festival tables and other informal audience veues.

5.  Archaeology Day at the Burke

SAT 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM Burke Museum  Hosted in partnership with SHA, the Center for Wooden Boats, Edmonds Community College, the National Park Service, and the Suquamish Tribe, the Public day is always a great opportunity to learn about local sites and get new activity ideas to take home.  Post your “scuba selfie” to @SHA_org and let them know how important it is to reach out to local communities.

Public Archaeology Day at the Burke.

Click here for more information about Archaeology Day!   

***Beyond the PEIC organized sessions there are some excellent symposiums and panels with emphasis on sharing archaeology with the public.***

6.  Inspirations from Public History: Recommendations for Collaboration and Community Outreach Drawn Across Disciplinary Boundaries

THUR 9 AM-10:45 AM  Metropolitan A  Public archaeologists: don’t reinvent the wheel in terms of theory and practice!  We can look to what are colleagues are up to and borrow from them.  The “them” in this case are Public Historians.  How can we make stronger connections with these specialists (public history educators, park historican, museum managers, oral historians) and what lessons can we learn from their experience.

7. Punk Public Archaeology

THUR 10:30 AM-12 PM  Cedar A  Best. Title. Ever.  Just for the name alone, you gotta go.  Experience the cross sections between DIY aspects of punk and how public archaeology functions.  Beyond the playful title I’m intrigued by the organizers’ association with punk rock to political change and how this plays out for heritage educators.

***Let me preface- I do not envy you the choice you have to make Thursday afternoon.  I’ll be in #EnvArch panel so will miss most of these, but you can be there and tweet for others who can not be present themselves***

8.  Bringing back the Community: Archaeology of an Early 19th Century Community at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County Virginia

SAT 1:30-5:00 PM Grand Ballroom A  It’s fun to follow #DigMontpelier throughout the year on FacebookTwitter, and their blog (Archaeology Department Heads to Seattle).  If you’ve never been to James Madison’s Montpelier, take advantage of this opportunity to learn from these 12 papers about five different Montpelier sites.  Multiple analysis–ceramics, labor, small finds, floral and faunal–will lead to their approach in interpretating these data sets to the public.

The Montpelier Archaeology Director Matt Reeves is also involved in symposium early Friday morning, “Building Consensus: Archaeologists and Metal Detectorists working towards a Common Goal.” This is an important session given the tension archaeologists and metal detectorists experience, particularly due to reality shows of years past.  I’m looking forward to constructive conversations and all the points of view they are bringing to the table with this forum: Doug Scott, Wade Catts, Michelle Sivilich, Linda Stine, SHA President Charlie Ewen, metal detectorist, and Montpelier’s Expedition Member Scott Clark. Look for the National Trust’s Preservation Magazine article next month to feature the Montpelier metal detecting project.  The session will be held at 8:30 am Friday morning in Ravenna A.

9. Engaging the Public: Involving People Underwater, On Land, and Online in Maritime Archaeology

THUR 1:30-4:15 PM Willow A As an archaeologist on land it’s always a good idea to check in with our colleagues from the sea.  Their unique perspective into training and working with avocationals, citizen science approach to survey, and promoting history that is too often loved to death always presents a high level of best practices, often with great humor.

10. Management Challenges, Public Relations, and  Professional Issues

THUR 1:30-4:30 PM Metropolitan B One of the most important things the public learns from #PubArch programs is often overlooked, that there are these people called archaeologists and they have jobs and they are part of a large industry.  In addition to providing stats on our profession by the numbers, this session also includes environmental issues that will be brought up during the #EnvArch panel, such as James Gibb’s paper on environmental archaeology and public policy as well as Morgan MacKenzie’s paper on Hurrican Sandy and the New Jersey Waterway Debris Removal Project. Oh to be in two sessions at once!

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Don’t see the session you are in listed?  Give it a plug below!  Don’t forget to join and contribute to #PubArch discussions on Twitter.  The Heritage Education conference hosted by the Archaeology Institute of America in New Orleans unfortunately coincides with SHA.  Let’s bring these subjects to audiences outside of Seattle and continue to develop the profession of public archaeology.

Text: Sarah E. Miller, PEIC Chair

Images: #EnvArch thumnails emergency collections, Iceland digOcklawaha flooding, Washington mudslide, Historical Ecology for Risk Management, PEIC flier by Sarah Miller, Public Day flier by staff of the Burke Museum.          

Public Service Announcements and Archaeology: Protecting WWII-Caves in Saipan

By: Jennifer McKinnon

East Carolina University and Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research

The words public service announcements (PSAs) and archaeology are rarely uttered together. In fact, a quick search finds very few examples of archaeology or cultural heritage PSAs. Yet PSAs can be an effective way of reaching out to a very large audience to promote protection and preservation of heritage. A recent project that explored community consensus building for the protection of WWII-related caves on the island of Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands utilized radio and television PSAs for the purpose of sharing a message of protection and preservation of caves with the local island community.

In recent years, with more visitors, more development and more spelunking and exploration, natural and human-made caves that hold remnants of both ancient Chamorro culture and WWII history are being more heavily impacted. This activity was brought to the attention of the local community and archaeologists when videos and photographs of cave exploration, artifacts and rock art began appearing on blogs, Flicker and YouTube. This concerned local community members and as a result, a project was created to assess community interest in protecting these resources. Funded by an American Battlefield Protection Program grant, the project consisted of community meetings, landowner consultation and interviews, archaeological survey of caves on private and public lands, development of radio and television PSAs and ultimately the creation of a preservation plan with input from the community.

Why PSAs? The idea of a public service announcement came to me while I was on the island for another project and got a catchy little jingle in my head – “Don’t give snakes a break.” I don’t know the first time I heard it on the radio, but it certainly impacted my subconscious because there I was singing it as I was driving down the road. Had I seen a snake, I probably wouldn’t have given it a “brake.” Brown Tree Snakes are an invasive snake that wiped out indigenous bird populations on Guam, and Saipan has worked hard to prevent and eradicate its presence. In fact, a PSA project raising awareness about brown tree snakes had remarkable results in eradicating them from the island. Bumper stickers, radio jingles, TV commercials, and special events were all part of the plan to raise awareness.

Sooo….when thinking of how we could get the message out to local landowners about how important the caves were to their history as well as that of the wider world, PSAs seemed the best option. Print options like brochures or mailings are limited in that they are generally viewed once and when they are distributed or out of print, they no longer exist. PSAs on the other hand can be aired and thus viewed over and over again, reinforcing the content’s message. When aired during peak time slots such as the evening news, they can become even more effective. For a Pacific island that relies on television primarily for its news, PSAs serve to reach the widest possible audience. In addition, radio PSAs can reinforce and even reach a younger generation of stakeholders.

The creation of PSAs were only one part of the larger cave heritage project but their development built upon all aspects. Landowners who came to the meetings to voice their opinions were invited to participate in the PSAs. They also opened their properties to the archaeological team who visited various caves to get a picture of what types of caves exist, what history they may hold and what is impacting them. Finally, many community members participated in interviews during which they related their and their family’s stories about caves use during WWII. Ultimately the message, “Our History, Our Stories” was chosen as the tagline for the PSAs to reflect the multiplicity of connections the community had to caves. Caves on the island of Saipan provided shelter to the ancient culture when they arrived thousands of years ago, they were the canvas on which the ancient peoples communicated  through rock art and served as their burial grounds. During the war, families used the caves for shelter from bombs and bullets and today they still serve special purposes such as places of commemoration and memorialization. As community member Fred Camacho relates, “This has become part of our family album, and we have the obligation to protect it.”

View all of the PSAs at Ships of Discovery’s YouTube Page.

Incidental Archaeotourism: Lessons from “Stumbling Upon” in St. Augustine

by Sarah Bennett

The Archaeology

Under the direction of Kathy Deagan and Gifford Waters from the University of Florida, a crew of seven archaeologists returned to St. Augustine this spring to excavate at the Fountain of Youth (FOY) and Mission Nombre de Dios. 2014 excavations at FOY focused on locating and, with archaeological providence, delineating a series of wall trenches potentially related to the 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés encampment. Previous field seasons yielded wall trenches running primarily east-west; however, a portion of the wall appeared to turn northward and we moved to an area of FOY not yet studied by Dr. Deagan.

First day of the 2014 FOY field season

In 2011, Gifford Waters and a crew from UF unearthed coquina and tabby foundations at Mission Nombre de Dios. The architectural remains, paired with historical documentation, suggested that they found the Mission church built in 1677. Returning three years later, we worked toward exposing the architectural features—the wall foundations, partition walls, and a tabby floor—before excavating areas within or outside of the possible church.

First day orientation at the Mission with Gifford

The Places and the Public

The 2014 crew left to right, back to front: Janet Jordan (in the orange), Alysia Leon, Greg Smith, Tommy Abood, Sarah Bennett (me!), Kathy Deagan, Linda Chandler, David Underwood, and (invisible) Gifford Waters

Although no overt public archaeology component existed during field work, the crew anticipated and encouraged public interaction. Diverse in backgrounds, each crew member possessed formal training or experience in public archaeology (thanks, NAI Certified Interpretive Guide program and the Florida Public Archaeology Network NERC!) or informal, yet sustaining, forms of public education and interpretation. These experiences proved invaluable as work at both sites inevitably led to constant (and utterly wonderful) interaction with the public.

FOY, where boat building

St. Augustine draws about 2 million visitors annually. What are two tourist destinations in the city? FOY and the Mission! FOY, a living history park, celebrates the legacy of Juan Ponce de Leon as well as the Pedro Menéndez Spanish encampment and features a variety of exhibits and points of interest throughout the 15 waterfront acres. Included amidst the Planetarium, peacocks, atlatl practices, reenactments, and other historical experiences is the archaeology of the park. Tourist interest in visiting the Fountain of Youth due to its archaeological heritage is debatable; however, it is certain that FOY incorporates archaeological excavations and interpretation at the site, particularly in the form of interpretive signage and those announcing archaeology in action!, in addition to outlines in an open field. These outlines represent the walls of various structures associated with the 1565 Menéndez encampment. Although one of many historical and educational components at FOY, archaeology fuels the tourist experience.

and peacocks abound

Mission Nombre de Dios commemorates the first Mass and introduction of Christianity in Florida as well as the Franciscan mission of Nombre de Dios (1587-1763) — the first and longest-lived Spanish mission. Visitors to the grounds include locals and tourists. Like FOY, the Mission rests next to the water, encouraging serene reflections and contemplations amidst the Great Cross, the Rustic Altar, the Our Lady of La Leche Shrine and Chapel, and other points of interest. Among the statues and crosses, churches, chapels, and gravestones is information about missions in La Florida and signs interpreting previous archaeological work conducted by UF. Though acknowledged on signs, visitors to the site rarely realize the magnitude of what lies beneath their soles. The archaeologists’ presence, along with the culmination of five weeks of excavating trenches, drew considerable attention.

Lunchtime serenity

The Lessons

Public archaeology served as a critical component of the 2014 field season because of the places we worked and the nature of St. Augustine. Interacting with tourists and the general public has always served as a central component of archaeology in the city. During the era of UF field schools at these sites, being “public” was a rotating, assigned task. Similarly, public archaeology (often incidental!) comprises a significant, and enduring, portion of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Program.

Tourists did not expect to encounter archaeology during our 2014 field season. Perhaps signage at FOY and the Mission increased curiosity and prompted questions. Four months of public interaction, however, provided me with many (mental) notes about public archaeology in tourism settings. More specifically, I noticed ways that archaeologists can prepare for those people “stumbling upon” archaeology (and us).

Generally, people seem innately curios about archaeology, though these same people aren’t necessarily certain that we are archaeologists. Curiosity abounds, but often shyness prevails! Greet onlookers, ask them if they have questions, and start the conversation.

Contact is essential! Archaeologists are the bridge, the link, the connection between concepts of what archaeology is, how it works, and who we are and a tangible experience. Without us, the public possesses a grossly reduced relationship to the past. Chatting with people enables them to connect with the past (and/in the present), to develop their own experiences and understandings, and to imbue the site, the artifacts, the current interpretation with their own thoughts and words. As an added bonus for archaeologists: its’ entirely probable that we will learn something about the site, the artifacts, interpretation, or our audiences in conversation.

One of the five is not an archaeologist, but she looks equally enthralled!

Other people, volunteers, teachers, tour guides, should absolutely be part of an archaeologists’ tool kit. There is danger in evading public archaeology as avoidance permits the perpetuation of misinformation or no information. Numerous times during the season, tour guides checked in with the crew to ask what we were doing and what we were finding. In turn, the guides shared the information with their groups. Without these conversations, the field season would likely have been filled with more assumptions rather than learning.

No tool kit is complete without volunteers. Balancing excavation and interaction with the public is not easy. Answering questions and offering explanations is essential. Digging is too! Toni Wallace and Marsha Chance served as ambassadors to the public regularly. The public’s reaction was always noticeable. Chats with the crew were often short and with small groups. When Toni and Marsha could talk, the crowds amassed to listen, see, and ask questions.

Toni talks to a growing crowd as the crew works

While working at FOY, my constant unit partner, David Underwood, and I compiled a list of the Top 5 Questions people asked. Similar variations also occurred at the Mission. These questions included (most frequent listed first):

  1. Are you digging for graves?
  2. How did you decide to dig here?
  3. What are you finding?
  4. How deep do you dig?
  5. Are you students? Are you paid? What’s your affiliation?

Naturally, it can be frustrating to answer the same questions repeatedly. The nature of the question can also add to the frustration. Alternatively, public archaeologists can consider what these types of questions indicate about the public’s basic archaeological knowledge and what components of field work drive curiosity or confusion. Answering questions serves as the most rapid way to engage AND explicate archaeology, from the field, to the lab, to the office, to universities, to museums, to organizations, from large to small, from local to international.

Finally, encourage tourists to continue discover the archaeological heritage of the area by directing them to other interpreted sites. Many people also wondered about archaeology in their own city or state. Familiarity with public archaeology programs and volunteer organizations throughout the nation becomes invaluable knowledge as we provide tourists with avenues for archaeological exploration and involvement at home.

In your experience, what are effective means of engaging the public? What do your audiences hope to glean from conversation? Are incidental, “stumbling upon” interactions in archaeological settings different from those that occur intentionally?