Student Activities in Baltimore

Every year the Student Subcommittee of the Academic and Professional Training Committee (APTC) organizes events at the annual conference specifically for student members. They are listed in the regular program. In order to make these events more visible, however, we’ve decided to highlight some of this year’s student-centered opportunities. It seems Saturday, January 7th is a big day for student activities at this year’s conference.

The Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology and the APTC combine for the annual student forum. This year, terrestrial and underwater archaeologists address issues of dealing with the media in a panel format. The discussion will be focused on student concerns and driven by their questions but all are welcome.

For a second year, the student subcommittee (SCC) has organized a different type of panel.  In informal roundtable settings, recent graduates and young professionals with both maritime and terrestrial research interests host small group discussions driven by student members. The Rap Session offers an opportunity to ask questions about topics ranging from job-hunting, to conference participation. Graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to attend.

Finally, participation in the Society for Historical Archaeology is not just for senior members. Opportunities for students abound. All students are welcome to attend the SCC committee meeting. It is our opportunity to lend students voices to the SHA. Find out what the committee does and how you can get involved.  This year the SSC needs a social media liaison, writers for the SHA newsletter and organizers for future forums as well as other talents.  It may seem early (ok it is early) but you will meet other students; network with other SHA members and build your CV.

Saturday, January 7th, 2011

Check the final program for times and locations.

7:45-8:45

Student Subcommittee of Academic and Professional Training Committee Meeting

Morning Proceedings

Brining the Past to Life: Archaeology and the Popular Media

Chair: Whitney Anderson and Moderator: Katherine Burnett

Afternoon Proceedings

Rap Session for Student Members

Chair: Jenna Coplin


Public Education and Interpretation at 2012 Conference

With the annual conference just a few short weeks away it’s time for me to grab a highlighter and mark up the preliminary program.  Without a strategy in place too many opportunities are lost and I find out later all the papers, posters, and panels I should not have missed.  I put together a Top 10 list for public archaeology recommendations at SHA 2012.

Pre-Conference Workshop 2011 Activity

1.  Pre-Conference Workshop   Can They Dig It? Proexcavation Techniques for Archaeologists Working with Local Communities.  Facilitators Jay Stottman and myself (Sarah Miller) are putting the final details together on exercises and activities to spark deliberation over excavating with the public.  Participants will design their own proexcavation program and report on the before, during and after activities as we highlight tips and tools along the way.  Really looking forward to it! (Wednesday, January 4)

 2.  Historic Londontown and Annapolis Tour: The tours look so great this year, but if I had to chose one as a public archaeologist, I’d pick the Historic Londontown and Archaeology of Annapolis tour.  For years I had a calendar from the Anne Arundel County’s Lost Towns Project…pick one up for me if you go on this tour, such wonderful interpretive tools they used in showing how you can derive house structure from the postholes and features unearthed by archaeologists (and the public!).  The second stop on the same tour brings you to the front door of the Archaeology in Annapolis Program lead by the one and only Dr. Mark Leone.  (Wednesday, January 4)

 3. PUBLIC DAY!!   This year’s theme “Gallantly Streaming” will feature activity tables and exhibits from over 15 local and regional archeology programs.  The event is free and open from 11:00am-2:00pm at Fort McHenry.  Check out posters, interactive activities, and interpreters. Topics will include the struggles and triumphs of Maryland’s African American communities, Native Americans, colonial history, Civil War archaeology, historic shipwrecks, and plantations told through posters, interactive activities, and interpreters. (Saturday, January 7)

4. Solving Problems in the Public Interpretation of Maritime Cultural Heritage Symposium: I had a chance to talk to Della Scott-Ireton this week about this symposium which runs all day Thursday.  The presenters are leaders in the Maritime archaeology field and any of these papers should be well worth the public archaeologists time.  The maritimers in general have done a wonderful job integrating public archaeology into nearly everything they do, and it shows at the conference.  Proof is in this session–don’t miss!  (Thursday, January 5)

Look for PEIC Flier!

5. Public Education and Interpretation Committee Wake up, wake up!  The PEIC  meets early Friday morning from 7:45-8:45 am.  This committee welcomes new members and is eager to discuss K-12 education, displays and interpretation, social and traditional media, or just plain digging in plain sight.  Breakout session planned to brainstorm materials and topics for the Public Archaeology toolbox, blog and newsletter topics, and session ideas for 2013.  Please come, bring a friend!  (Friday, January 6, Room TBA)

6.  Roundtables:

Promo used for teacher conference.

There are two chances to join in public archaeology discussions over lunch on Saturday.  Terry Brock will facilitate discussion at his table focusing on Social Media, disseminating archaeology to diverse audiences through a variety of tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and the blogs.  Across the room pull up a chair at my Public Archaeology table where we can discuss archaeology education, particularly marketing to educators and gaining the audiences you want. (Saturday, January 7)

 

7. Toward an Archaeological Agora Revisited: Using Collaborative Approaches in Facilitating Public Participation and Creation of Archaeological Knowledge and Understanding Symposium:  I’ll admit it, last year I Googled the word agora during the session (it means meeting place, to congregate).  I loved each and every paper, particularly Pam Cressey and Douglas Appler’s paper on the City of Alexandria’s program and ways of making an unmarked African-American burial ground tangible to the public eye by placing luminaries to represent the number of known burials interred.  This year’s version is chaired by John Jameson and Harold Mytum, a definite must see with integrated terrestrial and maritime papers.  (Thursday, January 5)

Derek the Dredger Resources

8. General Outreach-Related Sessions:  Scheduled for Friday are the following two general sessions.  In the morning you’ll find me in the Maritime Heritage Management and Outreach session.  Since I learned about Derek the Dredger from Ian Oxley I make a point to see anything in which he’s taking part. In the afternoon Lessons from the Field: Public Outreach and Education session features PEIC member Laura Segna and other interesting PubArch papers.  Fresh from the PEIC meeting at 7:45 that morning there should be a good turnout.

Archaeology in Alexandria Presentation

 

9. Fifty Years of Community Archaeology on the Potomac: Lessons from Alexandria:  Alexandria is arguably the ultimate example of a community-supported city archaeology program.  I first met co-chair Doug Appler when he came to St. Augustine to do research on city permits, and of course I am in awe of the work by Pam Cressey.  Discussion is not to be missed, led by SHA outgoing President William Lees (full disclosure: also my boss!).  If you work in communities with archaeology ordinances this symposium should have a lot to offer on how to craft community involvement.  (Friday, January 6)

10. Reversing the Narrative Parts I and II:  An epic session unfolds Saturday with the who’s who of theoretical practitioners of public archaeology.  Paul Shackel and Barbara Little bookend this session, what more could you want? (Saturday, January 7)

What did I miss?  Give a plug for it below in the comments section and we’ll try and help get the word out.  Take some of my advice and have a good/bad story to tell?  Let us know what you saw and what you did in the PubArch frame of mind at SHA.

*Note: post written before program finalized.  Times and dates subject to change.  Individual papers and posters not available at the time of posting, please add below!


SHA2012 Technology Room

Do you want to use social media to increase your public outreach or your understanding of an archaeological site? Are you curious about marine geophysical methods? Would you like to learn about 3D laser scanning and whether it is the tool for you? Are you are interested in how other technological innovations are shaping archaeological investigations?  Will you be attending SHA2012?  If so, you are invited to stop by the Technology Committee’s second annual Tech Room to meet experts in the field and learn more about technological applications.

The Technology Room, located in the Bibliotech (aka the Book Room), will feature archaeologists demonstrating and discussing their experiences with a variety of technologies. A series of brief presentations, listed below, are scheduled throughout the conference. The speakers will also be on-hand for the entire three-hour morning or afternoon slot in which their presentation is scheduled to give demonstrations, answer questions and talk more informally about their work.  You will also be to learn more about the SHA’s new social media initiatives, and we’ll even have table set up so that you can get connected on the spot to the new Facebook page and stay in touch year-round.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Tech Room Demos and Talks:

Thursday January 5, 2012 – 9:00‐12:00 Presentations

  • 9:30 – Conservation in the MAC Lab with Nicole Doub, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory
  • 10:00 – GIS at Jamestowne with David Givens, Historic Jamestowne
  • 10:30 – Naval History and Heritage Command Technologies with NHHC marine archaeologists
  • 11:00 – Social Media & the SHA with Terry Brock, SHA Social Media Chair, PhD Candidate Michigan State

Thursday January 5, 2012 – 1:00 – 4:00 Presentations

  • 1:30 – Conservation in the MAC Lab with Nicole Doub, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory
  • 2:00 – tDAR, the Digital Archaeological Record with Adam Brin & Frank McManamon, Digital Antiquity
  • 2:30 – Integrating Data Sets: Results from the St. Augustine Seawall Phase I Archaeological Survey with JB Pelletier, URS
  • 3:00 – Social Media & the SHA with Terry Brock, SHA Social Media Chair, PhD Candidate Michigan State

Friday January 6, 2012 – 9:00 ‐12:00 Presentations

  • 9:30 – 3D Laser Scanning with Bernard Means, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virtual Curation Unit
  • 10:00 – Integrating Data Sets: Results from the St. Augustine Seawall Phase I Archaeological Survey with Bradley Kruegger, URS
  • 10:30 – New Media’s Role in Historical Archaeology and Social Justice with Ed Gonzalez‐Tennant, Monmouth University
  • 11:00 – Trends in Emerging Media That Will Impact How Audiences Connect to Heritage with Jeffery Guin, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Friday January 6, 2012 – 1:00 – 4:00 Presentations

  • 1:30 – tDAR, the Digital Archaeological Record with Adam Brin & Frank Mc Manamon, Digital Antiquity
  • 2:00 – 3D Laser Scanning with Bernard Means, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virtual Curation Unit
  • 2:30 – Naval History and Heritage Command Technologies with NHHC marine archaeologists
  • 3:00 – The Value of A Good (Digital) Pen with Timothy Goddard, SHA Technology Committee, Michigan Technological University
  • 3:30 – Trends in Emerging Media That Will Impact How Audiences Connect to Heritage with Jeffery Guin, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Saturday January 7, 2012 – 9:00 ‐ 12:00 Presentations

  • 9:30 – Emerging Conservation Technologies with Emily Williams, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Lisa Young
  • 10:00 – Social Media in a Colonial Context with Lisa Fischer and Meredith Poole, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, CAA, and SHA Technology Committee
  • 10:30 – Naval History and Heritage Command Technologies with NHHC marine archaeologists
  • 11:00 – Social Media & the SHA with Terry Brock, SHA Social Media Chair, PhD Candidate Michigan State

The Archaeologies of Poverty: New Historical Archaeology Volume 45, Number 3

Historical Archaeology 45(3) presents a thematic look at the archaeology and institutions of poverty developed by Guest Editors Chris Matthews and Suzanne Spencer-Wood. The papers in this collected volume look at the social factors behind poverty, its archaeological legacies and analyses, the institutions associated with the impoverished, and the role that historical archaeology can play in giving face and voice to the impoverished and disenfranchised. This is an important work at a critical time in world history, when daily events remind us all of both wealth imbalance and the effects of poverty. We hope this thematic issue will occupy your thoughts. As a special preview of this issue, we have made the introduction to the journal, entitled “Impoverishment, Criminalization, and the Culture of Poverty” and written by Suzanne Spencer-Wood and Chris Matthews, available as a free download.


Considering Public Archaeology in the Long Run: Capacity Building, Sustainability, and (sometimes) Closing Things Down

The last decade has seen a huge growth in writing about public archaeology – of all sorts. Happily, much of the recent writing has moved beyond the very descriptive, somewhat celebratory accounts which appeared throughout the 1990’s. These earlier accounts were a useful way of sharing strategies, ideas, and encouragement as archaeologists began to better understand the intersections between archaeological agendas and diverse “public” ones. Over time, and concurrent with recent efforts to decolonize archaeological practice, the “prime mover” for public archaeology work has moved well past “just” promoting stewardship, into arenas which are more self-critical, reflexive, and analytical. This is to be expected as any specialty matures and is a positive development.

One area that remains less explored, however, is how all of this laudable and sometimes even “activist” public archaeology work plays out in the long run. Traditionally, archaeologists (and arguably, all anthropologists) have tended to think of our work in terms of this or that “project”. The assumption, implicit or otherwise, is that our projects are likely to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We start our work (either on our own or at the behest of a community), we find ways to pay for it (or we do it for free), we work to create community alliances, interest, and networks…and then what? What do we do when the excavations end? Or, what do we do when we have a new project that beckons?

Obviously the answer to this varies, but the point is that public archaeologists cannot, usually, simply write their reports, pack up their trowels and move on to the next project. Doing this is difficult in part because of the personal relationships that we develop in order to do the work. It is especially difficult if part of our work has been to develop processes for moving the work forward – especially development and administrative processes, such as fundraising, program development, minute-taking, meeting-arranging, and the like. That is, we sometimes call “administrivia” is not trivial at all. I suspect that many successful, engaged, and productive community / collaborative / participatory projects begin a downward path the first time that someone important fails to be invited to a meeting, thanked for a donation, or otherwise taken care of administratively. Or, even more important, when funding cannot be obtained to keep the post-excavation work going – the outreach, the oral history interviews, the kids’ programs, the museum displays, etc. Often these things are done, during a project’s heyday, by the public archaeology person who is trying to generate interest, get local input and publicity – and, to meet their own agendas, gather data. Local community groups usually have few resources to fund this work as paid work, and if/when the archaeologist leaves, it is all too easy for the work itself to falter.

It is true, of course, that these concerns are often more important to archaeologists than to communities themselves – as my colleague Patti Jeppson pointed to me when she read this draft (she allowed me to share it here to help generate blog discussion). Jeppson noted that in her experience public archaeology is part of a “community’s historical trajectory (with archaeology dipping in and out rather then ending)”. I agree, and would just say that, like everything else, each context and situation are different. In my experience, the public archaeologist often takes on the “Initiator” role (described in the literature about “participatory action research” – see Stoecker 1997). When acting as “Initiators”, the archaeologist comes up with a research or project idea and invites the community to participate – and keeps the process going, as described above. Other potential roles would be the “Consultant”, in which the community commissions the research and the academic is accountable to it, and the “Collaborator”, which would be the ideal. In this last scenario the community would be driving the research, including partnering to formulate research questions, analyze results – and keeping the process moving. Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh and T. J. Ferguson described something similar in their discussion of a “collaborative continuum” (Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Ferguson 2008). The idea is that all collaborative projects fall at one point or another on this sort of continuum, and their location on it can shift over time, or as different players become involved.

The dilemma I am concerned with here reflects my current experience with two different projects, in which local community groups, consciously positioned as “in charge”, still rely on me to keep the sort of processes I described above going. This has happened to varying degrees in each – there are some key community people who do continue to function as full partners in the work, and to drive much of it. The reality is, however, that during periods of time where I am less active, forward movement tends to slow, or sometimes stop. Because we are partners, we have had conversations about this, and together are asking the following sorts of questions:

• Do some public/collaborative efforts simply have a life cycle?
• To what extent should “capacity building” be a part of what public archaeologists do – for some sorts of projects?
• How do we (or should we?) devise ethical exit strategies from projects which have reached either a natural or unnatural end, or in which our work is no longer effective, or even just when we reach a point of wanting (or perhaps, needing, for our own professional or personal well being) to move on?
• How do issues about “sustainability” play into the decisions that we and the local communities we work with make?
• How can projects sustain themselves in the face of contemporary financial challenges and the evolving interests and skillsets of individual professional and local collaborators?

I do not have the answers to these questions, and welcome further ideas and potential solutions.

References:
Colwell-Chanthaphonh, C. and T. J. Ferguson
2008 Introduction: The Collaborative Continuum. In Collaboration in Archaeological Practice: Engaging Descendant Communities, edited by C. Colwell-Chanthaphonh and T. J. Ferguson, pp. 1-32. Altamira Press, Lanham, Maryland.

Stoecker, R.
1997 Are Academics Irrelevant? Roles for Scholars in Participatory Research. Paper presented at the 1997 meetings of the American Sociological Society. A revised version was published in the American Behavioral Scientist, Vol . 42, No. 5, 1999., page 840-854. The Conference version is available online at http://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers98/pr.htm


ETHICS COMMITTEE RISES FROM THE ASHES!

The SHA Ethics Committee has been reconstituted! After a long hiatus during which the Society worked with the RPA in formulating and maintaining a common Code of Ethics, the current Board has responded to members’ requests to reconstitute its own Ethics Committee and to have its mission at the center of the Society’s activities. The Chair will be President-Elect Charles Ewen, and the committee is being formed from members representative of the field’s core concerns.

The SHA Ethics Committee is expected to take a couple of new directions.
First, the connections between the SHA and its sister organizations such as SAA and ACRA have resulted in dual or multiple memberships being common among our historical archaeologist colleagues. As such we might expect that awareness of the various ethical codes within the discipline to be the norm. Yet at present the codes vary within the discipline according to the perceived mission of the organization. Our own code urgently needs revision and re-alignment with current thinking. As we move forward on this front, we will be talking to other Ethics Committees and sharing perspectives. The possibility that an archaeologist will need to demonstrate knowledge of and allegiance to several codes at any one time is increasingly of concern, and to the extent that we share common ground, this needs to be reflected in our common orientation.

Second, some areas of practice within historical archaeology are currently the focus of attention, both negative and positive – these include the need for better outreach and education, conscientious practice in fieldwork, archaeological practice at the margins of professionalism, and issues of collections management and stewardship. The Ethics committee will be addressing these issues proactively, not just through position statements: each member of the new committee is tasked with developing one of these “Core Issues” and proposing pragmatic exercises and tools for the membership to adopt. SHA leadership is particularly keen to see the Ethics Committee take a lead role across the discipline in creating an environment, not of “best practice” but of “informed practice”, by providing methods and tools for promoting a community of informed individuals. The committee wants to move beyond description and prescription, to working more closely with the real issues in our profession.

The first meeting of the Ethics Committee is scheduled during the conference in January – we’ll be reporting back to you and introducing ourselves more formally at that stage!


The Gender and Minority Affairs Committee

It’s hard to believe that only a year ago the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee (GMAC) reconvened in Austin. Much came out of that collaboration, fueled by the active participation of SHA members in the committee organized forum, “Where do we go from here? GMAC at the crossroads.” Panelists and attendees raised key issues and discussion focused priorities for the committee going forward. One question consistently raised was: how do we create diversity within our organizations? Since Austin, a number of initiatives were started to work towards this effort. The new GMAC Student Travel Award is one such effort. This award facilitates student efforts to build and maintain networks as well as participate professionally in annual conferences. The committee also felt that, in the same vein, mentors for underrepresented students would support organizational diversity.

This is why the GMAC, in collaboration with the Academic and Professional Training Committee, is developing a mentoring program and seeks to connect students with SHA members who share research and other interests. Mentoring serves to build relationships over both long and short term as well as foster career growth. It is through these types of engagements that underrepresented students can obtain advice about critical skills and confront problems or issues specific to their experience. To learn more and share ideas about mentoring, attend the GMAC sponsored forum, “Mentorship in Historical Archaeology” on Thursday, January 5 at 1 PM.

The only way we can create a more equitable and diverse SHA is to get involved. Join us for the Gender and Minority Affairs Committee meeting on Thursday, January 5 at 7:45 AM or join the Student-Subcommittee of GMAC on Friday, January 6 at 7:45 AM.


2012 Ed and Judy Jelks Travel Award

Judy and Ed Jelks with a group of former students, taken at the 2004 SHA meeting in St. Louis, where the travel award was first announced. Judy is in the wheelchair, with Ed standing behind her. Mike Wiant, kneeling on Judy’s left, led the effort to create the award.

The SHA has long included a significant number of student members at the outset of their careers, but attending conferences is logistically and financially challenging, so students and advisers have developed many different strategies to make conference attendance feasible.  Eager to attend the conference but compelled to save some money, many of us have stories of piling into our cars for a long drive to the conference; lots of students have been part of groups crammed into a single hotel room; and many groups migrate from the hotel restaurant to eat local fast food.  Edward and Judy Jelks spent their careers supporting scores of students on such journeys, encouraging them to attend and participate in the conference during Ed Jelks’ 1968-1983 tenure at Illinois State University, which followed a position at Southern Methodist University in 1965-1968.  Edward Jelks was John Cotter’s assistant in excavations at Jamestown, Virginia in 1954-1956 and one of the founders of the SHA, serving as the Society’s second President in 1968 and eventually receiving the JC Harrington Award in 1988.  For more than 30 years, beginning in the early 1950s, his wife Judy accompanied Jelks on numerous digs, helping plan field logistics, conducting various fieldwork tasks, reviewing manuscripts, and serving as, in her husband’s words, “a surrogate mother for scores of students over the years.”

The Ed and Judy Jelks Student Travel Award was established in 2004, when some of the Jelks’ former students, looking for a way to recognize the roles Ed and Judy had played in their education and professional development, approached the SHA with initial funds they had raised from former students and colleagues, and proposed that this be used as seed money to establish the award.  Every year beginning in 2005 two students have been awarded $500 each to attend the SHA annual meeting.  A list of the past recipients is included at this end of this posting.

This year we received 50 applications for the Jelks Travel Award, so the program is exceptionally popular and competitive.  Many universities have decreased their student travel support or simply eliminated it entirely, and other student funding like teaching assistantships has dried up, so the scant material support for student scholarship certainly encouraged student members to apply.  With Board Member Mark Warner I read 50 student paper abstracts and letters on their scholarship that included research representing nearly every corner of historical archaeology.  This was exciting but also difficult, because virtually all applicants thoughtfully outlined research projects that will make an important contribution to archaeological scholarship.

We selected Master’s student Corey McQuinn (University of Albany) for his paper “A Continuity of Heritage: Outreach, Education, and Archaeology at the Steven and Harriet Myers House, Albany, New York.”  Corey’s SHA paper will examine his work in Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood, where he is part of a project examining an Underground Railroad site in a mid-nineteenth-century African-American community.  McQuinn’s work focuses on a broad 170-year history of the site’s built environment, examining how Underground Railroad histories are wielded in archaeological analysis and public heritage discourses.

The second award winner was PhD candidate Adrian Myers (Stanford) for his paper “Dominant Narratives, Popular Assumptions, and Radical Reversals in the Archaeology of German Prisoners of War in a Canadian National Park.”  Myers’ research examines the Whitewater Prisoner of War Camp in Manitoba, Canada, where 450 German Afrika Korps soldiers were imprisoned during the Second World War. His SHA paper examines dominant narratives on the materiality of national parks, Nazi prisoner camps, and the complicated heritage in such contexts.

The awards will be presented at the Business Meeting at the conference in Baltimore.   In 2012 the Society is committed to further develop such scholarship programs that can support more student scholars’ conference attendance.  If you’re interested in contributing to that discussion or supporting such causes, do contact me.

For more on Edward Jelks’ career, see Robert Schuyler’s 2001 interview of Jelks in Historical Archaeology at http://www.jstor.org/pss/25616950 If you do not have JSTOR access, the paper is in Historical Archaeology 35(4)

See a list of previous Ed and Judy Jelks Travel Award Winners.

 


Historical Archaeology in Finland

In July 2011 I spent a month in Oulu, Finland with my colleague Timo Ylimaunu and a group of post-doctoral students who are doing historical archaeology in one of the northernmost cities on the face of the planet.  Archaeologies of the last half-millennium are relatively rare in most of northern Europe, where there is an exceptionally rich prehistoric record and a scholarly tradition that frames archaeology as a scholarship on the distant past, but the University of Oulu has focused much of its recent fieldwork on the post-1500 material record of globalization and colonization on the northern Gulf of Bothnia.  Some of the material culture inevitably is not at all like what we find in North America, but much of the material they excavate is identical to the things found on archaeology sites throughout the colonial world; likewise, their research questions are questions much like those historical archaeologists ask almost everywhere in the world.   Scattered European scholars in places like Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Czech Republic, and Austria have been conducting historical archaeology for quite a while, and Oulu is simply among a recent wave of new research from European colleagues.  Nevertheless, some of this work remains unknown to many of us in the US, because these European scholars cannot always attend conferences in North America, their scholarship was long somewhat inaccessible in print, and even with digitization some material is not in English.  Yet with a little persistence it is becoming increasingly more practical to follow the scholarship in places like Europe, Africa, and Latin America, where a rich range of archaeologies of the last half-millennium are being conducted.

I met Timo and his colleagues in Aberdeen at the Conference on Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) in 2010, where they were presenting work from the University of Oulu’s most recent project “Town, Border and Material Culture: Effects of Globalisation and Modernisation in Northern Finnish Towns Since the 15th Century.”  The Town, Border, and Material Culture project began in 2009 and examines the transition from the medieval to the early modern period in the northern Gulf of Bothnia.  Founded as a Swedish city in 1605, Oulu is one of a series of towns on the gulf, which reaches northwards nearly to the Arctic Circle and has long provided goods including fish, fur, tar, and paper.  Archaeologists throughout the world have examined what globalization looks like in local materiality, and the Oulu project does much the same thing examining how, in their words, “everyday life changed in relation to … an emerging new worldview.”  Their project examines archaeological data from sites excavated since 1973 and has included intensive documentary research on town maps and illustrations, probate inventories and fire insurance records.  The project is funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation and the Academy of Finland and has included three PhD dissertations.  Risto Nurmi’s dissertation “Development of the Urban Mind—an Object Biographical Approach,” for instance, examines urbanization in Tornio and the ways residents defined imported and local material goods in forms that often departed quite significantly from their dominant social, economic, and cultural meanings.  Nurmi’s dissertation (which is in English) examines consumption and urbanization questions familiar to most historical archaeologists, but it ultimately questions how many American models of consumer status and display actually translate to the many worldwide markets where the identical goods were being purchased, used, and discarded.  Like much of the most interesting international historical and post-medieval archaeology, Nurmi’s study and the Oulu project illuminate and complicate some of our most basic assumptions about material culture and global connections.

I have absolutely no background in Finnish culture or history, so it was a bit of a leap for me to go and think I might find some research, but I was confident that I would learn something from Timo and his colleagues.  The Oulu scholarship on consumption has indeed forced me to rethink some of my assumptions about shopping and using material things.  Like many of our international colleagues, they have an enormous amount of data and field research possibilities, and despite being under their own professional pressures—historical archaeology is a small and not always stable disciplinary niche–they have been very gracious about sharing material and helping me negotiate the place.  And every place has some hidden gems:  Oulu, for instance, is home to the Air Guitar World Championships (August 22-24, 2012 for those of you contemplating next summer’s vacation), and with the perpetual daylight in Summer (yes, it is a mixed blessing) I was able to spend a lot of time on the city’s astounding network of 550 kilometers of bike paths, which they say is the highest per capita amount of bike paths anywhere in the world.

Dr. Ylimaunu and his York University colleague James Symonds will be chairing a session on European historical archaeology at the SHA Conference in Baltimore on Thursday morning January 5th including work by Pavel Vareka (University of West Bohemia, Czech Republic), Natascha Mehler (University of Vienna), Per Cornell (University of Gothenberg, Sweden), Jonathan Finch (University of York), and Oulu archaeologists including Titta Kallio-Seppa, Annemari Tranberg, and Anna-Kaisa Salmi, so do drop by and say hello.  And if you are sufficiently curious about Oulu in particular and Scandinavian archaeology in general, think about attending Nordic TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group) in Oulu April 25-28, 2012.


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