Friday, February 10, 2012

Courtesy of the St. Augustine Record
Florida Public Archaeology Network. My first couple of semesters at Flagler College were spent in complete ignorance of  the FPAN acronym, let alone what it stood for. Nestled behind Markland, the small cottage that houses FPAN is quite easily overlooked. It was during my second and third semesters at Flagler that I finally decided that in addition to my history major, I wanted to minor in anthropology. Consequently, I started to hear the faint whispers of an organization simply called FPAN. Here and there one of my professors would mention FPAN and yet I never once initiated a search party for them. It was almost mysterious in a way when the archaeology club would acquire atl-atls from some clandestine organization somewhere on campus or when someone would mention the infamous leader Sarah Miller. With such mysterious confusion, mistakes were made. At one time, I was pretty sure that FPAN was located between Lewis and Wiley. At another, I thought that Sarah Bennett was Sarah Miller simply because she showed up to the archaeology club meetings, was named Sarah and talked about FPAN. So after spending five semesters at Flagler, I finally was set straight after a series of fortunate events led me to their discovery.

Courtesy of Flagler College Magazine
It all started in the summer of 2011. At this time, I was in the spirit of trying to graduate early and was taking summer courses in order to do so. Deciding to pursue my anthropology minor even further, one of the classes I was taking was an archaeological field school with Dr. Grant and the city archaeologist Carl Halbirt. Towards the end of that wonderful experience, FPAN gave a presentation at the city lab which essentially gave myself and the other students a rundown of who FPAN is and what it does to promote archaeology in the community. Both Sarah and Amber gave the presentation, and It was at that moment that I realized that Sarah Bennett was not Sarah Miller.
Courtesy of the St. Augustine Record
The location of FPAN eluded me until my independent study instructor, Professor Locasscio, finally walked me over to the Markland cottage. It was here that I discovered the FPAN staff in their secret lair. A modest office with desks, chairs, bookshelves and computers, FPAN looks like any other workplace that can be found in St. Augustine. Upon closer inspection, a few details can help the chance passer-by discern what FPAN is. Giant poster-size pictures adorn the walls that show children conducting their first archaeological digs. Another similarly sized picture shows Carl Halbirt giving one of his famous mid-dig public archaeology talks to an onlooking crowd of teachers. And if the pictures weren’t tell-tale enough, there is an entire bookshelf devoted to anthropological magazines and texts as well. As soon as I set foot in the office, I could tell that it was all that people said it was. 

Having finally found FPAN, it lost a bit of its mystery but gained a sort of reverence. When working with Carl Halbirt, I came to understand that archaeology is not only field work and lab work, but outreach as well. Whether talking to tourists who stop by at a city dig or schoolchildren who visit a site, archaeologists who take time to educate the public are rewarded tenfold. They are rewarded in that future generations may appreciate archaeology and current voters will support archaeological ordinances that protect their community’s cultural heritage. Outreach-like archaeology in general is a time consuming endeavor, which is why there are organizations like FPAN and SAAA. Archaeologists dig in the field while Public Archaeologists bring the field to the public. I suppose education in general is always something to be proud of because it really does help the community. Public Archaeologists, like public historians and public teachers, help educate the communities around them and therefore deserve some sort of reverence.

After having my epiphany, the following semester I explored the rabbit hole that is FPAN even further.  I applied for an internship and found myself in the thick of public archaeology. Now I write to you as an intern on the FPAN blog exploring certain themes that may pertain to public archaeology in hopes that you too will have some sort of epiphany. 

Text: David Underwood, FPAN intern

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