Workshops at the 2017 SHA Annual Conference – Fort Worth, Texas | January 4-7, 2017

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Howdy folks!

I hope that you’re surviving the crazy holiday season and looking forward to the SHA’s annual conference. This year, the conference mozies on down to Fort Worth, Texas where there will certainly be a lot to talk about, to see, and to do. Over the next few weeks, I wanted to use this space to dig a little bit into the SHA Program and provide my thoughts on those items that piqued my interest. The preliminary program is available now for your own review, but here are some of the highlights that I saw in reviewing it. There are some neat topics, tours, and workshops there that get me looking forward to the meeting!

For today, I’m going to focus on some of the Workshops that struck a particular chord with me. There are several to choose from. My mentioning specific ones below should not discourage you from checking out all of them. As the preliminary agenda says, all of these will be held on Wednesday, January 4th with the exception of the GMAC Anti-Racism Training Workshops, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday, January 7th and 8th.

Being someone who has a keen interest in digital media and has dabbled (albeit ham-fistedly – I figured out how to make a somewhat convincing martini glass once!) in the world of 3D Graphics, the first workshop that jumped out at me was WKS-06: Digital Heritage for Historical Archaeology: A Practicum in 3-D Modeling. I have always wanted to find better ways to give non-archaeologists new avenues to understand an excavation and 2D drawings, though great, often come up short. I have seen 3D graphics as a great tool to make excavations and artifacts ‘come alive’ (as the saying probably way too often goes) but have not been able to figure out the software by teaching myself; the the programs are just too different, I suppose. This course, directed by Edward González-Tennant of Digital Heritage Interactive, LLC, could be just the ticket to getting someone like myself over that seemingly steep initial learning curve and into “smooth sailing” territory. Then I could start viewing, analyzing, and presenting field data in a new way!

The company that I work for conducts surveys on occasion on military training areas and ordnance is always a concern. That’s where a course like WKS-01: Ordnance Identification and Threat Assessment (Instructor: Tom Gersbeck from Oklahoma State University) comes in. In some instances on field projects, training is pretty basic prior to going out to do a survey. Having a practical, beginner’s guide to identifying ordnance in the field taught by a person there in the room with you (versus on an online video) could be fantastic! The subject ties loosely with WKS-07: Battlefield Workshop for Contractors and Grant Applicants taught by Kristen McMasters of the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, too. In this workshop, the NPS will provide some great guidance on American battlefield preservation initiatives and associated grant programs. Being honest, I wasn’t aware of the ABPP before I read this program. What a great job they are doing and I welcome them to Texas to inform others of how they can help us all out in our work on these historic sites.

The Underwater Cultural Awareness Workshop (WKS-04; taught by Amy Mitchell-Cook from the Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology) would also be very handy in helping to better understand how to explain underwater cultural resources to non-underwater archaeologists. Though I have my master’s in nautical archaeology, I could see a lot of benefit in viewing these resources from a non-practitioner’s point of view to find ways to better convey findings. It’s also always good to have a brush-up on international legislation.

Also, most of us are at least familiar with GIS; maybe not in direct practice, but we’re pretty aware of its capabilities. GIS is THE TOOL for geographic data collection and interpretation and learning to use even the basics of it can be very helpful for the experienced veteran and the new student coming up. If you’re interested, consider enrolling in Kyle Walker’s (Texas Christian University) WKS-02: Geographic Information Systems. As an added bonus, this class being held offsite at TCU’s campus there in downtown Fort Worth (travel is included). It is a beautiful campus (and that’s saying a lot coming from this University of Texas Longhorn) so I encourage you to go check it out.    

Needless to say, race and racism have been a bit of a theme of late on the national stage here in the United States. I have considered archaeology to be a profession and science in which that topic really doesn’t come up very often. That’s quite possibly the result of me simply being unaware, though. That certainly doesn’t mean that it isn’t there and it isn’t worth discussion. Shoot, the fact that there’s a Gender and Minority Affairs Committee (GMAC) suggests as much. Accordingly, I am more than a little curious about WKS-08: GMAC Introduction to Systemic Racism Workshop and WKS-09: GMAC Second-Steps Antiracist Workshop: Becoming an Antiracist Multicultural Institution, both hosted by Flordeliz T. Bugarin (Howard University), Michael S. Nassaney (Western Michigan University), and Crossroads Antiracism Organizing & Training. Split over two days, this course will provide attendees with an opportunity to speak about their own perspectives and see the viewpoints of others on this difficult topic. It will be particularly eye-opening to learn others’ findings on the racialization of our discipline.

In my 15+ years as a professional archaeologist, I haven’t worked with human remains very much until fairly recently. I don’t know if that makes me an anomaly or not, but a couple recent projects and all of a sudden WKS-05: Practical Aspects of Bioarchaeology and Human Skeletal Analysis (Chairs: Thomas Crist, Utica College, and Kimberly Morrell, AECOM) is speaking to me. In the few instances where I have worked with burials and human remains, I’m keenly aware of how much more there is for me to learn about the identification and analysis of burials and how best to effectively engage descendant groups and get the public interested in these sites. This seems like a fantastic place to start.

With the course being offered almost every year since (We’re Gonna Party Like It’s) 1999, it is clear that WKS-03: Archaeological Illustration (Instructor: Jack Scott from Jack Scott Creative) is a tried and true winner! Like the 3D course, this is one that I would bet an illustration novice could walk in saying to him/herself, “I’ll never be able to do something like that…” and then walk out saying, “Hey! Look what I learned how to do!” And if you aren’t much for traditional pen-and-ink illustration techniques, I bet you could pick up a wealth of guidance on common illustration conventions, printing concerns, and more for direct application in digital media as well. To commemorate its long run, I wonder if Mr. Scott will play “Believe” by Cher (the top song from 1999 according to Billboard) for a little concentration music. Maybe some Smashmouth? Anyway…   

There, I went and did it.  I was only going to talk about the ones that really jumped out at me and I wound up talking about all of them.  I guess that means I have a bit of a decision ahead of me, don’t I? While I mull this over, you check out the program and get yourself registered! Talk to you soon!

Presidential Election

U.S. government has a wonderful ability to reinvent itself every four years with the Presidential election. That ability can be disconcerting when the election results in a sharp change in philosophy and policy. The transition from Barack Obama to Donald Trump will be the most dramatic sea change in the history of the American presidency. For many of us, Obama was a champion who celebrated America’s intellectual vigor and diversity. Hillary Clinton was a champion of women’s rights. Trump is none of the above.

However, we do not need to look at Trump’s election with fear and trepidation; rather, we need it to serve as a catalyst to us to serve the communities that need our assistance, to serve as a voice for the disenfranchised and all of America – male and female, gay and straight, black, white, red, yellow and shades in between – and to do our work as efficiently and effectively as possible.

It is difficult to forecast what a Trump Presidency will be like; that comes with the territory of having elected a man who has never served in public office and who has no legislative record. We know he will challenge immigrants and immigration; we know the United States is a nation of immigrants and we can help tell their story. We know he will deny climate change and the Paris accord; we know that climate change has already left its record on our landscape and can remind the nation of places already lost as well as those we will be losing. We know he will emphasize the importance and place of male white Americans; we know that America was crafted by the hands and voices of women and men of many races and we can bring their voices to life. We know that he believes the U.S. should stand in isolation; and we know that the U.S. is a hub of a global world, that the global world and economy was set in motion by European exploration of the 15th century, and that it cannot be undone by one man in four years.

My colleagues in the cultural resource industry ask what a Trump Presidency and Republican Congress will mean to historic preservation. Trump speaks against environmental regulation; however, many of the initiatives he will challenge and overturn are Executive Orders from President Obama that will not affect us. He calls for streamlining environmental review; I support that call, and the CRM industry has made great strides in the past decade. This is an area where we can all apply our acumen; I have no qualms with doing our work better and faster. I do not believe that the Trump administration will challenge the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) itself; a colleague expressed her concern today that a Republican President and Congress would attack the NHPA. I informed her that that had already passed, in 2010 when Representative Pombo and the newly elected Republican Congress under second term President Bush attacked the NHPA. Their efforts were soundly defeated by the voices of many Americans – archaeologists, historians, citizens, middle Americans, city-dwellers – all of whom who understood and made it clear that our history is what defines us as a nation. I will gladly defend the territory of American history, and that is a non-partisan tract that cannot be overrun. Pombo, by the way, was not re-elected, and the Republican leadership told their Congressional members to leave the NHPA alone.

I am an eternal optimist, which is, I think, a characteristic of the American spirit. We are a nation of expansion and opportunity. So as I reviewed President-Elect Trump’s platform today, something I had not done before the election, I found myself agreeing with some of the things he calls for. I would be glad to see term limits on Congress. I fully agree that our government could and should work more efficiently. And I believe that our Veterans deserve far better treatment and service than they are being given. As a citizen of the U.S., I will be glad to work with President Trump where we agree. And I will also be glad to oppose him if needed.

All of us have an obligation that did not come with this election; it comes with the territory we occupy. We are stewards of the past; we are the caretakers of unwritten history. We have a job to do. Use your sites and projects to inform the public, remind people that their feet were not the first to tread the lands they are visiting, illustrate all of the people who made the U.S. the great nation that it is, and make certain that our elected representatives understand that our heritage is the greatest currency we have. Our history, all of our history, is what makes the United States what it is, is what makes us Americans, is what makes us great. Not Again. Then, Now, and Forever.

J.W. Joseph

New Thematic Issue of Historical Archaeology: “Historical Archaeology in the Next Decades”

Chris Matthews

With the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Society for Historical Archaeology, you can expect a lot of memory work and commemorations at the Ft. Worth conference and for the rest of 2017. The latest thematic issue of Historical Archaeology was put together with this in mind. The issue, however, is looking ahead rather than behind. To put the issue together, I asked authors to take this coming of age moment to consider where they think the field is heading in the next few decades. As you will see their responses and discussions suggest we are in store for an array of productive and interesting directions.

As the papers came together, I saw two major themes that stood out. One is ‘motion and networks’. With articles that consider frontiers, GIS, global connections, and the need to approach our subjects through more complicated frames, most authors call for an appreciation for how people in the recent past have been on the move and tied into far-reaching networks. The upshot here is that historical archaeologists will need to be more aware of how the sites, material culture, and people we study are much less stable and fixed in place than we have typically considered.

The second theme of the paper is the relationship between historical archaeology and time. Just as space will likely be seen as the paths that people move to and through, many authors predict that time will also become a more complicated and nuanced aspect of research in historical archaeology. For one, archaeologists will have to consider more the questions of modernity and being modern at the global scale. The idea of multiple, competing modernities challenges some of the linear frameworks and settings such as capitalism and colonialism that many in the field examine. Similarly, it is predicted that historical archaeology will become more articulated with the emergent field of contemporary archaeology, whose purpose, in part, is to unsettle the normative temporalities associated with archaeology.

“Historical Archaeology in Next Decades” should be arriving in your mailbox soon. A full list of the articles is copied below.

  • Historical Archaeology in the Next Decades: An Introduction, Christopher N. Matthews
  • Marks from the Past, Signs of the Future—the Dikenga of Historical Archaeology, W. Joseph
  • Recent Directions and Future Developments in Geographic Information Systems for Historical Archaeology, Edward González-Tennant
  • Fifty Years On: History’s Handmaiden? A Plea for Capital H History, Lynette Russell
  • Categories in Motion: Emerging Perspectives in the Archaeology of Postcolumbian Indigenous Communities, Kurt A. Jordan
  • Capitalism in Motion, LouAnnWurst and Stephen A. Mrozowski
  • Historical Archaeology Outlook: A Latin American Perspective, Pedro Paulo A. Funari and Lúcio Menezes Ferreira
  • Transatlantic Currents: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Global Historical Archaeology, Audrey Horning
  • Horizons beyond the Perimeter Wall: Relational Materiality, Institutional Confinement, and the Archaeology of Being Global, Eleanor Conlin Casella
  • Archaeology and the Time of Modernity, Alfredo González-Ruibal
  • Archaeologies of Present and Emergent Futures, Rodney Harrison


Image: Convict ‘love token,’ modified copper penny, obverse and reverse faces. Powerhouse Museum of Sydney (photographs by Eleanor Casella, October 2005).

SHA and Springer

by Joe Joseph & Chris Matthews

As you already know, the SHA has entered an agreement with Springer to publish Historical Archaeology. This agreement builds on our already existing partnership with Springer, who co-publish two of the society’s book series: “When the Land Meets the Sea” and “Springer Briefs in Underwater Archaeology.” We, as the SHA President and Journal Editor, are extremely excited about this new relationship, as are the other SHA Editors and Board. Springer provides us with a number of resources and technologies that will advance Historical Archaeology as a leading publication in the field, as well as greater exposure and marketing which will increase and diversify the SHA’s membership.

Our agreement with Springer provides the SHA with following advantages:

1. Expanded journal content

The print journal will now include Technical Briefs articles and Book Reviews in addition to original articles, awards essays and memorials.

2. Online submission and review system

Springer’s Editorial Manger provides an on-line system for paper submittal, review, and publication portals. This will streamline and expedite the editorial process, a benefit to the editorial staff and authors alike.

3. Global marketing

Springer is a global publisher of scientific research with offices and outreach worldwide. They are well versed in promoting their publications to diverse communities, many of whom will be new to Historical Archaeology and the SHA. Springer will specifically market Historical Archaeology through the Springer website and at all of the archaeological, anthropological and historical conferences where they exhibit. Springer also provides secure electronic subscriptions to institutions and individuals, which has the potential of further reach for the journal, especially to international universities.

4. Revenue to SHA

The agreement includes annual payments to SHA to offset editorial costs as well as loss of revenue from institutional membership dues, who will now subscribe through Springer. Journal subscriptions will also be tied to SHA membership, increasing the member base of the society. In all, the agreement shifts the costs to the SHA of the producing the journal from being a net loss to a net gain.

5. Citations

Springer will assign each article in the HA catalog a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which allow electronic documents such as our journal articles to be tracked and identified in other sources. Moreover, as a press that has an extremely high level of visibility, Springer provides greater exposure to our author’s work and enhance our journal’s place as one of the premier publications in the field.

6. “Online First” publications

Springer provides a program called “Online First” that electronically publishes articles as they are accepted and composed, speeding up the on-line publication of articles, which will no longer need to wait until the full journal issue is ready for press to be published.

7. Back Catalog Access

Springer will provide access to the full back catalog of journals for members, enhancing benefits to current and new members, while removing access to back issues for non-members, meaning that access to the journal will only be available to members as of 2017 as well as through JSTOR.

The SHA Subcommittee did an excellent job in negotiating the Springer contract, which also offers the SHA slight financial advantages over our in-house publication effort, so we feel that the SHA and its members are getting the best of all worlds, and we encourage you to join us in welcoming Springer as a partner to the SHA.

To get started you can visit the SHA page on Springer’s website: This page will be updated regularly as new content for the journal is produced, including the option to submit articles for publication, which goes “live” on Oct 31, 2016!

 Youth Archaeology Camps: More than a sandbox excavation

By Fred Sutherland

            Archaeology camps for children and young adults are a wonderful way to engage and educate the public about the practices of our discipline. Any opportunity to safely allow our youth to put the principles of archaeology into practice is one we should never pass up. The success of such a camp will depend on several key decisions made before the campers arrive.

 Setting the Camp Expectations.

            Every archaeology camp director should be aware of their audience and ask themselves what they expect every camper to learn. How old are the campers? What practices can we expect those youth to perform successfully? Every camp, whether they dig or not, should discuss the key factors of archaeology. Each camp I’ve seen has more than one youth expecting to find dinosaur bones when they arrive. Explaining key concepts such as “artifacts”, “context”, “Law of superposition” (older objects are often found below more recent ones), “some types of artifacts decay and are lost”, “excavation is destructive and cannot be undone” are vital. For example, at Historic Fort Snelling, campers learn about artifacts by opening a box with a mix of objects and sorting them into piles of “artifact”, “not artifact”, and “maybe?”. The “maybe” pile always inspires the most discussion. Context is central to understanding if some objects like a clam shell or animal bones are artifacts from human activity or are naturally deposited remains. Another important concept every camp should teach about archaeology is that it is more than digging up artifacts. Research before any excavation begins and reporting any findings afterward take as much if not more time than digging; this is especially so in historical archaeology. At Fort Snelling’s camp we study copies of historic maps, texts, and historic photographs that show how humans lived in the region for many centuries.

Real dig, simulated dig, or no dig at all?

            In order to decide what form an excavation will take, a camp manager has to know where and how any potential camp excavation can occur. Is the camp going to be on private or public property? If a real excavation is planned, where will finds be stored and interpreted? The answers to these questions will change based on the permissions and resources required. For example, a camp on public lands like the camp featured at Historic Fort Snelling, chose to have a simulated dig with historic artifacts from collections that lacked context. An important decision to be made with a simulated dig is whether or not to tell the campers the dig is artificial. A simulated dig ensures campers are likely to find artifacts, but balancing honesty and maintaining enthusiasm can be a challenge.

archy camp 1 a

            One alternative, a real excavation on private land, is also quite challenging. If a camp excavates on private land, with land-owner permission, and has a safe repository for any finds, then ensuring that the campers find something becomes the main issue. Do you compromise a known site? Do you risk not finding anything? Boredom is a key concern. Youth will become frustrated when no interesting developments happen after 10 to 20 minutes of digging. Having a several minutes of no discoveries is a “teachable-moment” about real archaeological digs, but very long stretches will lead to frustration and lack of engagement.

            How to excavate and how to record those finds matters. Teaching campers to stop and record a find before removing it may take several attempts. Having one camper be a recorder that must document each find can help monitor the other youths from taking things out too soon. What roles the campers perform will depend on their age. Ensuring that each youth takes frequent turns at every role of a dig including screening, plotting where artifacts were found, and writing paperwork about those finds prevents boredom from setting in. If a child has trouble performing the task, those running the camp should assist, but not do the entire role for them. It has always surprised me that during a dig I would hear “I don’t want to record! It is too hard!”, but later that same child would later tell us that recording was their favorite part of the camp.


            If no excavation is chosen then the camp director must decide how to meet the children’s expectations of digging in a constructive way. How will you portray excavation techniques? How will you have them document artifacts and features in a fieldwork setting? Each choice raises questions and each situation will fit a different approach more perfectly than others. The critical thing about how to dig, simulate a dig, or not to dig, is to ask the right questions and find satisfactory answers before the campers grab their trowels and buckets.

Labs: Where some camps stop.

            Archaeology campers at Historic Fort Snelling are very fortunate to access and use a real archaeology lab to clean and identify their artifacts. Even without a lab or equipment the skills of sorting and identifying types of artifacts is something essential that campers should have a chance to perform. Many students found historic buttons, ceramics, or glassware with obvious maker’s marks are exciting to identify. Putting information together about when, where, how the artifact was used, and by whom can be a very engaging exercise. Allowing the campers to do a short “show and tell” about their favorite artifact from the lab session helps to solidify the connections about why an artifact helps us understand about the people that left it behind. After the lab is cleaned-up, campers discuss what they learned from the artifacts. Who left these types of artifacts behind? Is there a place or room in a house where these objects might have come from? How long ago did the artifacts get left behind?


            One activity I have seen for the final segment of an archaeology camp is to have the children design an exhibit and select which artifacts best represent the peoples and events related to their excavation. This process takes extra time, perhaps a dedicated afternoon or extra day of camp. However, the process of selecting, creating display cards, and then presenting the findings to parents at the end of the day truly brought the entire camp to a rewarding conclusion. Regardless of the amount of time we have to conduct a camp we should ask ourselves: “How might we to conclude a camp in a way that allows the children to tell a story about the finds they studied by using the skills they acquired?”

Follow through: “That was fun, now what?”

            In every archaeology camp I have had the privilege to work in there is at least one child that is still craving more at the end. Often, this child explains to me that this is their dream career and he or she is eager for more opportunities to do archaeology. Having contact information of archaeologists willing to speak with campers afterward can be a rewarding parting gift to those campers. Better yet, if you know an archaeologist that can use some help in their lab then this can be an easy opportunity to send them eager lab assistants. The list can also include nearby schools and other archaeology programs in the area. Depending on the age of the campers it may also be useful to include a list of archaeological field schools in the area.


Image Citations:

2014    Minnesota Historical Society. Historic Fort Snelling Archaeology Camp photographic collection. St. Paul, Minnesota. Matt Cassady principal photographer.

What’s the Most Interesting Thing You Found? Thinking about How Archaeologists Communicate with the Public

by M. Jay Stottman

It is the oldest and most basic form of public archaeology, but we tend to pay little attention to how archaeologists speak to the public.   Whether it is giving a public presentation or telling someone about your dig, talking to the public is not something that we are trained for.  It is something that each archaeologist typically learns through experience and lots of trial and error.  When we do seek out training in the art of public speaking, we might take a workshop with professional interpreters.  While the techniques we learn help us more effectively communicate our message, we don’t often connect with the public.  Is it good enough to just tell people what we are doing, how we do it, and how important that it is?  Is there more than just answering the questions people ask and delivering our research and ethics messages?  We all have our spiel that we give and canned responses prepared for the inevitable questions we are asked.  Can we go beyond that and use them as opportunities to learn about our publics and as entry points to connect with them? 

            In order to connect with the public we have to do more than improve our strategies and techniques, we have to also think about our approach.  We have to move beyond just being information providers to being facilitators of conversations.  The key is to find points of entry or intersections in the information we present with the questions the public asks.   Learning what the public wants to know about and what they are interested in should help dictate what to talk about and how far the conversation can go.  Some may call them teachable moments, I call them teaching opportunities; either way, I am looking to make the people I talk to more invested in our interaction.  For example, I used a question in response to my spiel on outbuildings to learn that someone is interested in what happened to the buildings.  The conversation then can go from talking about how we know about the outbuildings to how changes in transportation changed the outbuilding landscape and how it affects change in the present.  Questions like, “what is the most important or valuable artifact you have found?” can lead to a conversation about how enslaved African Americans coped with slavery and actively created a community in the oppressive environment of slavery.  We can then inform and challenge our publics to connect such information to present day issues of social justice if we are seeking opportunities to do so. 

            We have to go beyond talking to the public and start communicating with the public in order to have a more meaningful interaction with them.  Rather than beating them over the head with our rhetoric, we should be facilitating conversations and connections with the public.  We have to think about our interactions with the public as a two-way street and seek those opportunities to share knowledge with each other.  Being a good communicator means we have to be able to listen as well as talk.  Certainly many of us have learned to do this and learned it the hard way, but communication goes beyond technique and strategies. It starts with how we conceptualize our relationship with the public.  Are we willing to give up some of our control as the expert to engage in more meaningful public interactions or should we even have to?



Lori talking with kids

Lori Stahlgren discusses ideas about an artifact with kids during a field trip at Riverside, The Farnsley-Moremen Landing.

Hot Summer Days: SHA Visits the Hill


SHA Member Sarah Miller visits Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)


On June 24 and 25, the Society for Historical Archaeology visited several members of Congress and their staffers to urge them to support reauthorization of the Historic Preservation Fund. President Joe Joseph, President-Elect Mark Warner, and member Sarah Miller made approximately 10 visits to the House and Senate. They also met with the Bureau of Land Management to discuss new planning guidance, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Park Service to discuss SHA’s development of an initiative to identify, preserve, and protect historic African-American burial grounds. These visits are critical to developing relationships and advancing SHA’s priorities in Washington.

Urban Public Archaeology, or, What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Million Visitors

By Sarah Johnson


Archaeology in a densely populated urban environment is an entirely different animal from doing some quiet shovel test pits in the woods. Throw in the element of working along a main tourist thoroughfare that attracts millions of visitors each year, and you’ve got yourself a real logistical challenge. How do we as archaeologists engage that volume of visitors while maintaining a safe, well-paced work environment? What follows are some of my thoughts on these issues, based on my experience on urban archaeology projects along Boston’s Freedom Trail, at the home of Malcolm X in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and on Burial Hill in Plymouth.

The first and most important rule of urban public archaeology, as with Boy Scouts, is to be prepared. Really think through your strategy beforehand and keep in mind that there will be challenges that you might not be used to facing.

  • Safety: If you are in a setting where visitors will be able to walk right up to your excavation units, how will you keep them (and your crew) safe? Some sort of barrier may be in order, but also keep in mind that anything that keeps people from being able to see what you’re doing will be a turn-off. In my experience, a row of traffic cones usually does the job. Also consider how you’ll protect the site at night. Sand bags filled with backdirt are a great asset to have – you can use them to hold down the plywood or whatever else you use to cover your units, and you can also use them to line the bottom of your units to deter anyone who manages to get your covering off.
  • Interpretation: If your crew is large enough, it helps to have people whose job it is to just interpret the site for visitors. This allows excavation to continue more or less unimpeded while also insuring that the public is engaged. In any crew, there will likely be a few people who really take to this role, saving those who are less outgoing from anything they find unpleasant. At the start of the project, lay out some talking points that you want the interpreters to be sure to hit and then let people find their own voice. You will find that you get the same few questions over and over again (“Have you found anything yet?” “What’s the coolest thing you’ve found so far?” “Found any gold?”), so it won’t be long before you start to hit your stride.  If possible, set up your screens in a space where the public can watch. That way, they can see the entirety of the fieldwork process at once. You can even take it one step further by setting up a public lab space. This is obviously not feasible for many projects, but it can be a really great way to highlight the scientific nature of archaeology and give visitors a sense of the true scope of our work, not just the digging. For the project I worked on in Plymouth, we set up a lab in the visitors’ center at Plimoth Plantation where members of the crew could wash and sort artifacts from the field and talk with visitors. Even just a small washing station on site can go a long way to expanding people’s ideas of what archaeology is.
  • Follow-up: How will you continue to engage your visitors after they leave the site? The turnaround on urban public digs can be very fast, as people stop by for a few minutes as part of a tour or while they’re on the way to their next planned stop. It’s important to make a connection in the few moments you have and give them a way to continue to follow your work. Signage is a big part of this, so you should create some bright, eye-catching signs to place around the site that give a brief idea of who you are and what you are doing. That way, even if the visitor doesn’t get a chance to talk with anyone, they still have an idea of what they’re looking at. Going back to Joe Bagley’s blog post earlier this month, social media is a great way to engage people beyond the site itself. Prominently display your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. links on your signs, and include any hashtags that you’ve come up with for your project. The hashtag encourages people to not only follow along but also post about their experiences at the site in a way that others can find. Make sure that you post about your progress often so that there is some encouragement to keep following.

Above all, be flexible and maintain a sense of humor. Public archaeology on this scale can be overwhelming and exhausting, but it is also incredibly rewarding. You have the opportunity to bring your work to literally millions of people, and with just a little effort and planning on your part, you can leave them with an unforgettable experience. What message do you want to tell the world about archaeology? This is your chance to share it. Good luck and have fun!

Why I care about 50 for 50 (the current SHA fundraising initiative) and why you should too.

By Linda Stone, SHA Board Liaison to the Development Committee

SHA is asking at least 50% of our regular members (students and others are welcome to join if they can) to donate at least $50 in celebration of the Society’s 50th anniversary this year. The funds raised will be divided between two programs that are not funded as part of the regular budget. These are the Diversity Initiative and the Student Endowment. 

The Diversity Initiative is an exciting new set of endeavors to be more inclusive and proactive around a myriad of issues related to diversity. The efforts will be focused on specific activities and the times we live in. The Diversity Initiative provides access to our conferences via the Harriet Tubman Student Travel Award. Additionally, the Initiative has begun an effort to ensure identification and preservation of abandoned cemetery sites, prompted by several high profile African American historic cemetery excavations in the recent past.

One other current aspect of the Diversity Initiative is the anti-racism workshops that have been offered at the last two annual conferences. The committee has successfully raised funds to cover the costs of the past workshops which have used a paid outside facilitator. But wouldn’t it be better if the SHA could fund future workshops from an endowed pool of money and not require the committee to take on the additional task of fund raising on an annual basis? I think so. One could argue that imposing that additional requirement on the committee organizing the workshops is in of itself is an exertion of power over them and one of the institutional expressions of racism that the workshops strive to open our eyes to. I attended the workshop at Washington, DC conference last January and found it had a lasting impact. In the months since, when I observe institutional racism, as we all do, I try to imagine concrete steps that could be taken to overcome it. In cases where I have the opportunity to make suggestions, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so. Now, did I need the SHA anti-racism workshop be able to do these things? Perhaps not, but I certainly feel the workshop created a level of comfort I didn’t always have with the language and dialogues that are necessary to break down racism’s barriers.

The Student Endowment Fund was created in 2007 to fund the Ed and Judy Jelks Student Travel Award, the Quebec City Award/Bourse de Québec, the Dissertation Prize, and the Student Paper Prize. To date, the Endowment has approximately $33,000. The 50 for 50 campaign will help the Endowment to maintain its viability and ensure these awards and prizes will be available in the years to come to help our next generation of archaeologists advance their careers.

I was compelled to write this blog to encourage you to think about what a difference one small $50 donation can make if half of our close to 1000 regular members contributed. It would certainly help to create a pool of money that can be used to address diversity issues, increase diversity within our Society and perpetuate our profession via the Student Endowment Fund. Our strength is in the numbers. Finally, in addition to the satisfaction you’ll have knowing that you participated in 50 for 50, SHA is creating a commemorative pin for donors that can proudly be worn at the Fort Worth conference, or anytime you want to express your participation in this important fund raising effort.

Please click here or go to to contribute.

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