Where in the hell am I?

April 10, 2011

My SAA 2011 wrap-up

The annual Society for American Archaeology meetings took place this year in Sacramento, California. Colleen Morgan asked me to be a presenter on her symposium “Blogging Archaeology“, and I happily accepted. I had not presented at a conference since my senior year of undergrad (the 1993 National Conference on Undergraduate Research), so I was nervous and excited. I had attended one previous SAA meeting, in Austin, but my time there was spent mainly networking (aka drinking beer with friends and colleagues) and seeing papers by friends and co-workers.

Actually, my experience this year outside of my own symposium wasn’t all that different, in that I only saw a few papers and posters and spent a lot of time catching up with friends and meeting new people. Speaking of, I did a horrible job handing out and collecting business cards, and Saturday night I was well into my cups, so I would be happy if all those wonderful people I met and talked to would drop me a line at (idigholes at gmail dot com) or my work address on my card!!

The few papers I did see were mostly about public archaeology, since that’s where my interests are skewing. But first, I saw a couple of papers on Maya Water and Land Management, which brought about thesis flashbacks. It was nice to see one of my graduate school colleagues continuing with her research in her new role as a university professor (hell, it’s just nice to see that one of my grad school colleagues was actually able to get a full-time academic job!).

The first two public archaeology papers were part of the general session titled “Archaeological Education and Public Outreach in the Americas”. The first paper, by Rebecca Schwendler, was “Using Backyard Archaeology to Foster Cultural Resource Presevation”. This was about her excavation of a historic privy in her backyard in Lafayette, Colorado, and the outreach she conducted as a part of this personal project. Interestingly, although she wrote a series of blog posts about replacing her windows on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s webpage, there was no mention of blogging or any sort of internet-related outreach as part of the backyard project.

This was to be a theme for the public outreach papers I saw. Kristin Swanton’s “Public Archaeology and Landowner Support at the Battle of Mystic Fort” was interesting in breaking down the most effective forms of landowner communication while attempting to conduct an academic/public archaeology project. This is partly because I always figured that landowner issues were restricted to the road and utility projects that CRM firms are involved with. Again, no mention of using social media or blogging as a part of the outreach.

I managed to drag myself out of bed Saturday morning (after an afternoon and night of carousing with a bunch of the Berkeley grad students, among others) with a goal of catching Randy McGuire’s presentation on “Working Class Archaeology” and then eating a giant pancake (aka The Hubcap) at Jim Denny’s.  McGuire’s paper was thought-provoking, for sure, particularly in the definition of class as not just pertaining to income level. His discussion of outreach involving the United Mine Workers during his work on the Ludlow Massacre site during the Colorado Coal Field wars was very cool, and also contained some real food for thought. Again, however, no mention of the Internet whatsoever, even though there is a webpage for the project (another “virtual museum”) and a paper/presentation posted online as well. I also saw Jay Stottman’s “A Slow and Moving Target: The Reality of a Practice of an Activist Archaeology” but honestly I was still waking up and don’t remember much of it. I wish I had been able to see this full session…and have no one to blame but myself.

As for the Blogging Archaeology panel, other people, including Colleen Morgan, Michael Smith, and Kris Hirst (our amazing discussant) have done a better job of summarizing than I could, so I will happily link to them and defer. I did also have my very brief wrap-up here, with a link to my paper. I also encourage you to check out Shawn Graham’s paper here (which you can read or watch). I will say that I was inspired by the different perspectives, the post-session comments and the later beer discussions, the live-blogging via Twitter, and all the nice personal backpats I got from people. I was very pleased that people laughed at my laugh-lines, and I feel like I held my own with an impressive array of presenters. Also, having seen what the Campus Archaeology Program at Michigan State University and the Florida Public Archaeology Program (particularly the Northeast and Southeast regions) are doing, I’m more determined than ever to drag CRM (and hopefully, my firm) into the 21st century.

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