Last year’s National Archaeology Day was a fantastic outreach opportunity to educate and engage the public about the importance of cultural heritage resources in the U.S. As I wrote then, National Archaeology Day also provided cultural heritage professionals with a platform to address the Indiana Jones/Lara Croft understanding of archaeology that is presented in the popular media. As well, the coordinated national event provided a time for a concerted effort across the country to respond to the treasure hunt mentality put forward in the popular media by offerings such as American Digger and Antiques Roadshow, where the value of cultural materials is determined by “is it real, how old is it, and how much can I sell it for.”
In 2012, National Archaeology Day had over 125 supporting organizations, including many state agencies, museums, along with the National Park Service and its 400 locations across the United States. This year the Archaeological Institute of American has rebranded the event as International Archaeology Day. Collaborating agencies to date range from individual archaeological sites to the Federal Bureau of Land Management to the Bayon Center in Cambodia.
The shift from National Archaeology Day to International Archaeology Day is an important move that acknowledges the globalization that we witness in so many aspects of our daily lives. I am impressed that in the MOOCs I have taken, of the thousands of participants who register for each class, the majority or at least a very substantial number are from outside the United States. As well apps like Londinium, Pompeii from the British Museum, and Giza 3D, make the virtual world that much more accessible and relevant to those living in the United States. The International focus is also seen in the Southeast as the Poverty Point site awaits action on its nomination as a World Heritage Center of UNESCO.
International Archaeology Day 2013 provides cultural heritage professionals with a global platform to show the relevance of our discipline in a time when government agencies cut funding to projects considered nonessential. I often quote my first mentor in archaeology, Dr. Patricia Essenpreis who told her students “If you cannot explain to the visitor why their tax dollars should go to support these excavations or keep the Fort Ancient site open, you might as well go home.” International Archaeology Day can be the kick-off point for another year to actively engage with the public in the preservation of their cultural heritage.
What are your plans for International Archaeology Day on October 19?