Tag: Society for American Archaeology

My Favorite Free Downloads for Archaeology, Museums, & Outreach

There are many resources relevant to Archaeology, Museum and Outreach now available on the internet as free downloads.  Below are some of my favorites  as they relate to the general focus of this blog and are not already referenced by everyone and their brother/sister.  Here goes:

  • The New Media Consortium Horizon Project has just published their 2011 Museum Edition as a free pdf download that “is a co-production with the Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts (MIDEA) and examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in education and interpretation within the museum environment.”  The report begins with an executive summary followed by “Time to Adoption” discussions of different technologies. For example, under the Mobile Apps heading are the following discussions: Overview, Relevance for Museum Education and Interpretation, Mobile Apps in Practice, and Further Reading.  Of particular value, each technology discussion includes links to many live examples. This publication is an excellent resource for investigating the potential of digital outreach.
  • The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide published by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2009 is one of my favorite think pieces.  The 30-page free pdf download has nine discussion themes such as building sustainable institutions, evaluating program impact, and sharing authority with the public.  Each theme contains real-time examples and discussion questions that are as relevant to the small county museum as to the professional organization evaluating their outreach program.  I am using this document as the basis for the final exam in my Museum Practices graduate seminar next week.
  • In a similar vein the Center for the Future of Museums site has several excellent reports on current and future trends.  The 2008  Museums and Society 2034 discusses demographic, economic, communication, and cultural forecasts.  Each section includes proposals on how museums must evolve to meet these shifting trends.  The 2020 report Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums focuses specifically on ethnic demographic trends in the United States and the need for museums to shift their orientations to serve the evolving public.  Both reports are available as free pdf downloads.
  • The Society for American Archaeology’s Archaeological Record is a fantastic resource for exploring different outreach themes of the discipline.  I previously posted about the Careers Issue of the Record.  Other themed issues of interest include a history of archaeology in the media and applied archaeology curriculums,  Published five times per year, the magazine is available as a free pdf download.
  • Kevin Smith at Middle Tennessee State University provides a prime venue for archaeology outreach with the Tennessee Archaeology journal.  Each issue is available as a single free pdf download.  Although I am certain formats will continue to evolve through time, the journal is in the vanguard in providing a readily accessible public resource for the types of archaeological reports that either never make it beyond conference proceedings or are buried in hard to find regional journals or Cultural Resource Management Reports.  Tennessee Archaeology is a step forward in the discipline’s need for public accountability.
  • For one stop preservation and conservation needs you cannot beat the National Park Service for their Tech Notes and the three-volume National Park Service Museum Handbook, all free pdf downloads.  The latter is of particular value as a comprehensive “reference guide on how to manage, preserve, document, access and use museum collections.”  I find these publications ideal to assist interested lay persons in preserving family heirlooms and other privately held cultural heritage objects.  The straightforward style of these reports provides an excellent opportunity to educate the public on stewardship issues.
  • The Visitor Studies Association provides free pdf downloads including articles from their bi-annual peer-reviewed journal Visitor Studies.  The VSA is the “premier professional organization focusing on all facets of the visitor experience in museums, zoos, nature centers, visitor centers, historic sites, parks and other informal learning settings.”
  • The proceedings from the 2011 Museums and the Web Conference held in Philadelphia this past April are accessible on-line in a variety of formats.  With sessions covering topics such as data storage, gaming, organizational changes, e-book publishing, the proceedings provide current thinking on a range of museum online issues.  Some of the online resources are typical conference paper texts, others link to Slideshare PowerPoint files, and others link to institutional websites that host not just the presentation but related materials as well.

The above list just scratches the surface of available online downloadable resources for Outreach efforts in archaeology and museums.  What other downloads have you found particularly useful?

Are Museum Ethics Changing?

One of the student assignments in the Museum Studies graduate seminar I lead each fall semester at the University of Memphis is to provide annotated references each week on the seminar topic.  I enjoy the diverse responses from graduate students in Art History, Earth Science, Anthropology, History and other disciplines.  That diversity allows me to think outside of my worldview as the director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa.  One of my intents with the assignment is build a database of resources to share on the range of Museum Practices issues.  In the coming weeks, I will occasionally feature selections of those resources on this blog, especially as they relate to public engagement of museums and archaeology.

Early in the seminar we take up the issue of Museum Ethics.  Here are some of those resources:

  • Treatment and Repatriation of Human Remains – Katherine Broome wrote about the website set up by family members and first responders of the September 11, 2001 disaster at the World Trade Center.  The group’s function is to galvanize opposition to the placement of human remains in any memorial museum at the site.  The May 2011 issue of Anthropology Today, has an update by the advisors to the group.  Within the U.S., for the last 25 years museum questions about human remains have principally focused on those of Native Americans as a result of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).  Here is a link to an updated scholarly treatment on the impacts of NAGPRA.  Cori Ogleton came across a statement from the Pitt Rivers Museum in the UK about the exhibiting of human remains.  The governing policy of the Museum on the treatment and repatriation of human remains is also available.  A primary difference between the U.S. and U.K. policies is the formal legislation in the U.S. compared to less structured guidelines in the U.K.  As well, the role of the relative or descendent voices of the human remains held in the U.K. seems considerably less in the U.S.  The treatment and repatriation of human remains is a critical issue in public outreach in both archaeology and museums today.  In the U.S., our institutions are now directly accountable to the citizens whose collections they curate.
  • Treatment and Repatriation of Cultural Materials – The Elgin Marbles have long been a touchstone for discussing the repatriation of cultural materials.  That horizon has broadened considerably   Katie Maish found a formal discussion between Malcolm Bell III who notes the loss of context when art is taken from its original setting and James Cuno who promotes the cause of the Universalist Museum approach.  Noteworthy is that only Western Institutions signed the 2002 Declaration of Importance and Value of Universal Museums.  Alex Pearson came across an excellent blog that discusses the generalities and specific instances of looting and museums ethical responsibility.  The repatriation and exhibition of a cultural materials will continue to be a substantive issue that faces archaeologists and museums in their very ability to conduct public outreach.  Does the public’s desire to view prehistoric ceramic vessels override the objections of those descendent voices, also a part of that public, who wish for the objects to be kept from public view?  If the public’s desire to view these objects is considered paramount, why are they for the most part locked away in repositories away from public view?
  • And in General – The American Association of Museums (AAM), the International Council of Museums, the Society for American Archaeology, and most other national organizations make their code of ethics available on-line.  Megan Keener reported an interesting project from the Center for the Future of Museums of the American Association of Museums.  The project invited practitioners from a diversity of museum settings to consider the needs for amending the AAM’s current code of ethics.  The discussion notes that codes need constant updating to address the evolving and dynamic pace of world events.  Here is an example of the project’s discussion.  The Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall University also has abundant resources on the subject.

The accountability demanded of archaeologists and museum professionals by the very voices whose materials cultural they curate is rightfully on the rise and will continue to grow.  As well, as archaeologists and museum professionals are employed in nonprofit and publicly financed institutions, in an era of decreasing discretionary dollars, institutions that are unable to explain their relevancy to the public likely will not, and should not, survive.  In this capacity, ethics takes on an increased role.

How has your institution been faced with new ethical considerations?

21st Century Careers in Archaeology

So what is it that archaeologists do in the new millennium?  What are the career opportunities in archaeology today?  Check out the special issue of Society for American Archaeology’s monthly publication The Archaeological Record to find out.  This special issue contains 12 personal accounts of careers in archaeology that show how the field involves a lot more than just digging holes.  Read about archaeologists involved in work with the Federal government, community based projects, collaboration with educators in public schools, in the virtual world, and much more.

When I returned to school in 1985 as a nontraditional 30-something undergraduate I first registered for a course in physical anthropology and decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up.  The next quarter I took Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and decided ethnography would be my future.  The next quarter was linguistics and I once again pondered a different career direction.  Then I took Introduction to Archaeology and realized that this subfield of Anthropology allowed me to merge all of my research interests.  I was thoroughly caught up in the interdisciplinary work of Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus in Early Mesoamerican Village, The Cloud People and more.  Then, I distinctly recollect that after my first field experience in 1986, I was newly committed to excavation and artifact analysis.

Fast forward some 25 years and I have not dug a whole lot more than a few shovel test probes in the last couple of years but the same excitement for archaeology I had in the 1980s continues in my work as the director of C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa and when teaching in the Museum Studies program and the Anthropology Department at the University of Memphis.  My career has certainly not taken me where I thought it would back then.  But I realize the end result is much more meaningful.

As reflected in the 12 personal stories in the special issue of The Archaeological Record, I also have found that the new career opportunities in archaeology speak to the discipline’s relevance in today’s culture not simply as a source of curiosity and speculation but as a means for engaging the public in a discussion of our culture’s future.

How has your archaeological career evolved over the years?

Volunteers & Public Archaeology

A couple of things this week –

First, at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, Graduate Assistants and interns from the University of Memphis carry out key components of our operation.  Natalye Tate was a GA at the museum for the past two years.  She graduated with her MA in May and now heads off to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she was awarded a University Fellowship to study in the Anthropology PhD program.  Natalye coordinated our Volunteer Day Saturdays for the past two years at Chucalissa.  Here is a brief video interview where Natalye talks about her perspective on the role of volunteers at the C.H. Nash Museum.  She provides an exciting perspective on the engagement and empowerment of museum volunteers.

Second, the Public Archaeology Interest Group (PAIG) of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is organizing a symposium for the SAA’s Annual Meeting to be held in Memphis, Tennessee, April 18-22 2012.  Below is the call for papers for the PAIG session:

Society for American Archaeology
Public Archaeology Interest Group

Call for Papers

It has become increasingly common in recent years for public archaeology to no longer be viewed as synonymous with cultural resource management and/or public education, but instead as the process whereby archaeology enters the public discourse, where negotiation of meaning is inevitable.  Under this definition, public archaeology not only encompasses archaeological products, such as educational programs, museum exhibitions, and non-academic publications, but also the process by which interpretations are created for and then presented in these products.  Archaeologists are not viewed as conducting research on behalf of the public, but rather as facilitators and mediators in the process whereby stakeholders and other interest groups negotiate the meaning of the past.  The Public Archaeology Interest Group (PAIG) of the Society for American Archaeology is calling for papers for a symposium on Public Archaeology that it will sponsor at the 2012 Annual Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.  The goal of the symposium is to educate professional archaeologists about the benefits and challenges of public archaeology by presenting examples of archaeological programs or projects in which the public has been successfully engaged.  Those interested in participating in the symposium should e-mail a 100 word abstract to Greg Lockard, Chair of the PAIG, at gdlockard@yahoo.com.

Gaming & Museums

In early 2009, the Center for the Future of Museums hosted a webcast lecture by Jane McGonigal on Gaming and the Future of Museums.  The gist of the presentation was that given the amount of time folks, particularly the youth, invest in playing online games, how could museums tap into this trend to further their mission?

A load of archaeological sites host games of varying quality.  The Society for American Archaeology’s  Fun for all Ages lists some game pages.  Mr. Donn provides a whole suite of archaeological online games from the very simple to the reasonably complex  At Colonial Williamsburg the Dirt Detective is a very simple and straightforward educational attempt.

Perhaps more along the line that McGonigal advocates are several other games:

Wolf Quest is available in both Mac and PC formats and provides an action game environment with education on wolf ecology.  Players track scents, mate, and pretty much do just about everything a wolf does during its life cycle.  Although I am not an expert on wolf biology, the game appears authentic and does not rely on glitz to keep the player engaged.  I cannot imagine playing at this game for a bit and not coming away considerably more knowledgable about wolves – and it’s a free download.

The McCord Museum in Montreal provides historic era gaming options to online visitors.  McCord uses an increasingly popular option for museums in online gaming that allows the visitor to “tag” items on display to develop more reliable and robust keyword searches.  The McCord Museum games also include role-playing, observation, and quiz type games.  Overall, the McCord Museum offerings are quite engaging and provide a considerable information on the historic era Montreal and interacts with their broader on-line presence.  For example, the quiz game includes an image of an Iroquois headdress, ultimately connecting to the digital collections catalogue containing 40 odd other headdresses curated by the Museum.  Less complex than Wolf Quest, McCord-type offerings can be created through basic Dreamweaver programming skills.

Perhaps the most low-tech but ultimately the most community engaging gaming is the recently launched Interrobang a joint project of Nuvana, Microsoft, and the Smithsonian.  Interrobang is geared toward K-12 grades who choose real-time missions from those listed on the Interrobang site.  In collaboration with other team members, players develop a plan to achieve the mission.  The team then performs the mission, uploads documentation to the website and describes the experience.  Missions are regularly added to the Interrobang website and include Trash Reincarnated where players visit a recycling center and gather information on the recycle process from curbside bin to ultimate reuse.  In State of Song players create, perform, and video document songs to teach the names, capitals, and features of U.S. states.  Teams receive points for each completed mission along with badges and listing of team scores on the web page.  Interrobang gaming is aimed at problem solving.  The on-line presence is quite low-tech and manageable with a minimum of digital experience.  It’s not clear how successful Interrobang has been during its brief lifespan, however, the content seems completely in-line with McGonigal’s approach to on-line gaming and museums.

What is your experience with on-line gaming, archaeology, and museums?

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