Digging up the past, planning for the future

On Saturday, February 22 we held another session of Dig the Past at the MSU Museum. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to promote the program the day before on WLNS/ Channel 6’s local morning news show via a live interview with Francesca Amiker at the museum.

Prior to Saturday’s workshop, Erica (another grad student who has joined Dig the Past) and I had put together a small “teaching collection” of artifacts from a few sites around campus, such as Saints’ Rest (which is located right outside of the museum where the workshop is held). I wanted visitors to the program to be able to actually touch and interact with pieces of our school’s past (although of course we had to select items that were not one of a kind, just in case they were damaged during the workshop). The teaching collection was the only new addition to Dig the Past that I had planned for Saturday, as I wasn’t sure what direction I should be going in now that we’ve developed several working activities for the program (and quite honestly, I’d run out of time before the big day!). I haven’t read through all of the feedback forms yet, but my hope is that this added a more campus-oriented dimension to the program.

Our attendance on Saturday, perhaps in part because we promoted the workshop on a different venue than normal, had a higher contingent of adults than usual – multiple adults showed up with the groups of children, and more than the usual number of adults-only groups showed up as well. Given the space and budget constraints I’m operating under (as well as the fact that this is my first time running such a program, and as a side project to my main “job” of dissertating), I’m always aware of the need to balance the information and activities we offer to meet the interests and abilities of our visitors. The high majority of active participants thus far has been youth under the age of 12, and we have found that it is most helpful to formulate very specific, clear, repeatable messages that are reinforced by every activity.

However, this isn’t the most effective way of communicating to adults who come in with some knowledge of prehistory, even if they’re not familiar with archaeological methods or theory. I talked to multiple adult visitors who expressed a wish to see more complex activities such as demonstrations of real excavation techniques. I knew there wasn’t much we could do that day to bring such aspects to the program, but I asked those visitors to provide written feedback on what they would like to experience. I am finding that running a program like Dig the Past is a process of constant evaluation and learning, as well as planning and reconceptualizing for the future. This series of workshops will conclude in April, but I intend to take the experience that I have gained from doing this project forward in my career. I hope to continue working on educational programs like Dig the Past in some capacity, because for as many challenges that are involved, there are even more rewards. I think that the stronger our relationship with the Greater Lansing community, the stronger will be their support for all aspects of Campus Archaeology’s work, from research to teaching to engagement.


Author: Adrianne Daggett

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