social media platforms

Spreading the Word about Archaeology in Illinois

My archaeological career began as a high school student participating in a field school at the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville, Illinois. Although my job responsibilities have changed over the years, my research interest still focuses on bioarchaeology and learning how people lived and died in the past. I have been working for almost 20 years at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey/Prairie Research Program at the University of Illinois.  Our organization has a long history with the Illinois Department of Transportation where we are responsible for conducting archaeological investigations prior to any type of road construction. During this time, I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of archaeologists who are dedicated to Illinois archaeology and site preservation.

In recent years I have become more involved in outreach and public engagement.  This is a very broad field and includes being involved with events such as ‘Archaeology Days’ at day camps, formal presentations to community groups, presenting research at professional conferences, and helping to organize events where we are able to share our knowledge with school groups and families as well as professional conferences.  In addition, we have recently made a push to disseminate information about Illinois archaeology through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and our website. Fortunately, I work with three other amazing people (Mike Lewis, Angie Patton, and Linda Alexander) and we are each able to focus on one aspect of the process (selecting images, posting in Facebook or Twitter) so that the task doesn’t become overwhelming. My days often consist of lots of emails, attending meetings, giving presentations, assisting researchers gather information, entering Facebook posts, as well as – occasionally- my own research projects in bioarchaeology.

from David Davis History Career Day Camp website

I feel strongly that one of our responsibilities as archaeologists is to give back to communities and teach them about archaeology and the importance of preserving the past- whether it is preserving the site materials or the site itself.  One area of my job that I particularly enjoy is when I can interact with children and teach them about archaeology. Earlier this week, a coworker of mine (Alli Huber) and I assisted the staff at the McClean County Museum of History for their Archaeology Day – part of their week-long History Careers Day Camp. This is a wonderful program where the campers (grades 4-6) learn about the importance of history and the different types of careers. On Archaeology Day, Alli and I met the counselors and campers at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, Illinois, where the day started with the campers learning about the history of the David Davis family and the mansion, discussing the close relationship between history and archaeology, and what we can learn from each area of study. The days’ activities included a tour of the historic Mansion with some inside activities as well as a mock dig outside where fragmentary historic material similar to the time period the Davis Mansion was occupied were buried in sand. In addition to teaching them the basics on how archaeologists excavate using maps, trowels, measuring tapes, collecting and sorting materials, they learned how artifacts can tell us important information about who lived at a site and what their life was like. The last part of the day each of the groups sort through the material they discovered in their excavations and answered questions about what the artifacts tell us about the people who used them.  Inevitably, all the campers are excited about what they learn on this day and several tell me that they want to be an archaeologist when they grow up. When I hear those words, I feel that I have succeeded in my goal to pass on my curiosity and appreciation of the past to the next generation.

Spreading the word about archaeology in Tampa Bay: Creating an e-newsletter

As an Outreach Coordinator for the Florida Public Archaeology Network (http://www.flpublicarchaeology.org), most of my duties revolve around educating the public about Florida’s cultural resources. Today I am working on the latest installment of our e-newsletter.

For those of you not familiar with an e-newsletter, it is a newsletter that is written to be shared on electronic formats. The template is very flexible in regards to amount of content and links can be added to the document for readers to delve further into subjects if they are so inclined. This works very nicely with our other social media platforms, and the link to our e-newsletter is shared on our Facebook page.

In our e-newsletter, we have articles that share what the center has been doing, is doing, and has planned to do. Articles this quarter include a look at this fiscal year’s Annual Work Plan (started July 1st), information on teacher training programs, some results from a community archaeology project, and the launch of the ARCHAEO CART.

If you are interested in reading our e-newsletter, here’s the link http://flpublicarchaeology.org/uploads/wcrc/Newsletter%200711.pdf.

Enjoy,

Rae Harper, Outreach Coordinator for FPAN’s West Central Regional Center at USF

Meta#dayofarch Reloaded

As you may have gathered, I am one of founders of the Day of Archaeology, and one of the team behind the manic moderation on the day itself.. My Day of Archaeology started at 6.30am, when I began to read and moderate posts. I was still there at 10pm, hovering over the site like a worried mother, fretting about our baby. But what a resounding success.. we made 1000 likes on Facebook in just 18 hours, and I haven’t even seen the Google Analytics data yet – we had problems earlier with the server, as the memory was reaching capacity (or something, I’m a bit vague about that sort of thing).. so I think that means thousands of people are looking at this.. But actually getting people to use the site as well as contribute to it is very important to me. What is the use of ‘a day in the life’ if no one uses the site?

As Mike Ellis memorably said at a conference I attended in 2009 (and I paraphrase slightly) “saying that your information is avaliable online does not mean it’s useful and accessible”.. This really affected me at the time, and although I have been involved in various online projects that haven’t quite yet grasped this concept fully, I really hope that this website is both accessible, useful, and a demonstration of the future of public, community, participatory archaeology – call it what you will.

The DoA team of 7 people worked as smoothly together as if we had been sprayed with WD40. The 400+ archaeologists that contributed to the site were enthusiastic and fearless. No posts were written that were difficult to understand if you were a member of the public. As a team of 407 we done good.

The important thing is what happens next – OK, so we can do this again next year, and aim for 500 archaeologists from every continent… But the potential of this site as a source for campaigning, education, career guidance, dissertation material and so forth is immense. I want to know what you plan to use it for.. You can always find me on Twitter (@LornaRichardson), or Google+ (search for Lorna Richardson, I’m the red-head). You can even email me at the Day of Archaeology email address if 140 characters are not enough… but please get in touch.

My Day of Archaeology…

How meta am I? I think I win any meta competition. My day was not only spent moderating and uploading blogs to the Day of Archaeology site, whilst Tweeting and Facebooking about it (and sending emails and texts), holding hangouts on Google+, Tweeting about holding hangouts on Google+ and Facebooking about Tweeting about holding hangouts on Google+, but I have also kept detailed notes about my experiences of the Day of Archaeology for my PhD research. I am re-using a Netnographic approach (online ethnolography of sorts) to the days participation and discussion on the various social media platforms as far as possible. So your interactions with me and the website have been considered ethnographically (all anonymously of course). And these thoughts and notes are now stuck on virtual Post-Its on my laptop, ready to be written up into a chapter for my research that discusses the creation of an archaeological community online. I think the day clearly demonstrates the existance of an online archaeological community, willing and able to cross social media platforms. It’s not just about being found on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook – it’s about using all of these technologies to create a supportive and cooperative environment on the Internet where archaeologists can come together to network, share, support and laugh about the wonderful world of archaeology.

We done more than good.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making the first Day of Archaeology amazing. So, July 2012 anyone?