As an archaeologist working for the Northeast Region of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), I spend most of my professional days trying to engage the public with archaeology in Florida. On any given day, I’m out giving a children’s programs at a local library, speaking to to the Daughters of the American Revolution, teaching a training workshop on how best to protect historic cemeteries or helping volunteers monitor an archaeological site.
Unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere at all times! So I’m always looking for ways to broaden our impact at FPAN by getting people involved with cultural resources throughout the state in ways that doesn’t explicitly include me standing in front them.
In recent months, I’ve been working with a co-worker from our Southeast office, Mal Fenn, to explore ways we can document and take people to sites through virtual reality and film. I bought a 360 camera and hit the road to film sites throughout Northeast Florida and beyond. Here’s two sites I’ve visited recently and how creating these videos will help us with goals at each.
Shell Bluff Landing at the GTM Research Reserve is a site with a few issues. The site is actively eroded and was badly hit by a hurricane last year, losing several feet of shoreline in a day! At FPAN, we’ve developed a citizen science program called Heritage Monitoring Scouts (HMS Florida, for short) to get people out to threatened sites to monitor site changes and document anything we can before the sites continue to be lost. Creating videos on sites like Shell Bluff will help us document and share coastal changes as well as train new scouts in what to look for when assessing damages.
Kingsley Plantation at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve has the largest collection of extant slave cabins around! A few years back, FPAN and the National Park Service worked with Project Archaeology to develop a curriculum exploring archaeology at the cabins (download it here for free). We been trying to make the curriculum even more hands on and engaging, including creating 3D models of the artifacts and features from the site. Creating 360 videos will allow students to explore the site from the comfort of the classroom.
So I’ll be spending my Day of Archaeology working on editing more 360 videos. I hope to create more short videos and eventually even guided tours of sites that allow viewers to explore the locations from where ever they happen to be.
If you’re interested in playing around with some of this technology, but don’t have access to a 360 camera, I’d suggest a FREE app called Cardboard Camera (available on Android or iToys). The app uses your smart phone’s camera to create a stereoscopic panorama that works with any VR headset. Shout out to Mal for turning me onto it.
-Emily Jane Murray, Public Archaeology Coordinator at the Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast Region located at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.