Historical Archaeology at George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Greetings from Virginia! Though the #SHA2016 Annual Meeting is some months away, we are assisting…
By Lewis Jones and Ashley Morton
Have you ever encountered workplace climate so chilly you thought you’d get frost bitten? No, we aren’t talking health and safety of field archaeology, though that’s a worthy topic of discussion… Of course, we mean workplace climate in the figurative sense. For the past three years Ashley Morton, M.A., RPA (Fort Walla Walla Museum, Archaeology Program Manager) and Lewis Jones, M.A. (Indiana University, PhD Candidate) have chaired a session at the SHA Annual Conference entitled, “Equity (Issues) for All, Historical Archaeology as a Profession in the 21st Century.” The panel is formulated with the direct intent of considering issues of equity and inclusivity within the field of archaeology and the profession of anthropology. With a specific focus on how the membership of the Society for Historical Archaeology, our professional organization, can facilitate and engage in helping its members circumnavigate the many pitfalls and obstacles; that have traditionally been a limit to participation and practice of our chosen profession. At the past three annual SHA conferences—beginning with Leicester (2013), Quebec City (2014), and most recently Seattle (2015)—panelists were invited to speak to audience issues of concern and provide some guidance to undergraduates, graduate students, PhD candidates, and early career professionals on how they may have handled circumstances within their own careers.
In the first year, the panel featured Drs. Teresita Majewski (President of SHA in 1999 and VP of Operations at Statistical Research Inc.), Jon Pragnell (President of the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology in 2013 and Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland), Alasdair Brooks (Editor of the SHA Newsletter and journal of Post-Medieval Archaeology), and Jane Webster (Senior Lecturer and Head of Archaeology at Newcastle University). Panelists participating in our second year included William A. White (University of Arizona, PhD. Candidate), Drs. Jamie C. Brandon (Associate Editor for Historical Archaeology, Archaeologist with Arkansas Archaeological Survey and faculty member with University of Arkansas) and Karri S. Barile (President at Dovetail Cultural Resource Group), and the return of Dr. Alasdair Brooks.
Featured in the YouTube recording, participants to this recent, 3rd, panel were Dr. Benjamin A. Ford (Board Member to SHA and Associate Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Kelly Bush (President of Equinox Research & Consulting), Mary Rossi (Program Director for APT-Applied Preservation Technologies) and the return of William A. White.
In these discussions, the subject of equity as it relates to class, both in the United States and abroad, focused on the reality that class may not manifest in the same way nationally versus internationally. We have considered how gender, age, race, ethnicity, socio-economics, sexism, generational practices, and sexuality are all issues that can make it harder for someone who is not traditionally seen as a practitioner of our profession and therefore can be excluded from consideration as a potential colleague. The idea for these panels originated from discussions Ashley and Lewis had together and with other colleagues concerning what they had seen and experienced in becoming professional anthropologists and historical archaeologists. For Ashley, her background primarily working in Cultural Resources Management (CRM), experienced both gender and age-based issues. A wider concern for Ashley was that conflict management was by-and-large addressed within a formal Human Resources (HR) option and desired more informal guidance to handle situations either before it reached the need of HR or that were less serious than reporting to HR. For Lewis, the concern relates to his entry in the PhD program and the lack of diversity he saw within his own department. That is not to say that it does not have diversity but that it is very targeted. Within the department and graduate program, there was only one faculty member of African descent and a few female students of African descent. He was the only African-Descendant Male and there were only two or three other male students who represented underrepresented groups.
Realizing that there may be others who were experiencing or knew someone who was experiencing similar issues we thought it might be a great idea to have a panel in which we could bring together all the different people who might be experiencing these issues, who may have already navigated through some of these issues, and therefore could provide some guidance on what they did to move forward in their careers; allowing for a frank and open discussion. With many of the issues of inclusivity that are being discussed in higher education it is appropriate that we also have ongoing discussions on how we as a profession and as professionals can work together to foster a more equitable and inclusive profession versus a profession that for most of its history being more exclusive based on class, socio-economics, gender, ethnicity and race. This panel provides one such avenue for these discussions, without pressure and also in a format that allows everyone to be comfortable while engaging in an open dialogue with those who are, and will be their colleagues and peers in the years to come.
This upcoming panel in D.C., we look to spotlight the glass ceiling we’ve encountered; talking with panelists Drs. Barbara Little (National Parks Service, Program Manager) and Alexandra Jones (Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Archaeology in the Community), Mandy Ranslow (Archaeologist with Connecticut Department of Transportation), and the return of William A. White. We hope you’ll bring questions and concerns of any topic however so please join us for a dynamic and engaging conversation!
Credits: The YouTube video was recorded by Doug Rocks-Macqueen (blog, Doug’s Archaeology).