Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kelly Britt on "Can Archaeology Save the World?"

Session 7 Can Archaeology Save the World?
M. Jay Stottman, Kentucky Archaeology Survey, Kentucky
Panel Participants:
Kevin M. Bartoy, The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson, Tennessee
Sarah E. Miller, Florida Public Archaeology Network, Flager University, Florida
Anne Garland, Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina
Kelly M. Britt, Columbia University, New York

This session organized by M. Jay Stottman was to provide a panel of archaeologists to discuss their experiences engaging with the public and begin a dialogue between archaeologists and public historians on the on the process of civic engagement and how we can all learn from one another. Public archaeology has evolved throughout time, with much of it focusing on how archaeology can benefit from the public, but how can it go further and have a public benefit from archaeology? Can archaeology be an avenue in which real change can be made within the civic sector? The answer from the participants and many audience members was ‘yes’, and as Kevin Bartoy stated, “We already do”.

The session began by examining the questions Why do we do archaeology and How important is it, really? Each participant shared various ways in which they engage with the public on a daily basis at their individual site or sites. Many excellent examples were highlighted from various historic sites and programs, such as The Hermitage, Home of President Jackson, to The Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith Historic Site in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to various archaeological projects in Florida and historical ecological projects in North Carolina. From all the discussions two main themes occurred that are needed to create an engaged archaeological endeavor: Process and collaboration. Process on two levels-1) through the process of archaeology the public can develop a critical approach to thinking-thinking about anything archaeological or otherwise. 2) the development of a public archaeology is a process within itself. With each program, project, or site having to try and re-try new ways of engagement. In addition, a true engagement with the public can really only occur if collaboration is present and present at all levels of the spectrum: from interdisciplinary approaches to research, to working with various stakeholders in a community. These themes were discussed at length from various viewpoints and the main goal of the session, a dialogue between disciplines, was achieved with great points of discussion.

Being a participant on the panel, I feel quite close to this issue. What I struggle with is not so much that archaeology and history have the power to make a difference, but more how much difference does it really make and how can I do it effectively?

Posted by Kelly Britt

1 comment:

Kevin M. Bartoy said...

Excellent question Kelly.

As you know from yesterday's session, I do think that archaeology can change the world. I think that it already does.

We need to make ourselves more aware of how we change the world. We should be more critical and reflexive to our practice.

Now, our impact is another question. Personally, I believe that even having an impact in a single person's life is changing the world. You never know how "viral" your acts may become.

Thanks for the post.