In the wake of Black Lives Matter movement, started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in 2013 (Herstory 2020) and the mounting calls to reform and rethink institutions of all kinds, colleges and universities throughout the United States have responded by calling attention …
Author: Jeff Burnett
MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program is well known in our community for our public outreach events and our archaeological excavations. These activities allow our archaeologists to be visible members of our MSU community and gets us out of our laboratories so we can teach and dig! …
Figure 1: The Campus Archaeology Program’s virtual exhibit of MSU History An example of how archaeologists can share material culture with a broad public.
For this week’s blog post I wanted to give an introduction to open archaeology as it ties to public outreach and collaboration here at MSU with other organizations. Open archaeology is defined as archaeology focused on “promoting open redistribution and access to the data, processes and syntheses generated within the archaeological domain” (Beck and Neylon 2012). Basically, this philosophy of archaeology seeks to share its methods, data, and conclusions with those outside of academia or with academics who cannot or do not subscribe to major, for-profit journals. Most, if not all, of the organizations dedicated to promoting open archaeology have a formalized web presence, typically a website, an online journal, or database. There are multiple motivations for engaging with this type of public archaeology and, in this blog, I present some of these motivations behind and a few examples of open archaeology.
Before I do this however, I want to introduce something called “Creative Commons”. Creative Commons is the legal backbone of most open scholarship and open sharing initiatives. They provide free, highly adaptable copyright licenses for individuals and organizations dedicated to sharing their work openly. This is important because all organizations wish to protect what they create, especially if it’s going to be shared with a wide audience through the internet. A brief exploration of their site shows the diverse options available for content creators and distributors to dictate how their data can be used. This adaptability means that some open works are more or less “free” than others, which allows researchers an important level of control over their work. This is particularly important in archaeology, as most investigators are working with someone’s else’s heritage and cultural artifacts.
The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery is an organization whose idea of open archaeology is focused on increasing collaboration between researchers. Their goal is to “help scholars from different disciplines use archaeological evidence to advance our historical understanding of the slave-based society that evolved in the Atlantic World during the colonial and ante-bellum periods” (About DAACS). The organization focuses on connecting researchers, making their work available to all academics interested in the study of Atlantic slavery, and developing ways for researchers to make their data comparable. To this end DAACS has developed detailed cataloging manuals and provides trainings and educational events for those who intend to add their own data or use the data available. While this site is not necessarily designed for the general public, the data is open to all through their searchable database. Through their unified cataloguing protocols and the database, which allows any and all of the affiliated sites to be searched, researchers can perform qualitative analysis on artifacts from all over the Atlantic world. The benefit of this for researchers is the development of more nuanced and contextual hypotheses, which should develop better understandings of the past.
Another example of open archaeology is MSU Associate Professor Dr. Stacey Camp’s Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project and its associated Internment Archaeology website. The goal of the website is public engagement with the history and material culture of World War II internment and incarceration facilities in Idaho and beyond (Idaho County Free Press). The website is designed to allow easy access to the artifacts, with photographs and descriptions, from the Kooskia Internment Camp, publications, and outreach events. Like DAACS, Internment Archaeology has a searchable database, but it is set up somewhat differently, with an emphasis on accessibility and education. I asked Dr. Camp to elaborate on how she sees the website being used and her goals for its future use. She writes:
With the help of generous funding from the Idaho Humanities Council via the National Endowment for the Humanities, I was able to build an online database of artifacts recovered from Idaho’s Kooskia Internment Camp, which incarcerated approximately 160 men from May 1943 to May 1945. The majority of these men were of Japanese heritage. My goal in establishing this website is twofold. First, I developed it so that we could share the work we were conducting on WWII incarceration with fellow archaeologists and associated stakeholder and descendant communities. Second, I developed it to encourage other archaeologists working on sites associated with WWII incarceration to adopt the same controlled vocabularies and standardized artifact cataloging typologies so that archaeologists can compare and contrast the experiences of people incarcerated. I utilized cataloging methodologies (also known as “SHARD”) promoted by the Society for Historical Archaeology and developed by Sonoma State University. Standardized cataloging will allow us to understand how different types of prisoners (Japanese Americans, Japanese American non-citizens, Italians, and Germans) were treated while incarcerated during World War II. It’s my hope that we can expand this database with funding to include other sites of WWII incarceration.
While the site promotes engagement with other scholars doing research on World War II archaeology and the archaeology of Japanese Diaspora in the Americas, its main focus at the moment is engagement with the broader public. The desire to develop standardized cataloguing methods for site comparison is a desire that Internment Archaeology and DACCS share.
Blogs, posts on Twitter and Instagram, and public archaeology days are some of the clearest ways archaeologists speak with non-archaeologists and disperse information. At MSU, we have the Campus Archaeology Program and a dedicated website and blog that conveys our findings, current projects, and the way archaeologists think and work with others. In addition to this CAP has Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. We use each one of these platforms to connect with our audience in different ways because each has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, by engaging with multiple platforms we at CAP believe we can fulfill our mission of educating and distributing information to our partners and the public. There are many other blogs run by archaeologists as well as some amazing twitter feeds, like the one run by Boston City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley. By engaging with new technologies, as CAP did in the early days of twitter, archaeologists can become more effective public representatives of the stories and pasts they are exploring.
As we have seen from the examples above, digital access to archaeological resources and publications is the main force behind open archaeology.
At MSU MATRIX and The Digital Archaeology Commons are dedicated to working with museums, scholars, and other heritage / educational organizations to provide digital access to their collections. One of their goals is to develop software, tools, and digital experiences “that engage researchers, students, and the public in questions about the past and our shared culture” (Matrix MSU). Associability and access are key goals of open archaeology, because not everyone can make it to a museum or to see a particular exhibit in person, but digital projects can reach far beyond the local area to those who cannot or do not wish to engage with a visually static display. With the internet as a platform, organizations big and small can reach diverse audiences in many ways, but the web is a crowded place where it is easy to get drowned out. MATRIX teaches the skills and innovations needed to rise above the noise and clutter to research the intended audience.
The last resource I will discuss in this blog are places that publish or allow access to academic publications at no cost to the consumer. The first is Zenodo, an online repository for academic research of all kinds. For-profit journals and websites either close-off publicly funded research from anyone not affiliate with large, well-funded universities or aggregate and sell user data. Zenodo does neither of these and allows open access to all of the work published in the repository, making it free for scholars and the public alike. In addition to open article repositories, some open journals are publishing academic articles: Open Archaeology, and the Journal of Open Archaeology Data are two of these. As the names imply, these journals are solely for archaeological publications, and are completely free and easily accessible through their website. While academic articles may not be the most exciting aspect of digital heritage and open archaeology, it is hugely beneficial for everyone when peer-reviewed research can reach the widest possible audience.
All of these resources are open and support the distribution of free and accessible archaeological scholarship. However, each is designed with their own conceptions of what “free” and “accessible” mean. These decisions impact the features and online presence of the organization because they are speaking to different conceptions of the public. None of these conceptions is qualitatively better than the other, but successful implantation of the organizational or researcher’s goals depends on the methods and design matching the intended audience. Currently scholarship sits at a crossroads between ever increasing fees and profits for publishers, who make money controlling and distributing publicly funded research and increasing pressure and desire to make their work “open”. The future of open research is exciting and relies on both researchers and the public to be aware of the options available to them and the resources in place to make open scholarship successful scholarship.
- Beck, A. and C. Neylon
2012 A vision for Open Archaeology. World Archaeology 44(4): 479-497.
- 2017 Kooskia WWII internment camp history available on new online database. In Idaho County Free Press. Grangeville, ID.
2019 Share your work – Creative Commons. @creativecommons https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/.
- 2019 DAACS | Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery. https://www.daacs.org/.
- 2019 Home | Matrix Site. https://www.matrix.msu.edu/.
Today sodas high in sugar are considered indulgent treats or unhealthy drinks, often disparaged as empty calories. Over the last decade consumption of these and other sugary beverages has dropped by nearly twenty percent (NY Times). However, this was not always the case, the development …
Chris Stawski was involved with Campus Archaeology at its inception, beginning as an archaeological technician in the summer of 2008. Chris also held the position of Campus Archaeologist during the 2010-2011 academic year. During his tenure with CAP, he was a …
As a new member of the Campus Archaeology Program and as someone starting my first year in the anthropology program, I have not yet chosen a project, so I was delighted when the opportunity to interview a former member of CAP came up. As I had hoped, the interview and my preparation for it taught me a lot about CAP that I do not think I would have picked up otherwise. This blog post is share that what I learned and to promote Lisa Bright, the former MSU campus archaeologist who graciously took time out of her busy life to talk to me about her experiences with CAP. Lisa may be the only MSU graduate to work in so many capacities for CAP. As an undergraduate Lisa worked on the 2005 CAP field school at Saint’s Rest, and after returning to MSU to pursue her PhD. Lisa worked as a CAP fellow (2014-2015) and later as the Campus Archaeologist (2015-2018). In these different capacities, Lisa was able to grow with CAP and to grow the program’s presence on the campus throughout her tenure. I was very lucky to speak with Lisa Bright about these experiences and to gain some insight on how the Campus Archaeology Program helped her become a successful and employed archaeologist.
Lisa Bright is a PhD candidate at Michigan State University. She is currently finishing her dissertation, focusing on the health/pathology of a historic era California potter’s field, with an anticipated graduation in 2019. Lisa is also the District Native American Consultation Coordinator/Archaeologist for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 3 and an adjunct Anthropology instructor.
Lisa started with CAP in her first year in the PhD. program in 2014, she became campus archaeologist in August of 2015 and remained in that position until leaving CAP for her job with Caltrans, teaching at California State University, Chico, and dissertation writing in May of 2018. Needless to say, Lisa has remained busy since leaving MSU and CAP.
Lisa is also the only campus archaeologist whose tenure lasted three years, most hold the position for two. I asked her how she felt about being campus archaeologist for this length of time and she told me three years was fine, not a problem at all, but that the campus archaeologist position does take a lot of work. Although I never worked with Lisa, my brief experience as a CAP fellow has shown me how much work being the campus archaeologist at MSU can be. I have seen Autumn Painter, the current campus archaeologist, coordinate and assist with all the current projects CAP fellows are working on, as well as being the one to respond when ever archaeological materials are uncovered during construction on campus.
During her tenure as campus archaeologist Lisa oversaw several significant projects, including the Abbot’s entrance rejuvenation project which discovered the Station Terrace basement, finding the soon to be excavated sugar shack foundation, the excavation of nearly 350 shovel tests pits for the Wilson Road survey, creative outreach projects like the MSU food reconstruction project, and working to ensure all collections were accessioned and projects reports were being finished.
In 2015, Lisa’s first year in the position, CAP’s main objective was to sort, catalog, and accession the artifacts from the Gunson excavation. The field school earlier that summer dug five excavation units, none of which hit sterile soil, the excavations were forced to stop at seven feet below surface where they hit the water table. Out of those five units came roughly 46,000 artifacts, an enormous amount of data to be sure, but also a daunting task for any curator. Thanks to the efforts of Lisa, the CAP fellows, and undergraduate volunteers in 2015 the artifacts from Gunson were preserved. Lisa suggested that the collection would make a great research project for anyone interested.
In 2017, Lisa oversaw the Campus Archaeology field school which excavated six 2 x 2 meter units at the Station Terrace site, no small task in just four weeks! Lisa is very proud of her role in implementing the field school project and of all the undergraduates and volunteers who worked to make the project possible.
To get a sense of how all these various projects helped Lisa to develop as an archaeologist I asked her if she could mention a few of the most useful skills she learned from her time as campus archaeologist. Unsurprisingly, Lisa listed a great number of these. The foremost was what she learned acting in a management position. This role sees a project through from conception to implementation and curation processes and also acts as mediator and public face of a program. She pointed out that this is a unique role in archaeology, mostly reserved for project managers or owners of cultural resource management firms. Very seldom do students get an opportunity to develop these necessary skills, giving Lisa and other campus archaeologist a competitive edge when applying for jobs. In fact, Lisa credited this experience as a major reason she beat out many other archaeologists for her current job. I can think of no higher praise for CAP’s training than stories like these.
I also asked Lisa about the challenges she must have face in her years as campus archaeologist. The first she mentioned was developing her authority in the position. Her background was in osteology and mortuary studies, not historical archaeology, yet Lisa committed to connecting her knowledge base to historical archaeology throughout her tenure as campus archaeologist. This is a challenge we all face when starting a new job, integrating out skill sets into existing frames and hopefully learning new skills along the way. Lisa also mentioned challenges with learning all the systems of the program and learning as she encountered new issues. A lot of her success in adapting to these systems came down to knowing what the previous campus archaeologists did and how they organized things and solved problems.
To close out our conversation, I wanted to ask Lisa what she most enjoyed during her time in CAP and as campus archaeologist. The first that has to be mentioned is when Lisa was excavating the West Circle Privy as a graduate fellow and uncovered the now famous doll head affectionately know as Mabel. This event is made more serendipitous because Lisa eventually returned to MSU and to CAP. Lisa and Mabel are forever connected to the Campus Archaeology Program.
The raspberry seeds were another favorite. Though slightly less of a cosmic coincidence, Lisa led an effort to use Beal’s techniques to germinate and grow the privy seeds and even though the experiment did not work out, Lisa takes a positive outlook, enjoying the effort and attempt. One a more successful note Lisa mentioned that working with the organic farm and the food truck was another highlight of her time as campus archaeologist. When you look through Lisa’s numerous blog posts a dedication to creative public archaeology and outreach through it all. CAP’s potential and Lisa’s goals came together in this aspect and a real connection between the public and the university formed.
Lastly, Lisa told me that the best part of her four years with CAP and three years as campus archaeologist was constantly working with wonderful people. It was clear that she valued the relationships she developed with everyone she worked and studied with. I also want to thank Lisa Bright for allowing me to interview her for this blog post. I hope that this provides some insight not only into Lisa’s time with CAP, but also what it is like for all the fellows and the current campus archaeologist to work in MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program.
Burnett, Jeff Interview with Lisa Bright 10/5/2018 Notes taken by hand