Monday, August 1, 2011

Archaeology Day in D.C.

Susan posing with Day of Archaeology banner.
Day of Archaeology was celebrated in Washington D.C on July 30th. The sponsors of the event was a nonprofit organization called Archaeology in the Community My fiance Susan lives in the DC area, and it was pure luck that this event was happening as I was down there visiting.

Left-Andrea Harrison             Right-Alexandra Jones
I met the Chief Executive Officer of Archaeology in the Community, Alexandra Jones along with Andrea Harrison a board member for the organization. One of the chief goals of Archaeology in the Community is outreach and education in the DC area.

Some of the activities in the area were sponsored by different local and even national organizations. The Society for American Archaeology; represented by Maureen Malloy who is the head of the Education and Outreach side of the SAA. At her booth children could sift through sand and discover artifacts. 
Maureen Malloy Society for American Archaeology

Other booths were sponsored by the Maryland Department of Highways and offered a variety of artifacts for people to handle and ask questions about. 

Archaeology in the Community represents everything that is right about outreach. While like many nonprofits, funding is sparse, Archaeology in the Community brings together several interests that stakeholders have: History, Archaeology, and Visual Learning. What I have found out through community involvement in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, is that people truly are interested in their community's past. In a place like DC where history has an "in your face" presence, what is lost is the average person.  
I had the opportunity to talk to Ruth Trocolli, DC's City Archaeologist. At her booth were artifacts from the everyday lives of common people in the 19th Century. Her table garnered the most interest from people there, and perhaps generated the most discussion. Why? Because the artifacts there dealt with things you and I can relate to. An inkwell, a pencil, glass bottles, and porcelain dolls. Objects that everyday people can understand and place back into the hands of the past owners. 

Community archaeology will always be difficult. There are a vast majority of people who revel in the ability to examine and hold the past in their hands. These people enjoy the artifacts, but cannot commit themselves to the discovery end of archaeology- the digging. At Brownsville Archaeology Month we had visitors of every kind, but we were thirsting for volunteers who wanted to get dirty. I pleaded with my Facebook followers to please come down for a day and just experience what is to dig and discover. I had out of hundreds, one or two come down. A small contingent of the hundred who follow Brownsville Archaeology Month on Facebook. This will always be a problem for community outreach programs in archaeology. When I head to DC in the fall, I plan on becoming a part of this organization and help further their cause. We have to place artifacts into the stakeholder's hands.
That is the importance of community archaeology, make the distant past just a little closer. 

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