With COVID-19 still dictating much of our day-to-day lives, Campus Archaeology made the early call to put all of our outreach events for the foreseeable future online or in some digital format. One of our most popular and fun events we put on is the …
Tag: Public Outreach
The Campus Archaeology Program has been hard at work this semester prepping for our collaborative event with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. The goal of this event is to teach young women about a career path in archaeology and award them with an archaeology badge …
Last Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Campus Archaeology hosted their first Open House. For two hours, Campus Archaeology opened our lab doors to the public. Campus Archaeology strives to have a standing relationship with the community through our numerous outreach events each year, as well as our public service to Michigan State University. We frequently engage with the public to educate people in all walks of life on what it means to be an archaeologist. At these outreach events, people get to see examples of what we do in the field and some of the artifacts that have been recovered from MSU’s campus, but people never really get to see what we do on a daily basis.
The work that takes place in the Campus Archaeology Laboratory represents a typical day as an archaeologist: artifact cataloguing and analysis, research, and training students. Most people correlate archaeologists with fieldwork, but the majority of our work is focused on analyzing and interpreting the data collected from our fieldwork. Thus, Campus Archaeology wanted to provide an opportunity for the public to see behind-the-scenes of an archaeology lab through the Open House.
Our visitors ranged from MSU faculty and staff to high school students interested in a career in archaeology. During the Open House, guests were presented with a range of artifacts recovered from MSU’s campus, posters from conferences demonstrating current research in our lab, examples of our outreach activities to show how we engage with the public, digital and printed 3D models of artifacts, and examples of how we catalogue and curate artifacts. Guests were also able to directly interact with current CAP fellows and interns to learn about their experiences with CAP as well as their personal research projects.
Campus Archaeology would like to thank everyone who attended the Open House event. We had a fantastic time talking with everyone and appreciate your support.
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! …
Campus Archaeology had an exciting summer field season, from the archaeological field school to field crew work across campus. We also hosted a class for Grandparent’s University and painted the MSU Rock! Below you can read more about each project. Archaeological Field School This summer …
In our previous blog, Jeff Bennett introduced the concept of Open Archaeology and some of the ways that Campus Archaeology (CAP) is maintaining and furthering our position within the framework of Open Archaeology. One of the ways in which we plan to further our efforts in Open Archaeology is to develop a digital repository for all CAP projects and artifacts. A digital repository is essentially a database for storing and managing digital data. Development of the digital repository will be a long-term project that requires cataloging artifacts housed in the CAP lab in a standardized way and importing a large amount of information in the repository. Our aim is to develop a public interface so that all of our data is freely available.
We have met with Dr. Ethan Watrall, Associate Director of the Matrix Lab, who is helping with the technical aspects in developing the repository. Matrix has created their own open-source content management system, known as KORA, with the intention of curating digital humanities projects. Two special features of KORA highlighted by Matrix are its ability to be accessed from a web browser and the flexibility in customizing the type and style of metadata associated with the objects. This means that CAP will be able to control how the public interacts with the data and, essentially, the narrative we would like tell about MSU’s history through our artifacts. KORA is currently undergoing updates with the intention of releasing KORA3 in the upcoming months. CAP is working closely with Dr. Watrall to learn the new system and we plan to begin developing the project as soon as the new version is released.
Currently, much of our data is stored in a series of excel files specific to each project. The CAP digital repository will create a central location for all data associated with past and present CAP projects, including site records (e.g. site forms, images, and maps) and artifacts. Further, by creating standardized forms for inputting data, we will create a completely standardized collection and a requirement for recording data in a standardized way in the future. This project will require that all artifacts be cataloged following standards set by the Society for Historical Archaeology so that all artifacts are being identified with the same terminology and have the same type of data recorded, such as weight and other measurements.
The way in which we structure the user interface is a critical component of the project. KORA projects are structured using a series of data entry levels, including the Project, Entity, and Record. The largest data level is Project, which contains all of the entities and records within it. The Project for our digital repository will simply be the “CAP Digital Repository”. This means that all of our data will be encompassed within this single project. Next, we will create the entities. The entities will be what we want to be the central focus of the repository. In this case, each CAP project, or site, will be an entity so that all data (site forms and artifacts) will be organized based on the site with which it is associated. Therefore, the entity would likely be a site report, such as “Saints Rest” or “Beal Street”. The final structure level is the most refined level of data known as records. Records are contained within entities. Our repository records will be any site forms and/or artifacts associated with a site, or entity. Records will have standardized forms with dropdown menus to select from a set list of terms in order to create an efficient and effective searchable database. We will also be able to link images and scanned documents with each record form so that users will be able to view the tangible record.
The CAP digital repository will create a central location of all data associated with CAP projects improving the overall quality of our collection and making future research easier as future CAP fellows, as well as public users, can easily search and view our entire collection. We believe that Open Archaeology is the future of archaeological science by creating complete transparency between archaeologists and the public, as well as between researchers and institutions. Having a digital presence will allow the public to explore MSU’s history in a unique fashion through tangible artifacts.
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 …
Those who follow us know that outreach is a big part of what we do in the Campus Archaeology Program. Every year, CAP participates in several public outreach events including Michigan Archaeology Day, Grandparents University, ScienceFest, and more. These events are important because it gives a chance talk to people in our community and raise awareness about what archaeologists do and why this work is important. We can also raise awareness of our program and show people that archaeology is everywhere – even in our own campus backyard.
One of the most effective ways to engage people at these events is through fun, eye-catching educational activities. In the past we have had success with an artifact memory matching game. This month, however, CAP has been working to create a new outreach activity. Here are some steps in our thought process as we developed this new activity:
Step 1: Talk to our colleagues
CAP fellow Susan Kooiman helped put us in touch with Elizabeth Reetz and Chérie Haury-Artz at the Iowa Project Archaeology Program, who gave us some great ideas about activities they’ve used at their public outreach events. This was enormously helpful because it allowed us to consider activities that have already been field-tested for success.
One activity that appealed to us involved having participants place artifacts on a simplified stratigraphic map in order from most to least recent.
Step 2: Consider our goals
When we attend public outreach events, one of our goals is to create interest in the Campus Archaeology Program. Therefore, we wanted our activity to showcase some of things CAP encounters on campus. Another goal is to educate participants about archaeology. As such, we wanted an activity that gets people thinking like archaeologists.
The stratigraphy activity meets both of these goals. For one, this activity introduces a key concept in archaeology in a simple, visual manner. We can make it relevant to CAP by choosing artifacts we have actually found on MSU’s campus and creating a stratigraphic profile reflective of what we encounter on campus.
Step 3: Think about logistics
The best way to learn is by doing. As much as we’d love to give participants a chance to do an excavation, this is obviously impractical. Therefore, we had to consider several factors to develop a reasonable activity. One factor is time. In order to reach as many people as possible, we wanted to develop an activity that can be explained and done relatively quickly. Another factor is space. We wanted to build the activity such that it can be adapted to a small space if necessary.
The stratigraphy activity fits both of these needs. Most participants should be able to place 3-5 artifacts in under a minute. This will prevent long lines and allow many people to participate. We are also designing the stratigraphic profile specifically so it fits on a standard tabletop. This will allow us to have two or more stations going at once, depending on the amount of space we are provided at an event.
Step 4: Think about design
The design of an activity is also important to consider. One factor we considered is durability. We wanted to build our activity to withstand some wear and tear. For this reason we decided to make our profile out of felt, which is less easily ripped than paper and can be folded for storage. We are also using laminated photos of real artifacts so that everyone—CAP volunteers and participants alike—can enjoy the activity without fear of breaking the physical objects.
Another factor we considered is participants’ abilities. People of all ages attend these events, so we wanted to design an activity that is suitable for young children but that can also be adapted to appeal to older attendees. As such, we tried to select a variety of items that will allow us to provide participants with an appropriate challenge.
Step 5: Build the new activity
This week we selected and photographed artifacts from the CAP Lab to use for the activity. Our next step will involve sewing the stratigraphy map together based on our hand-drawn design.
Step 6: Debut at Michigan Archaeology Day!
Come check out our new activity for yourself! We plan to debut our new activity at Michigan Archaeology Day. This event will take place from 10AM to 4PM on October 13th at the Michigan History Museum.
Author: Mari Isa
Throughout our careers, we as archaeologists participate in public outreach programs. Whether through public dig sites, school programs or artifact identifications, outreach programs come in many shapes and sizes and can be rewarding in unexpected ways for everyone involved. Being raised by my grandparents, I …