Tag: applied archaeology

Day of Archaeology in Hualcayán, Peru

parade-lineup

Hualcayán students in line for Santa Cruz Anniversary Parade.

For the past 24 hours of this Day of Archaeology I spent the early morning in Caraz, Peru where I had arrived the night before after a 24-hour plane/bus trip from Memphis, Tennessee, US via Lima, Peru. I will be in Peru for the next month or so collaborating on several projects (cultural heritage and education development, lithic analysis of excavated materials from the Hualcayán archaeological site) as part of the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) Team.

After breakfast at the La Terraza in Caraz, changing money, and marketing for supplies, my colleagues Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza, Co-Director of PIARA and Caroline Havrilla, a PhD student in the Biology Department at the University of Colorado rode to the village of Huaripampa for the Anniversary of the District of Santa Cruz celebration. Besides the opportunity to watch a parade, something that happens here in Peru and in New Orleans U.S., with equal regularity, we came to cheer on the students and faculty of the Hualcayán school in their participation in the celebration.

PIARA is active with the local Hualcayán school in the village of 400 (here are some details). This year we adapted several of the programs from the Archaeologyland on the Society for American Archaeology website and also archaeological presentations for student group visits to the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa where I serve as Director.

Elizabeth got a phone call that my one piece of luggage lost in transit had been found and would make it to Caraz in the next couple of days. I was quite relieved as all of the archaeological educational materials I brought were in that luggage.

 

 

 

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Hualcayan parade banner carried by the school teachers.

After the celebration we rode back to Caraz, had lunch, did some more marketing, and then visited the Municipal Museum in Caraz. Elizabeth has been quite active with the Museum since its inception and last year organized an exhibit on the past five years of research at Hualcayán. Carlos, the lead staff person at the Museum. Besides seeing what was new in the exhibit since visiting last year, Elizabeth and I wanted to set up meetings with museum representatives to discuss a Museum Connect grant possibility with the Chucalissa Museum. The Museum Connect grants are facilitated through the American Alliance of Museum as true collaborations and equal partnerships between a U.S. museum and an institution outside the U.S. This perspective fits very well with PIARA’s approach to applied archaeology. We made arrangements with Carlos to return just before the July 22nd re-opening of the Museum to further discuss the possibilities.

After a bit more shopping for supplies, PIARA Co-Director Rebecca Bria arrived from Huaraz and we all prepared for the two-hour ride up the road to Hualcayán. We had a great conversation as Rebecca filled us in her recent 7-day trek with the American Science Climbers Program and a PIARA team. The trek surveyed some higher elevations in the Province recording information relevant to global warming and unrecorded archaeological sites.

We arrived in Hualcayán as the sun set. I spent the rest of the evening unpacking, catching up with folks and getting ready for tomorrow.

I enjoy that today was a fantastic mix of activities in how I have come to envision applied archaeology.

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A full moon as we arrive to Hualcayán.

 

 

 

 

Applied Archaeology: Two More Student Projects

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C., USA

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C., USA

I recently posted about my course Applied Archaeology and Museums and some of the student projects from the class.  Below are two more student projects of a different type.

Rachel Clark created a Wikispace page for the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis.  The purpose of the page is to serve as a place to post about internships, jobs, and general information related to the Program – all areas that students expressed a need for more information.  The Wikispace page will rely on student input for added information and maintenance.  This makes sense as the information is primarily intended to support student interests and needs.  Area museums seeking interns or job applicants can also post to the Wikispace.

The idea for the project floated around for a couple of years until a student took the responsibility to act.  Rachel conducted a series of interviews and surveys with her peers in the Program to decide appropriate content.  She also met with each faculty member in the Program to get their buy-in.  The page Rachael created is typical for Wikispace in being stylistically simple but with much data content.

The WikiSpace page will be promoted on the Museum Studies Program homepage as a student based project.  The WikiSpace page is also an experiment in user-generated content for the Program.  If the page is truly relevant to faculty, students, alumni, museum professionals, they will use, edit, and support the page.  If not, the page will go the way of the original Friendster.  Rachel has performed the first step in creating the framework based on peer and faculty survey and interview results.

Jordan Goss, a sophomore in History, conducted a survey and wrote a report on the public support and interest for a cultural heritage venue in her hometown of Marion, Arkansas.  Jordan did a particularly impressive job with the project.

She started the semester proposing to create an exhibit in the town high school on the cultural heritage of the area. Jordan was challenged with questions such as: Does anyone besides you want the exhibit?  Is the high school the best place for such an exhibit?  What will be the content of the exhibit?  She then decided to shift the focus of her project from creating an exhibit to determining the interest and feasibility for such an exhibit.

With guidance from Bernard’s Research Methods in Anthropology she created a survey.  She loaded the survey on Qualtrics (think Survey Monkey on steroids) for which she has free access as a University of Memphis student.  She promoted the survey through social media, mailed copies, and in person.  She also conducted semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Marion.  Finally she submitted and completed an Institutional Review Board proposal to conduct the surveys.

Jordan received over 200 responses that appear to reflect the demographics of Marion, Arkansas.  In her analysis of the survey data she determined:

  • that the majority of residents wanted a cultural heritage center of some sort
  • the demographics of those who support and do not support a center
  • the recommended site and type of exhibit/presentation.
  • the topics of greatest interest  to the respondents
  • how the respondents envision funding a center.

An impressive set of initial of data!  Jordan is currently administering the survey to a broader audience.  In the fall semester, Jordan will create a formal proposal based on her survey results.  Jordan’s survey work is a an excellent first step to determine the feasibility of a cultural heritage center in Marion, Arkansas.

Katie and Jordan’s projects provide important takeaway points:

  • As with all the other student projects from this semester, Katie and Jordan’s were able to make real-time contributions to area cultural heritage venues.  At this point 10 of the 12 projects are actively in place for use in area institutions.
  • Katie and Jordan’s projects each relied extensively on survey results from the intended users of their products.  We stress this point often in the class – the need for project relevance for the intended users.  In both cases, the feedback and buy-in of the anticipated users markedly changed the initial direction of the project.
  • As Katie and Jordan developed their projects, they were aware of the distinct possibility that their end products might not be used.  The WikiSpace page might be ignored by the intended audience.  Marion, Arkansas may never have a cultural heritage center or museum.  However, both students believe that they have taken the correct first steps toward creating a viable finished product.  I agree.

So ends another year of student projects that result in products with real-time applications in area museums!

 

Applied Archaeology and Museums: The Student Projects

I posted last week about the Applied Archaeology and Museums class I taught this past semester at the University of Memphis.    Forty percent of the course grade is from the final project that students propose and complete. I offer several possibilities and discuss projects from previous classes to help stimulate the students thinking. The criteria for the final project include that the product must be broadly based in archaeology or cultural heritage studies and must ultimately live in area museum.  Here is one example of a completed project:

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Stone Tool Exhibit created by Garrett Ballard and Rachel Starks in Johnson Hall at the University of Memphis.

A prompt I gave for a possible project was a near empty exhibit case in the classroom building where many archaeology classes occur. I noted the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa curated an abundance of unprovenienced stone tools in our educational collections that could be used in creating an exhibit for the case.  Two students, Garrett Ballard and Rachael Starks, proposed and created a stone tool exhibit that explored function and stylistic changes through time. The exhibit has three shelves. One shelf of their exhibit contains projectile points ranging from Paleoindian through Mississippian. Individual artifact labels include the age of the artifact and a linked QR code contains interpretive information. One shelf contains a series of untyped but numbered bifaces with a single label that asks “Which of the artifacts are really arrowheads?” the popularly assigned term for any triangular-shaped stone tool. A QR code links to a resource that illustrates and explains the function of each tool and identifies the true arrowheads. The third shelf contains a set of ground stone tools and labels that contain functional and raw material information.

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Numbered bifaces in the arrowhead identification shelf of the exhibit.

The students pulled the stone tools from an unprovenienced surface collection curated at the Museum.  Robert Ford, a University of Memphis Alum, and the best lawyer in a one lawyer town in rural Arkansas donated the collection in 2000.  Ford donated the collection for use in educational projects. The several thousand diagnostic stone tools that range from Clovis to Mississippian points remained untouched in the repository for over 10 years. Mr. Ford was not pleased and called me one day asking about the artifacts. Having come to the museum seven years after the donation was made, I was unaware of the donation. When I located the materials in the repository, we made quick work of utilizing them in several of our educational programs.

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Projectile Point chronology and ground stone shelves of the exhibit case.

Besides physically creating the exhibit, there are a few key lessons the two students gained from the project. First, they took away a keen understanding of the value and potential of archaeological resources locked away in museum repositories. Second, as undergraduates they created an exhibit that is of interest to them and their peers.  Third, they created a meaningful product that will live on after the semester is over – an act in itself that is empowering.

Here are some of Garrett Ballard’s thoughts expressed in his process paper on the exhibit creation:

Ultimately, we all had common interests and decided to pursue a common goal that would satisfy all the parties involved; I would get to create an exhibit using authentic Native American projectile points, Rachel would get to incorporate website design, social media, and QR codes, you (Connolly) would get a Chucalissa exhibit installed at Johnson Hall, and lastly, Robert Ford’s artifacts would get plenty of educational use through our exhibit . . .

I was slightly overwhelmed by the number of artifacts in the collection, and was very concerned about how I would manage to convey a message to the viewers of the exhibit. Luckily, I believed you sensed my frustration and sent me the Serrell Reading to help. Serrell’s guide has been critical in our research design, and has helped me not only to make better interpretive labels and an overall comprehensive exhibit, but it also showed me the importance of having a “Big Idea”.

Armed with a “Big Idea” and a fresh delivered copy of Noel D. Justice’s Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points, the next few visits to the repository proved to be enjoyable and result driven as the project was coming together and pieces started to fall into place . . . While going through the collection I took care in the handling, photographing, and cataloguing of a range of different types of tools and projectile points, increasing my own knowledge on the subject matter in the process.

I consider this exhibit process a big success as an applied educational opportunity for Garrett and Rachel.  In the process:

  • A point reinforced to me is that in such projects, my role is to provide logistical expertise and guidance, but allow the students creativity to come to the fore.  In so doing, they arrived at concepts, such as the Which is an Arrowhead . . . shelf that likely would not have occurred had I dominated the process.  When given such latitude, I find students enjoy the freedom, but also experience an initial sense of frustration as Garrett notes.  However, with guidance, students work creatively to find solutions and directions.
  • I would not have chosen the colors or fonts that Garrett and Rachel used for the exhibit.  But then, their peer group are the primary audience for the exhibit, not me.

Other exhibits created by the students in this semester’s class include:

  • Teo-obsidian

    Stone tool portion of exhibit created by Michelle Faulk.

    Michelle Dallas Faulk organized and created didactic panels for an exhibit of ceramic sherds and obsidian tools from central Mexico.  The exhibit is located in the same hallway as the Stone Tool display created by Garrett and Rachel.

  • Carolyn Trimble created a small exhibit on stone tools supplemented with information through linked QR codes for the Morton Museum in Collierville, Tennessee a suburb just east of Memphis.  The Morton Museum Director contacted me about creating asmallexhibit on the prehistory of the area.  We were able to use
    morton-museum-exhibit

    Prehistory exhibit for Morton Museum created by Carolyn Trimble (does not include large back panel).

    artifacts in our repository from two prehistoric Collierville sites excavated through Cultural Resource Management projects.  A QR code link reports the sites and contextualizes the prehistory of the suburb for museum visitors.

 

In next week’s post I will report on other types of student projects created in the Applied Archaeology and Museum class from this past semester.

 

 

Applied Archaeology and Museums – The Course.

treetangle2aThis past semester I was the instructor for my favorite course – Applied Archaeology and Museums – a joint undergraduate and graduate class that usually enrolls 15-20 students. I developed the course a few years ago as pretty much an amalgam of what I enjoy and am most passionate about in archaeology – community engagement and empowerment through cultural heritage studies.

There are no in-class exams. Instead, students complete a series of essays, reading journals and projects where they directly apply the course content to real-time situations.

For example, students write a brief essay on repatriation, as applied to the Elgin Marbles. In the past I used a brief article by Jarrett Lobell from the 2006 edited volume Archaeological Ethics. Now as the lead resource I use the Wikipedia article on the Elgin Marbles, a 5000-word piece based on over 70 references. I am not aware of a more up-to-date and comprehensive starting point for the single class Elgin Marble repatriation discussion. Using the Wikipedia page also allows for students to assess the worth of user-generated content.  I emphasize that there is not a right or wrong position on repatriating the Elgin Marbles. I enjoy that depending on the class composition of Anthropology, History, and Art History majors, the discussion is quite varied. Occurring within the first two weeks of the course, I intend for this discussion to set a tone for the diversity of possibilities throughout the semester.

Forty percent of the course grade is from the final project that students complete for the class. I offer several possibilities and past projects to help stimulate the students thinking. The criteria for the final project includes that it must be broadly based in archaeology or cultural heritage studies and must ultimately live in area museum.  The projects were particularly successful this past semester.  I will post some of them here over the next few weeks.

For the final essay students respond to the following questions:

  • What is the social utility of archaeology?
  • Does Archaeology have a viable utility for people beyond other archaeologists?
  • What is the most significant insight you obtained from the course? Explain.

My reason for asking this line of questioning flows from my first field school experience nearly 30 years ago. The instructor, the late Dr. Patricia Essenpreis said something like “If you cannot explain to the public why their tax dollars should go to support keeping this site open to the public, you might as well go home.” I pondered that mandate for many years. Quite honestly, I don’t think I was ever able to adequately respond until I worked in applied archaeology contexts where community members were creating exhibits around their own cultural heritage. I believe that it is critically important that our students be able to show that archaeology is relevant, not just in the classroom, but when they leave as well.

Finally, the two wordles below are from spontaneous/unannounced two-minute trait list exercises for the term “applied archaeology” students completed on the first and the last day of class.  I am not completely comfortable with the shift over the course of the semester.  I appreciate that “excavation” is not the predominant associated term at the end of the semester as in the beginning.  On the other hand, I am surprised that the concept of fieldwork is nearly absent in the final list.  I am pleased that by the end of the semester students appreciate that applied archaeology is a discipline that is not performed for but rather with the community.

 

applied archaeology

 

 

 

 

Applying Archaeology with the Public

excaThis semester I am teaching Applied Archaeology and Museums at the University of Memphis.  This course addresses my primary research interests – the preservation and presentation of cultural heritage and its use as an empowerment tool for the public.  Since I last taught the course two years ago, the resources for this empowerment tool multiplied exponentially.  A good bit of the growth comes from digital technology put in the service of human needs.  (Note this understanding of technology, well articulated by folks such as Clay Shirky, is at odds with the neo-Luddite perspective.  See here for my rant on all that.)

Access to the products of digital technology is not always simple or readily available.  Jason Baird Jackson posted an interesting piece on the high costs for accessing academic publications in a growing open access world.  The post includes a link to The Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine that allows an author to retain specific distribution rights for their published work.  Sherpa is a searchable database that lists distribution rights by journal that authors retain for open access distribution.  Here I am less interested in discussing specific open-access issues, and more some of the current venues and perspectives in which cultural heritage information is presented to the public.

On the digital end:

A common point for these new opportunities is that even in my low-tech and financially strapped museum existence, all are practical possibilities where the primary limitation is not technology but labor to produce the products – a situation that can circle back to volunteerism and community service learning.

A second common point is that products of these technologies are accessible to a public with a wi-fi connection and basic internet surfing skills.

However, when considering the products that will live in real-time contexts created by students in my Applied Archaeology and Museums course this semester – after all, isn’t that what applied is all about? – I am concerned that the products be relevant to public interests and needs.  Consider:

  • I had a back-and-forth with a recent graduate of our applied anthropology program who lamented that she felt well-prepared to write lengthy academic reports but her employers really only wanted the punch line impact statements, something her academic training left her unprepared to produce.
  • I am working with a student who is developing an exhibit for a county museum based on a several thousand piece surface collection curated in our museum repository for the past 30 years.    The intern was excited by my preaching about the need for the exhibit to be relevant to the public, including avocational archaeologists who visit the museum.  To that end, we discussed how the exhibit could interpret prehistoric trade and exchange, site function, and time period of occupation – all based on typical artifacts collected from the land surface after spring plowing or a good rain.  However, as a well-trained anthropology undergraduate, the student was reasonably obsessed with making certain she typed her projectile points accurately.  Her training made it hard to accept that the primary public interest of similar shaped points, from the same time period, manufactured at the same location, likely used for the same function, was not the correct typological name ascribed by an archaeologist several thousand years after the tools production.  An exhibit that is not typology focused is not “dumbing down” to the public, but rather, functionally interpretive and different.  That is a lesson from our co-creation with avocational archaeologists.

Co-creation with the public is a critical part of making resources relevant – whether digital or real-time.  Co-creation has become a buzzword in museum contexts for the past number years, as popularized by Nina Simon in her Participatory Museum volume.   My colleague Elizabeth Bollwerk and I have organized a fifteen paper session Co-Creation, the Public and the Archaeological Record  for the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meetings this April in Austin, Texas.  The session abstract is:

Co-creation in public archaeology is a means to engage and empower citizens to become stakeholders of the archaeological record. In museum contexts Simon (2010:278) writes that the purpose of co-creative community projects is “to give voice and be responsive to the needs and interests of local community members; to provide a place for community engagement and dialogue; and to help participants develop skills that will support their own individual and community goals.” The papers in this session discuss a variety of recent archaeological projects that implement the co-creative model. The contributions demonstrate how co-creation moves beyond “hands-on” educational experiences or typical volunteer programs because participants are invited to play an active role in designing and constructing the final products to address their needs and interests. Co-creation aligns with current emphases on informal, life-long, and free-choice learning models that foster public engagement in the preservation of cultural heritage resources. The papers in this session also explore the benefits and challenges of using this method and provide examples of best practices for implementation. Finally, these papers speak to the impact of co-creation on the discipline and how the process increases the ability of archaeology to contribute to debates on contemporary issues.

We are pleased that Carol McDavid, a pioneer in this process, including her work at the Levi-Jordan Plantation (link to 1998 website) will serve as a discussant for the session.

How do you envision co-creation in archaeology?

Applied Archaeology: A Christmas Party in Hualcayán

hualgirl

A first ever Christmas gift for a Hualcayán child.

The post below is written by my colleague Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza the Co-Director along with Rebecca Bria of Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA).  I have posted before about the fantastic community outreach and cultural heritage work of PIARA.  On December 6th of this year, PIARA sponsored a Christmas party for the 140 children of the Hualcayán community in the Andes mountains of Peru.  PIARA views theses events as an integral part of their applied archaeology program not just for the community but with the community.  In addition to archaeological research, in the coming year, PIARA will continue to focus on community wellness, cultural heritage and economic development, and projects such as medical care and electricity restoration in the Hualcayán community.  I will especially appreciate your considering making a financial contribution or other support for PIARA during this holiday season and beyond.

An Act of Love in Hualcayán

by Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza

There are many people who worry about giving the perfect gift to their relative.  But what happens for those people who do not have enough resources to buy the Christmas tree, festive dinner, or the gifts?  This is the situation in the community of Hualcayán in highland Ancash, Peru. There is no money to buy presents.  People there can only prepare a dinner and share it with their family members.

This year Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) had the idea to prepare a party for all the children in Hualcayán. First, we collected a list of names of all the children from the community.  The nurse of the community, Ofelia, and the principal of the school, Magali, helped me to collect the names for the list.  We were surprised because the list contained the names of more than 140 boys and girls who live in Hualcayán; in other words, almost half of the population living in the community are children!

We decided to prepare a Christmas party at the school in Hualcayán on December 6th, so the children could celebrate and have fun.  But the big surprise was seeing several parents from the community also sharing the hot chocolate and panettone, which warmed us on that cold day. Despite the cold, the excitement of the children knowing that they would receive a gift, made ​​the day feel warm as the sunshine broke through the clouds.

Parents from the community also supported this event and prepared two big pots of hot chocolate.  We also had sweet panettóne from Lima thanks to Meruquita´s Bakery. Children from Hualcayán do not usually drink milk every day.   Fortunately there was even enough hot chocolate to share with the parents who accompanied us on this very happy day.

After everyone had a full stomach, it was time for the children to show their artistic talent, as a form of thanks for the celebration.  Without exception all students participated in the artistic event, from the tiniest preschooler to the oldest secondary school student. The children prepared songs dances and traditional scenes with themes related to Christmas. The singing was particularly welcome as there is currently no music from radios because Hualcayán has been without electricity for the past several months.   All of the children sang loudly and were proud of their participation.

Then came the most awaited part, the distribution of gifts!  With the list of names of all children living in Hualcayán, we had organized all of the presents in the school library the day before.  We started with the little children, but all the boys and girls were so excited that even though it started to rain, they stayed in line to receive their gifts –  waiting for their doll, car, train, soccer ball or volley ball.

The faces of joy and surprise at the time of receiving the gifts was the best gift I could receive.  All of the children thanked us many times and even their fathers and mothers came from the farms or houses to show their appreciation.

To bring a little joy to these children during the holidays is difficult to put into words.  The satisfaction of sharing with the community is the best reward – an act of love – a different way to share with one person or many on this special date.

Although PIARA performs archaeological research in Hualcayán, the communication and closeness we have with people has enabled us to participate in various community activities, such as a simple holiday celebration.  With great joy PIARA is able to be a part of this community that received us a few years ago, and it allows us to work on their behalf.

Watch this brief video with highlights from the Christmas Party!

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In addition to the Christmas gifts shown here, PIARA purchased all of the books and materials in this newly remodeled school library.

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Children gather outside the school for the Christmas Celebration.

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Hot chocolate and panettone were enjoyed by all.

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The celebration also had lots of dancing, singing, and traditional storytelling.

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