In early November of 2009, I participated in a session at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference held in Mobile, Alabama. The session was organized by Jayur Mehta, an Anthropology Graduate Student at Tulane, and Cassandra Rae Harper, an Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network. The session focused on taking Archaeology into the Community. The individual papers addressed a wide range of issues including a traveling ArchaeoBus, site visitor programs, archaeology fairs, museum exhibit development, Native American representation, archaeology in the classrooms, and more. The session was a blast! I learned a lot was able to meet folks with an interest in what I think of as applied archaeology and engaged scholarship – basically a reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between us as museum/archaeology folks and the communities who through their tax dollars are our employers.
Besides exposure to innovative and creative ideas, a couple of other things stood out to me about the session. First, ours was the only session at the Conference that directly addressed archaeology or museums as educational resources for the broader community. Second, the first speaker at the session, Nancy Hawkins Outreach Director at the Louisiana Division of Archaeology and a 20-year plus advocate for Public Outreach, commented that it was nice to see “the choir” assembled – noting the small but loyal cadre of advocates for the mission.
However, coming away from the Conference, I am optimistic that there are quite a few more singers in the choir in the Southeast United States. When I got back to Memphis, I sent off an email to the session participants. I was grateful for being invited to participate in the session, and as the new kid in the room, had a bunch of ideas. One important idea was that the session participants stay in dialogue, reach out to others, and continue the conversation. This blog is meant to be a part of that process.
My hope is that folks will contribute their experiences, what works, what does not work, new innovations, opportunities and so forth . . . but enough rambling, on with the show!