Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Archaeology and the Community

One of the more interesting aspects being involved in the local archaeological community, is public interaction and outreach. Many archaeologists both in CRM (Cultural Resource Management) and in academia, simply do not actively involve themselves with their own local community. This is unfortunate, and I think it has more to do with perception than actual effort. Within CRM, many field archaeologists are comfortable digging holes, screening, and identifying cultural remains.

However, it has been my experience that many are not comfortable in their own knowledge to take what they find further. Many field techs have expressed that, "they are not paid the big bucks for interpretation." or "leave it for those in the lab or the PI to figure the site out." This type of attitude has left a vacuum in the community where often such information is sought. Academics as well have left many of their own communities out to dry. They may research events, individuals, and historic places only to leave the community in the dark. Local historians have often kept their files in cabinets and drawers, never to see the light of day.

So what is the answer? Knowledge brings with it responsibility. For people like myself who teeter on the edge of two worlds, academic and public, we often find that although there are outlets for knowledge, such as conferences and journals, the names and faces who attend or subscribe are often the same. The people who need the information are not subscribing to journals, or are paying for conferences. The local mayor of you home town does not receive the Society of Historic Archaeology journal or attend the Eastern States Archaeological conference. That leaves only us as an "archaeological community" to educate the local community.
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