Guest Post: The Archaeological Conservancy

When Kelley Berliner of The Archaeological Conservancy contacted us about sharing some recent developments in their organization, we thought that members of the AIA Narragansett might be interested in their ongoing efforts to acquire and protect significant archaeological sites. Kelley, who wrote the post below, is the new Field Representative for the region. If you are interested in submitting a guest post to the AIA Narragansett Blog, please contact us!

The Archaeological Conservancy continues to expand in the Northeast

2014 marks the 34th year of The Archaeological Conservancy’s efforts to permanently preserve the nation’s most significant archaeological sites. As the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to this cause, the Conservancy has now protected over 465 sites in 41 states, including some considered to be America’s most remarkable and famous. Without taking action many of these sites would have been destroyed and the information that they contain lost forever. Once sites are acquired, they are managed as permanent open-space, archaeological research preserves which are available to professional archaeologists for research; and descendant communities for passive use. Any excavations conducted must guarantee that part of the site will remain unexcavated and undisturbed in accordance with an ethic of conservation. In order to pursue diverse sites in all areas of the United States, the Conservancy operates through five regional offices. The Eastern Regional Office is located in Frederick, MD, and handles the area from North Carolina to Maine.

In its more than 10-year history in Frederick the Eastern Regional Office has doubled its holdings to over 50 sites dating from the Paleo through the 19th century. This includes sites at Lamoka Lake, NY; Thunderbird, VA; the Royal Blockhouse at Fort Edward, NY; the Pamplin Pipe Factory, VA; Ely Mound,VA; King’s Quarry, PA; and Contentnea Creek, NC.

Recently, the Eastern Office has acquired the PE Soapstone Quarry, located in central Virginia. It is the largest and most intact soapstone quarry that has been found in the state thus far. Another recent acquisition is the well-known, 16th century Cayadutta Mohawk village near Johnstown, NY. The village site is featured in archaeologist Dean Snow’s Mohawk Valley Project and it is where Snow conducted excavations in the early 1980s. In 2013, the Conservancy also acquired several other important Iroquois village sites across New York and made advances in the acquisition of several sites in Pennsylvania and Virginia. In Maryland, we have wrapped up our project with the Maryland Historic Trust to compile a database of all National Register eligible sites.

In addition to saving important sites, the Conservancy also publishes American Archaeology magazine and offers archaeological-based tours throughout the Americas. These tours are generally 1-week long bus trips that take visitors to important archaeological sites and museums in the area. The Eastern office offers tours focusing on themes of the Colonial Chesapeake, the French and Indian War, and Iroquoia, with plans to add a tour of the Archaeology of Canada. The eastern regional office’s next tour will visit sites connected to the French and Indian War in September of 2014.

The Conservancy’s eastern regional office is led by Andy Stout. Kelley Berliner is the region’s new Field Representative. They can be reached at 301-682-6359 or tac_east@verizon.net. Nationally, the Conservancy has also expanded its staff and it is launching a new website and outreach initiative for 2014. For more information on the Conservancy and to join its nearly 25,000 members, see their Facebook page or visit them on the web at http://www.americanarchaeology.org

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Guest Post: Monks for the Masses

The following guest post is written by Alexis Jackson, a graduate student at Brown University in the History of Art and Architecture department.

Monks for the Masses: Why I Decided to Crowdfund

You can find my project, “Of Monks and Men” at https://experiment.com/projects/of-monks-and-men-how-medieval-construction-brought-monasteries-and-lay-communities-together.

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The Problem of Funding

In any field, one of the major challenges of graduate school (and, I believe, academic careers more generally) is finding funding for our research. Even in the most generous Ph.D. programs, reasonable funding for the summer months is limited. The problem is exacerbated for archaeologists, who are expected to travel and participate in costly excavations during the summer, often with considerably less support from universities than during the academic year. Yes, there is competitive funding available from a variety of sources, including the much-maligned NSF as well as smaller and more specific grants.

However, the majority of grants (especially those involving larger sums of money) require applications to be ABD (i.e. to be working on a dissertation project). For those in the first few years of their programs, this creates a problematic catch-22: need money to travel and research to develop a viable project, cannot apply for money without said project. Experiment.com, the scientific crowdfunding site that is hosting my project, calls these “edge cases”: situations where traditional funding structures fall short. Crowdfunding gives researchers to do two things at once: generate reasonable funding to move their research projects forward and find new ways to communicate to the public about the value of archaeology and to interest them in “real” archaeological projects.

Public Outreach and Shared Investment

How much does the public care about archaeology? The public perception of archaeology lies somewhere between the ivory tower and Indiana Jones. Public outreach is undoubtedly important, but the tone of public interaction and the form outreach takes is under hot debate: we want to spark people’s interest in history and the experiences of historical (and pre-historic) people without waving “treasure” around, as archaeologist April Beisaw argues. On one hand, we are trying to make archaeology more approachable. There is an increasing push toward open access research, which should grant a greater number of people (researchers and the public alike) access to academic publications. There are other movements among archaeologists to improve the quality of public writing about archaeology.

There are excellent websites, pages, blogs, Tumblrs, and Twitters run by archaeologists (as well as heritage groups, museums, and professional organizations) which reach out to the public. Although most crowdfunding sites, like the popular Kickstarter.com, focus on the product (“give us money and we will give you something in return”), newer academic crowdfunding websites shift the focus onto the process of research. This shift works hand-in-hand with what researchers are trying to do with the public image of archaeology: move away from splashy headlines about mysterious treasure and the rusticating corpses of long-lost kings and move toward an interest in the genuine value of archaeological research.

It is my hope that crowdfunding my project will both help me to reach a varied “crowd” that includes and interests members of the non-academic public, and that it encourages people to invest themselves literally and figuratively in the production of new archaeological knowledge.

Alexis Jackson studies the architecture and archaeology of medieval monasteries. She received her B.A. with honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, where she studied European History, Art History, and Classical Studies. In 2011, she participated in the Saronic Harbors Archaeological Research Project, which inspired her interest in landscape archaeology. In 2013, she excavated with the University of L’Aquila at the site of Amiternum, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Alexis’ research interests include the study of how hospitals and monastic outbuildings relate to the greater (physical and social) monastic landscape in the Middle Ages. As an S4 Fellow with Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences at Brown, she is also interested in employing GIS applications for mapping social networks that include people, places, buildings, and objects as active participants.