Social Media

Activism, Equality, and Social Media…

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Equality and Diversity Group banner


I’m struggling to believe that Day of Archaeology has come around again. This time around I have a confession; I no longer work in Archaeology professionally. I can’t even claim a tangible link as I used to. The closest link I can claim is that I work within the museum/tourism industry – I work in tourism at a heritage site (very loosely). I was really struggling to think of what I could discuss for this year’s Day of Archaeology; certainly nothing in my day job.

Thankfully, I didn’t fully leave archaeology – I’ve “kept a toe” in the industry. In particular I’ve become involved in promoting equality in archaeology and advocating wider diversity within the profession. The CIfA’s 2012-13’s Profiling the Profession showed archaeology was a predominantly white, male orientated discipline. Just over half are male (and most of these hold the more senior positions), 99% are white, and 98% do not consider themselves to have a disability. I’ve always personally viewed archaeology as a traditionally, “left wing, accepting” discipline however recent realisations have shattered my rose-tinted spectacles. I’m committed to making a change; to improve the industry I originally worked in and still love.


Archaeology and Twitter…

One method of making a difference is communication; raising awareness that there is a problem and discussing ways we can bring about positive change. Whether you like it or loathe it, social media is seemingly here to stay, and it appears as though isn’t going away. It’s a great way of reaching thousands of people very quickly though regular updates, blogs, and specific social media events using specific hashtags (such as #dayofarch). I’m directly involved with two projects/organisations: the Every DIG Sexism project (based on the Everyday Sexism Project), which aims to highlight sexism in archaeology but also champion good practice. Secondly I’m one of the communications officers for the CIfA’s Equality and Diversity Group. We aim to continually assess barriers to equality and diversity within the profession by researching, supporting, and developing best practice strategies for challenging inequality (particularly areas relating to gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability).

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Equality and Diversity Group Logo

I don’t know if whoever is reading this has ever had the displeasure of using multiple twitter accounts simultaneously. If you haven’t, it’s really tricky.


But sometimes a twitter event arrises, you send a couple of tweets, and before you know it, it’s 7pm and you’ve spent the entire day tweeting so much you’ve lost all concept of time, and which account you’re currently using! A recent example of this was #queermuseum Day – which discussed representation of LGBT+ communities in museum collections. After a few minutes into the day, my work station looked something like this:


My computer during a Twitter campaign....

My computer during a Twitter campaign….

I’ve never been more thrilled to have multiple screens – you need it when you’re tweeting from so many accounts…!


Surely this isn’t archaeology…? 

People still scoff when you say you mainly do archaeology on social media nowadays. After all, archaeology is about the stuff you can see, stuff you touch, stuff that has been dug out of the ground. To me, archaeology is simply; the study of the human past through what is left of material remains. This can come in the form of ceramics, ditches, burials and things traditionally dug out of the ground. It can come in the form of objects that are thousands of years old, that have been newly discovered, that haven’t been touched for centuries. This can also mean things that happened a few moments ago; the sweet wrapper on the floor, the remnants and litter of a protest; the stratigraphy of graffiti on a wall, or the tweets and discussions on social media.

Anything that has been used, touched, or changed by humans, regardless of when this happened, is archaeology. The other, perhaps less abstract idea of social media is that it’s a great communication tool. It’s a great way of reaching people – the #queermuseum hashtag was one of the top trends in the UK, which involved and reached a wide ranging group of people.

So my day in archaeology? This year it was spent on twitter, talking about #QueerMuseums, trying to diversify the heritage industry. It was spent educating people on how diverse our heritage actually is. It was spent trying to improve archaeology as profession. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re on the right path….

For more information on the Equality and Diversity Group:

Visit our website:

Visit our Twitter: @CIfA_Equality

For more information on the Every DIG Sexism Project:

Visit our website:

Visit our Twitter: @everyDIGsexism

Computer (arm)chair archaeology

Would you be surprised to learn there are archaeologists who don’t step foot in the field to do their work? *raises hand* I’m one of those archaeologists. Modern technology has added a positive side to what it means to be an armchair archaeologist and I, for one, am thankful.

While my fellow grad students are packing up their trowels, screens and Total Stations, I’m double-checking my Internet connection, booting up Hootsuite and checking my “public archaeology” Google Alert. You see, nearly all of my archaeological work and research is based in the Web. Instead of working in the field and making my own archaeological discoveries, I want to communicate the amazing work other archaeologists do to non-archaeologists.

I will admit, I get jealous of my friends who do amazing things like spend their summers working with Alaska Natives to record sites impacted by climate change. However, I rest easy at night knowing that when they return, I can help folks effectively share with the world the neato frito stuff they’ve done.

A day in my life as an archaeologist includes a variety of projects and tasks. In between looking at hilarious Buzzfeed listsicles I read up on useful ways we can use social media to communicate with people. I also try to share interesting archaeological news on the Archaeology Roadshow Facebook page or help manage the Society for American Archaeology’s Public Archaeology Interest Group Facebook group.

I also spend a lot of time looking at archaeology websites and trying to systematically study and evaluate them. My goal is to develop a manageable way archaeologists can assess their own websites to make sure they the best they can be. With how easy it is for anyone to make a website or a social media account it is critical to learn how to use those tools well. That’s what I want to help with. *fist pump*

My work may not seem as exciting as those fighting off insects in South America or folks who make an intense backcountry hike to reach their sites. But hey, I may get carpal tunnel!

If you want to learn more about public archaeology, follow the #pubarch hashtag on Twitter. There are also public archaeology groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. I’d also love to talk with you about public archaeology, digital archaeology, communication strategy, and hilarious gifs – let’s chat on Twitter!

Archaeology in the margins

Some days, archaeology only creeps into the margins of one’s day or one’s plans. It might be in one’s social media “feeds” or compilations of news tidbits; it might be in “calls for proposals,” conference announcements, or correspondences with fellow archaeologists.

Today for instance, my immersion within pure archaeological bounds/boundaries was quite minimalist, not necessarily by design, but rather, because that’s how some things play out.

In one regard, that frustrates me, especially when hearing and seeing what is being done around the globe in investigation, lab work, preservation, conservation, education, etc. as it just feels as though I could and would want to do more, but it is something I accept the same too.

When I teach, it primarily is sociology, cultural anthropology, or nowadays, even biological anthropology (human evolution specifically); there just are not the archaeology courses left to teach. Even still, I keep the archaeology in the margins, mixing it in as examples relate, as questions correspond, or as it supports learning and increases engagement. I also informally educate K-12 students in informal workshops when I can, with mock dig boxes, pseudo-soil stratigraphy boxes (use paint chips as Munsell charts!) In that regard, the passion for archaeology is still there, but it is leveling out with my passions across all disciplines of anthropology, along with my work experiences as a more generalist, and as an anthropologist.

While I still read up on archaeology and keep current that way, I see myself and identify myself more as an anthropologist first rather than as an archaeologist, in part because it steers more away from “where/when was your last dig” or even, “how do you get a job in that” discourse. The archaeology identity is there, but like much of textual analysis and translation; it is more in the margins than sprawled across the daily or even the monthly calendar personally.

For that reason, although I blogged since the inception of Day of Archaeology in 2011, I think I am going to transition into reading the entries and in that way leave archaeological blogging in the margins. It has been an enjoyable time, and the more I get to know the bloggers, the more I know I will still have the means to relate and to exchange information, just like good marginalia notes do for translations and for deep textual analysis. I will forever support this international blogging cause, as I will always be an archaeologist at heart.

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.

CART – Reaching Out

Social media is becoming more and more a part of archaeology. The Colchester Archaeological Research Team (CART) writes about two blog posts a week and most of the staff members get an opportunity to write. Every other Friday, we send out a biweekly update via email, then post it to our C.A.R.T. Archaeology blog. Part of my job today was to post a jpeg of our email biweekly to the blog.

the CART Biweekly Update

the CART Biweekly Update

Public outreach is important to the Colchester Archaeological Research Team. We could not do what we do without public interest and support. We are extremely thankful for our volunteers, interns, and work study students.

We try to participate in or host events that will bring what we find into the community. Every couple of years, our friends group hosts an open house on the park. We are excited and proud of the work we do and we think the public will enjoy it as well.

Archaeology in Translation: Speaking the Language of Social Media

Social media have made some tremendous (and rapid) changes to the ways in which the people of the world communicate with one another. I was in college when Facebook launched in 2004, and had to wait around to join until a “network” was created for students at my university. Today, this ubiquitous social media channel boasts more than a billion users worldwide, from all walks of life—and for many of them, it serves as a means of not only communicating with friends, family, and co-workers, but also of discovering brands, companies, organizations, and institutions, keeping with up with their work and initiatives, and even finding out how to get involved.

Admiring an object on display at the Penn Museum.

Admiring an object on display at the Penn Museum.

I work at the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) in Philadelphia, which can be, for me, a mind-blowing experience on a fairly regular basis. Our collections are vast, representing every populated continent in the world and including close to a million objects, some of which date back thousands of years. This is the kind of place where a curious visitor could, and often does, spend a full day in exploration mode through our galleries. And with the inside perspective that my job offers, I’m able to understand and experience all sorts of goings-on here that can often either go under the radar, or over the heads, of much of the general public. Sure, our website offers plenty of great information about our collections, exhibitions, events, research, and more—but of the huge portion of the public that would be interested in the Penn Museum, not all of them are looking directly at our website.

But many of them are looking at social media and content-sharing sites. Of the most visited websites worldwide, Facebook comes in strong at #2; YouTube is on its heels at #3; Twitter isn’t far behind at #7, followed by Pinterest at #26, Instagram at #31, and plenty more social media channels beyond those. And many of the people using these sites are younger than what you might consider to be a typical museum-going audience. So it follows logically that, to be seen and engaged with by a larger number of people, especially people with whom we’ve had less success engaging in the past, we want the Penn Museum to have a presence in the places where people are already looking.

From the Penn Museum's Instagram feed, the "Ram Caught in a Thicket" from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to ca. 2650-2550 BCE.

From the Penn Museum’s Instagram feed, the “Ram Caught in a Thicket” from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to ca. 2650-2550 BCE.

So that’s what much of my job here amounts to—taking what’s going on here at the Museum (and with our curators, keepers, and researchers, wherever they may be), and translating it into the visual and textual languages which are employed by these increasingly popular networks. And as time goes on, the landscape is constantly changing to offer more new ways to present our content. For example, Twitter is a great way to update our audience about important happenings at the Museum (and for them to share that info with their friends). Instagram lets us capitalize on the seemingly endless array of stunning visual perspectives that one might encounter during a visit to our galleries. YouTube lets us share our lecture videos, making them available to the entire world instead of just the people lucky enough to live within traveling distance of the Museum. And Facebook‘s clear commenting function lets me have a little fun with trivia about objects from our collections every now and then.

I would not have known about the Day of Archaeology if I had not heard about it through social channels. But because someone took the time to present this to me in a familiar context, in a place where I was already looking, I was able to discover it and embrace it. I think this sort of adaptation, this translation, should play a major role in the future of archaeology—a field that can sometimes inherently appear “too old” to be worthy of the interest of today’s general public. By meeting new people on their own terms, through media with which they are already comfortable, we open a window of discovery that many of them might never have known existed.


Wrapping Up the Day of Archaeology 2013

The Day of Archaeology team pays tribute to all of our contributors for 2013. We’ve seen some wonderful posts and some great responses on social media and via the comments form.

The day in numbers

  1. Registered users: 1,067
  2. Number of posts: 329 published (we have 13 in draft if the authors would like to finish them?). In 2012 we had 343 and in 2011 we had 429. So in total: 1,122 are published.
  3. Number of images: 3,291 have been submitted, in 2013 1,148 images were uploaded to the site.
  4. There were over 5,500 tweets sent using the hashtag of #dayofarch
  5. Facebook: reach grew by 263.6% on the previous week. (It will no doubt follow the long tail model until next year.) Average reach for posted links was 37 and for status updates 52.
    A statistical breakdown from facebook for demographics

    A statistical breakdown from Facebook for demographics

    Use of gender-specific pronouns within the text of day of archaeology posts – by Ben Marwick

  6. Our fan base by country is weighted towards the UK, USA and Spain.
  7. People from 85 countries visited the site, with the majority from the UK, USA, Canada and Spain.
  8. The most viewed posts on the ‘Day’ were by Charles Mount (326 views) and by Amanda Clarke (233 views)

Making the day better?

There are some issues , that  we need to resolve as a collective and as a contributing mass to make this project a success on a grander scale:

  1. How do we engage (this word has been debated at length in the last two years, for example at the CASPAR events at UCL) with a wider public audience and break the silo?
  2. How do we bring in funding to pay for publicity materials such as posters, stickers and mail shots? At the moment, the only costs are for running the server (covered under PAS running costs) and registering the domain name.
  3. Do we need to recruit new team members to make this project easier to run?
  4. How do we get established, big name academics and archaeologists to participate? We haven’t managed to garner contributions from people of the standing of Hodder or Renfrew, and we don’t seem to have had anything from the big name TV archaeologists even though we’ve badgered them on social media, for instance. Why have they not joined in? What is the barrier stopping these people from participating?
  5. How do we get archaeologists from developing and even many developed countries to participate? We lack a volume of entries from say sub-Saharan Africa or Japan or China or South America. The map below shows where people have come from to view the site (blue shades getting heavier means the site was viewed in greater quantities there).
    Location   Google Analytics
  6. How do we retain people annually? Contributions have gone down from the first year of the project even though we now have over 1000 individuals registered. Why is this?
  7. How do we get people with an interest, but no professional or amateur involvement in ‘archaeology’ as a discipline but maybe as a passion to contribute?
  8. How do we reach out to media channels and get our project into their output?
  9. How do we get institutional buy-in on the scale made by Museum of London or RCHAMS?
  10. Can we make this a reproducible model for other disciplines? We built on the Day of Digital Humanities for instance.
  11. What do we need to do better? Did you hear about the project at the last minute, or did you have problems registering or contributing your post? If you don’t tell us, we can’t improve.

Research potential

Some academic work has already been done on these data that have been generated via the project website. Since the 26th, Ben Marwick of the University of Washington has done some in-depth modelling using the R programming language and previously, Shawn Graham from CarletonUniversity did some topic modelling and has blogged extensively about what he did with the website content. The content added here, provides a wonderful career insight for aspiring archaeologists world-wide and can only get more useful year-on-year.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Visualisation of author groups screenshot from work by Ben Marwick.

Now, we as a collective have to write up three years of the project as an academic article and the raw content of these posts will be posted as CSV to github shortly.

See you next year?

The Day of Archaeology team 2013: Andrew, Daniel, Jaime, Lorna, Matt, Monty and Tom.

Tinkering with the machine and linking data

This post is rather belated, I’ve had a lot of things on over the last week. Family, server hardware problems, filming a short make believe piece for a children’s video conferencing workshop, editing and publishing posts for this website and developing new things for the Portable Antiquities Scheme website that I develop and manage. The actual ‘Day’ for me was an interesting affair that started the night before working till midnight with some tinkering with the site to iron out some bugs that has pre-released over 20 posts from RCAHMS (these were fantastic) and then rescheduling them following the discovery of the problem (an incompatible plugin) and then started again at around 5am when my son woke me up:

Then a fast cycle into work at the British Museum. Little glitches were identified in some of the plugins and these were fixed, probably without anyone noticing and the workflow for getting posts seems to work  well. Throughout the day load and activity on the server was monitored, we had no real problems and Tom Goskar asked for a cache to be enabled in case we had a surge in activity.

Whilst not editing and publishing posts via the scheduling feature, I was working on my current development work, which is an extension of the LAWDI summer school programme I participated in. I’m modelling Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) data to the CIDOC-CRM mappings that the British Museum have used to allow our data to be harmonised by the ResearchSpace project. I’ve been linking PAS records to the URIs that exist in the BM system, in the Ordnance Survey data endpoint, to Geonames, to Nomisma, to the thesauri exposed via Seneschal (see this post by Michael Charno at the ADS for more insight into what they are doing there). I think I’m getting there and you can see this N3 view of one of the records linked here (it might take a while to load as this is an external service), if you see problems with what I am doing tell me as I’m tinkering in the dark, some URIs are missing their identifier off the end of the URI string as I haven’t updated the search index on that server – for example OS ones. Once I get this working properly, we’ll have over 560,000 records in RDF format, who knows what people might do with the data – serendipity is king as my good friend Vuk is wont to say.

Enjoying the outputs

Running through the posts, many caught my eye. The content was fantastic (over 300 posts), the images (over 1,100) amazing and some of the commentary coming in (not the pingbacks) was insightful. For me, some stand out posts:

There’s too many to mention, and the LAARC ones were excellent, INRAP’s contributions ace. Every entry is superb in its own right and Janet Davis summed up the event succintly:

Back Channel

As usual, we tried as a collective to maintain a healthy presence or back channel (you can read more on this idea in this pdf by Ross, Terras, Warwick and Welsh) on social media using two platforms – Facebook and Twitter. In my eyes, the Twitter platform has been more productive (even though we gained fans/likes on Facebook). It was easy to measure whether links were being clicked on as I set up a plugin that automatically tweeted the majority of posts (except for when we exceeded the rate limit for daily photos being posted – I didn’t even know this was limited) and shortened them to a url. Over 5,500 tweets (inc retweets) were sent using the #dayofarch hashtag – to put this into perspective, the British Museum #pompeiilive archive that I collected showed 18,000 tweets relating to their cinema extravaganza. These tweets were collected using Martin Hawksey’s  Tags Version 5 tool which is easy to set up and the only tricky bit is setting up the authorisation with Twitter, and then the conversation could be analysed. For example we could see how many people used the hashtag in their output (696) and who the top tweeters were and how many interactions or @ were made to them using the hashtag:

Top Tweeters Volume of tweets @’s % RT
dayofarch 619 4917
AdamCorsini 132 180 17%
lornarichardson 124 209 31%
portableant 122 164 32%
rcahms 121 170 13%
m_law 83 90 33%
tharrosinfo 81 3 81%
JaimeAlmansa 78 32 23%
TRArchaeology 75 8 67%
TinctureOfMuse 69 11 61%
VitaEmilia 67 48 10%

And then we could see what the network graph looked like (this one is with mentions clicked in the bottom right corner):

TAGSExplorer  Interactive archive of twitter conversations from a Google Spreadsheet for  dayofarch

And what the timeline looked like for posting frequency:

TAGS Searchable Twitter Archive

I’ll be doing some more analysis of the Twitter archive using the programming language R shortly.

Running the project

The ‘Day’ as a concept has definitely been fun to help co-organise with a fantastic team of people over the life time of the project; for 2011-12 iterations we comprised the collective of Lorna, Matt, Jess, Stu, Tom and Andrew and myself and then this year we changed slightly with the inclusion of Jaime (who made great efforts to branch out into multi-lingual contributions), and Monty Dobson. We lost Jess, who has just got married to Leif (congrats you two) and Stu along the way. The team has functioned really well. If you’re interested in how we’ve managed to keep this show on the road, a combination of tools have been used:

  • Basecamp
  • Google+ hangouts
  • Skype
  • Twitter
  • Gmail
  • Very infrequent vis-a-vis interactions as we’re a team divided by oceans

The site itself is quite straightforward. We run on:

  • a wordpress installation (even though if you look at the HTML code under the hood, you think spaghetti code) using the latest version (at all times!)
  • search is provided by the solr for wordpress plugin (which is pretty powerful and allows the faceted search)
  • the theme (overseen by Tom Goskar) is from WooThemes and is the Canvas version
  • we use OpenCalais for generating tag suggestions for post (by analysing what you have written in your contribution)
  • for posts submitted by email, we use the Postie plugin (this is superb, but you do need an account first before your post will be accepted.)
  • tweets, vimeo and youtube video links were easily converted just by placing the url in the text of a post (no need for embed)
  • Akismet stops spam comments coming through (there’s so much spam out there.)
  • A linked data view of the posts can be generated via the wp-linked-data plugin

If you’ve got any questions about the technical side, do email me (I’m easy to find on Google).

Reflection – my opinion (not the collective)

But, have we made a major impact? Reflecting on the ‘Day’ as a project, yes, we have made an impact in some ways. Readership has not been massive, the Google Analytics figures show interaction magnitude of 1000s rather then 10s of 1000s (5,818 visitors on the day). However, the people that have taken part have made a concious effort to participate and I hope that everyone that has participated has enjoyed it? Myself, I’ve been flamed on blogs for my contribution to running the site and my integrity questioned, and the author of those offered nothing to the site about his archaeological day or any positivity at all. You’ll know where to find them if you’re associated with archaeology and metal detecting debates.

I’m disappointed that more of my colleagues from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the British Museum haven’t contributed to this project (thank you to Julie Spencer, Jonathan Taylor,  Ian Richardson and  Peter Reavill for taking the time out of your working day to join in), seeing as both of these organisations were supporters of the project. I believe that this is a good project and hope that it continues for a few more years at least. The resource created, by you, the contributor, is amazing. An insight into the world of archaeology that isn’t available anywhere else in a searchable, discoverable format. It is even available as linked data.